Members of St. John’s College Democrats are taking an active role in CDA (College Democrats of America), by running for positions on both the regional and national level.
Nine members of St. John’s College Democrats attended a conference this past weekend at Cornell University, where they listened to lectures from state politicians, socialized with other New York College Democrats, and voted on student candidates for regional positions.
Junior Brian Lestz, current president of St. John’s College Democrats, won New York City Regional Chair after running uncontested. Lestz is hoping to make a big impact with his new position. “Basically, I want to get the most participation out of chapters all across New York and try to establish chapters at places that don’t have them, like at some CUNY schools, which have expressed interest,” Lestz said.
Senior Ciara Gedulig ran for New York State President, but lost by a small margin to Dan Levin from Binghamton.
The weekend conference also included two speakers: State Senate Candidate Don Barber and State Congressman Eric Massa.
“Eric Massa is one of the best speakers I have ever heard,” Lestz said.”He’s very engaging and doesn’t come off as polished and practied. Some politicians come across as fake, but he doesn’t at all.”
Junior Shamil Rodriguez, who attended the conference and is currently the chair of the Hispanic Caucus of College Democrats of America, said the conference was informative.
“The convention went well,” Rodriguez said. “It ran really smoothly, and we had some great speakers come out.”
He also said that it helped the St. John’s chapter think of new ways to gain voter registration next year for the 2008 Presidential Election.
“We’re looking to team up with Rock the Vote and other outside organizations to host big events here [next year],” Rodriguez said.
“‘Laughing Liberally’ is another organization we’re considering,” he added. “We’re thinking of asking them to come host a comedy show.”
Rodriguez is running for Development Director of the national e-board of CDA – the only St. John’s Collge Democrat to run for a national position this year. The election for his position will take place over the summer at the DNC national convention in Denver.
He also said that the St. John’s chapter is in the process of applying for “Chapter of the Year.” If they win, it would be the third New York school in a row to win the honor – the last two being Columbia and Cornell.
“We’ve had a lot of events this year, like the Salsa Boot Camp, debate with College Republicans, canvassing for local officials, and public service,” Rodriguez said.
“We’ve registered around 450 people this year, so we’d definitely be in the running for ‘Chapter of the Year.'”
Running for national positions is not the only exposure St. John’s College Democrats have had lately. In March, CNN.com linked to a post on the SJU College Democrats blog-stjohnsdemocrats.wordpress.com.
The CNN.com article dealt with the Democratic primaries, and linked to a post by sophomore Chris Puntarelli, entitled “Michigan and Florida… the Bastard Children of the DNC.”
According to Stephen Holland, the Communications Director for St. John’s College Democrats, the blog has received over 1350 unique page views since its inception in November.
After the CNN.com article, according to Holland, the blog received “over 110 unique page views on that day alone and comments from visitors from around the country.”
Lestz is happy with St. John’s students’ participation in College Democrats, and was pleased with the turnout for last weekend’s conference.
“We had nine people attend, which was impressive considering it was a 250 mile drive,” he said.
“Aside from Cornell, the host school, we had the most participants.”
Lestz said that he was most excited to see so many underclassmen attend.
“It was a great learning experience for them,” he said.
“They could see what the organization is like on a state and a national level.”