Have you seen Leland Cheung? As Election Day nears, the Cambridge City Council candidate and Sloan School student has been trying to talk to as many people as possible. He’s even made the rounds in some MIT dorms to ask for your vote.
“I’ve been knocking on more doors than any other candidate,” he said.
Cheung, who is an MBA candidate at Sloan and an MPA candidate at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, is one of 21 people vying for nine seats on the Cambridge City Council. Cheung said that college voters are central to his campaign. Recently, he has been running registration drives at Harvard and MIT asking students to switch their registration so they vote in the local election.
“It’s really going to depend on the students who are registered to vote in Cambridge,” he said.
Between the two schools, the campaign has registered about 2,500 students, but Cheung knows that his voting base is flaky. “Students are historically lax about voting” Cheung said.
Cheung said he doesn’t do any polling, so he doesn’t know where his campaign stands. “It’s the most nerve-wracking thing I’ve ever done,” he said of the campaign process.
Despite his efforts, many students on campus still do not know who he is. Some are also reluctant to change their registrations.
Miriam Zachau Walker ’13 said she had never heard of him.
“Most MIT students who can vote probably aren’t registered in Cambridge, but are registered in their hometown,” Walker said.
Tina Hsu ’12, who is registered to vote in New York, had the same opinion. Asked whether or not she would have changed her registration to Massachusetts to vote, she said no.
“I am proud of MIT, but I don’t have time to represent the school in that way. There’s more to voting than being an MIT student.”
So far, Cheung has raised about $15,000, which is in “the middle of the range for a viable candidate,” he said.
Donations have “definitely increased” as Election Day draws nearer, Cheung said, “but so have our efforts.”
Cheung’s campaign recently ran a series of Google and Facebook ads to promote awareness among students. The Facebook fundraiser made close to $1,000.
Cheung’s mornings begin at 7 a.m., when he goes to T stations to hand out flyers. During the day, he spends hours on the phone trying to raise money and knocks on doors talking to residents. He still goes to class. In the evening, when it’s too late to knock, he leaves campaign literature on doorsteps. He usually doesn’t finish until 11 p.m., when he heads back to check e-mail and update his website.
“The homework is suffering” Cheung admits. “Campaigning takes up a ton of time. It’s pretty much 24/7.” He’s had to request a lot of extensions on work. “Professors have been really understanding and supportive of me,” Cheung said.
Once he’s elected, he said, the work will not be as “intensive.”
“If I can campaign and not fail out of school, I can definitely be on City Council and do fine in school,” he said.
Cheung encourages students who are registered to take the time to vote. “Even though people think of themselves as not from around the area, you live here. Things that happen in the city affect us, from crime to using the T … You’re part of a bigger community. Even if you don’t mean to, you do have an effect on the community.”
Onaopemipo O. Abiodui ’13 said she thinks that Cheung can win, even though she has never heard of him,
“MIT is smart,” she said, “He wouldn’t run if he didn’t know what he was doing.”
Election Day is November 3rd. MIT’s voting location is in Kresge Auditorium. A complete list of polling locations can be found online at http://www.cambridgema.gov/special/polling_locations.pdf.