Students discuss local politics and the gubernatorial election
Before the presidential election in 2008, many out-of-state students registered to vote in Maine because it was a swing state. “There was this major political energy on campus,” Colby Democrats’ Co-President Jojo Salay said.
The Maine gubernatorial election that will take place on November 2 is not as heavily discussed on the Hill as the Obama-McCain race, although “these local elections will probably personally affect our lives more than the national ones,” Salay said.
The Colby Democrats’ main goal this year is “to generate enthusiasm and awareness about the gubernatorial election,” Salay said. She understands that “it’s really hard as a full-time college student to keep up with politics”.
“Because of my schedule I don’t have time to follow every issue,” Dash Wasserman ’12 agreed, “but I try to keep up with the ones that I feel are important, and the Maine gubernatorial election is important.”
Wasserman, a New Orleans native, registered to vote in Maine in his first year on the Hill because of the presidential election, but also “because I want to be a part of the Waterville and Maine community,” he said.
Wasserman spent this past summer living on campus and working at the bookstore, and he said that “by staying here I got to see more dimensions of Waterville, which made me want to be more involved in the community and help make decisions that will affect it.”
“I hope that people didn’t just register to vote in Maine because it is a swing state—they should register to vote in Maine because they go to school here, because they live here and because they care about the community,” Wasserman said.
It has been a topic of debate whether college students who are not originally from the state they attend school in should be allowed to vote in that state. Those who oppose this policy argue that out-of-state students do not know or are not affected enough by local issues to participate in the decision-making process. Salay shares the same sentiment as Wasserman though, and she wholeheartedly disagrees.
“I know we’re only here for four years,” Salay said, “but while we’re here it’s our home and it’s our responsibility as citizens to make the city and the state the best it can be.”
Paul LePage, the Republican candidate for governor of Maine and current Mayor of Waterville, has publically stated that he believes that only people who pay property taxes and have a car registered in a state should be allowed to vote in that state, implying that college students should not be allowed to vote in the state where they attend school.
“I would be the reason that college kids shouldn’t vote in Maine because I do not know Maine politics,” Katherine Murray ’12 said, demonstrating that LePage’s statement does have some merit.
Murray is from Alabama and is registered to vote in the state of Maine, but she uses her privilege to vote wisely. She voted in the 2008 presidential election as well as on Proposition One last fall, which sought to repeal an act that legalized gay marriage in the state of Maine. She does not plan on voting in the gubernatorial election, however, because she feels she does not know enough about the candidates and the important issues currently facing the state of Maine.
On the other hand, Peter Johnson ’11, a Seattle native, is not registered to vote in Maine but is following the gubernatorial election because he is interested in politics. “I’m a government major,” he explained.
“I usually pick up the Morning Sentinel [Waterville’s newspaper] and read the local news once or twice a week,” Johnson said. “If the New York Times mentions something about the Maine gubernatorial election it will remind me to check up on the race.”
LePage and Libby Mitchell, the Democratic candidate for governor, are currently tied in the polls, with Independent candidate Eliot Cutler trailing not too far behind. “Most students I’ve talked to know about LePage because he is the Mayor of Waterville,” Wasserman said. “I don’t think too many students know about Libby Mitchell.”
“Mitchell is socially liberal,” Salay said, “which is something I feel a lot of kids at Colby can connect with.” Also, Mitchell is not accepting campaign money from businesses and corporations, “so you know she’s not going to have their agenda on her mind,” Salay said. “You can tell she really cares about the average citizen.”
In her phone banking conversations with citizens of Waterville, Salay said she found that many people are leaning towards the democratic side on a lot of issues but were still planning on voting for Republican LePage. This is most likely due to the fact that he is the Mayor of Waterville and therefore the candidate, “they’re most familiar with,” Salay said.
In addition to calling people in Waterville to gather their opinions on the race, the Colby Democrats have had tables set up in Pulver Pavillion to register students to vote in the state of Maine and even took some students to the Bill Clinton rally to support Mitchell’s campaign in Portland earlier this month.
The Colby Democrats are planning on organizing a day at the end of October when they will help drive students down to the City Hall to vote early, "because the election is on a Tuesday, when a lot of students are busy," Salay said, and they want to get as many people to vote as possible.