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Organizers direct student attention to Maine elections

October 19, 2018

As midterm season approaches and lawn signs appear, political organizations at Bowdoin have been bringing local candidates to campus to discuss Maine politics. The Bowdoin Republicans, the Maine Democratic Party (MDP) and Bowdoin Democrats are encouraging student involvement in Maine politics due to the potential impact student votes could have on the contentious gubernatorial race.

Last Sunday, Republican Candidate Mark Holbrook, a Brunswick resident hoping to win the seat in the U.S. House representing Maine’s First Congressional District, attended a meeting with the College Republicans. Fifteen students attended the informal event and asked questions about Holbrook’s platform.

Students working for MDP organized “Caffeine with Candidates,” a panel held at Quinby House on Tuesday in which four local politicians, all of whom are Democrats, discussed politics in Brunswick. The panel was comprised of Maine State House Representatives Mattie Daughtry (district 49), Ralph Tucker (district 50) and Jay McCreight (district 51), as well as State Senator Brownie Carson ’72. All four are up for reelection.

On Wednesday, Zak Ringelstein, a Democrat campaigning to unseat incumbent U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) in the U.S. House of Representatives, attended the Bowdoin Democrats meeting.

Ringelstein discussed the importance of young voters in this year’s election. Although 90 percent of Bowdoin students are not originally from Maine, candidates are not dissuaded from engaging with students about politics; rather, because Maine allows students to register through their college address, candidates believe that reaching young, potential student voters will have an influential effect on November 6.

“It is going to be young people who are going to change the outcomes of this election. [The millennials] are going to become the biggest voting block, but our power will be shown if and only if we vote,” said Ringelstein.

At the conclusion of these events, candidates urged students to help candidates’ campaigns by canvassing, phone banking and participating in Get Out the Vote, or increased action during the week leading up to the election. Organizers cite the ease and importance of getting involved.

Due to the influence college students may have, off-campus organizations such as MDP are devoting a component of their midterm campaign strategy to educating students about Maine candidates and issues on the ballot. This year, MDP—which typically only hires coordinators for counties—hired Nell Fitzgerald ’19 as a campus organizer for Bowdoin. This new position emphasizes MDP’s recognition that young voters, specifically at Bowdoin, have the potential to swing this election.

MDP and on-campus political organizations are encouraging students to register in-state. Reasons for registering in Maine instead of students’ home states range from having a less-competitive home district to the importance of the Maine gubernatorial race.

“We have this ability to shift things that other students don’t that go away to different states to college. These issues affect students as well,” said leader of the Bowdoin Democrats Katherine Henneberger ’20. “We are not immune to the politics of Brunswick and the politics of Maine. Healthcare decisions affect us in this state.”

The confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh as a U.S. Supreme Court Justice and the current political climate have led to an increase in political activity on campus. Students at each event seemed to have a deeper of understanding of Maine’s races for positions in the U.S. House and Senate. However, local candidates believe that students should have just as much investment in the gubernatorial as the local elections.

“[The gubernatorial] race could impact Bowdoin students, especially if you are a freshman or sophomore and have several more years on campus,” Daughtry said. “You’re helping vote in an administration that can oversee your voting rights for the next few years. It is a very important time for Maine politics.”

In local elections, every vote counts. In the past, some Maine House and Senate seats have been determined by a margin of just 25 votes—around the same number of students in attendance at Tuesday’s panel.

Students were receptive to the candidates at all three events. This may be due to the accessibility and friendliness of all the candidates.

“One thing that is different in Maine [than in her home state, Virginia] is how excited the candidates in Maine are to come to Bowdoin’s campus,” said leader of the Bowdoin Democrats Juliet Halvorson-Taylor ’21. “[Their excitement] has made it seem like Maine’s politics is more personal.”

Personalized campaigning is a statewide phenomenon for the local, national and gubernatorial elections. Candidates at Tuesday’s panel found that listening and interacting with voters have yielded a more positive reception.

“[Voters] want to know, ‘who is this person’? It’s just not a name on the ballot,” McCreight said.

Editor’s note: Nell Fitzgerald ’19 is a member of Orient Staff.

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