As part of Professor of Government Christian Potholm's class, Conflict Simulation and Conflict Resolution, seniors Ben Martens and Antwan Phillips have been selected by their classmates to be the two candidates in Bowdoin's annual mock congressional race. Over the next few weeks, the two candidates and their support teams will raise money, create a constituency, and square off in a debate before the election is held on May 7. The election has been held each year for the last 15 years.
According the Potholm, the mock election is a faithful imitation of the real thing.
"It's art really reproducing life," said Potholm. "It's uncanny how it often works out that a real campaign and this campaign would work the same."
To kickstart their campaigns, the candidates adorned campus with posters boasting their slogans. Phillips, described by members of BCN's Hype as "real, real, and loud," has coined the equation R2+L=Antwan as his slogan, while some of Martens's signs read "B Sexy and B Confident."
Both Martens and Phillips have adopted platforms that they say address problems currently facing the student body. Martens' platform consists primarily of four issues: women's issues, housing, alcohol consumption, and green and responsible investing. As part of his platform, Martens hopes to hold a round table discussion involving "male leaders on campus" and "females who have concern" about women's issues. Martens' ideas also include allowing kegs to be registered on Thursday nights and legalization of drinking games.
"At this point, now that we have these issues developed, we want people to understand what these issues are," said Martens. "The issues do matter, and it's not just a popularity contest. One of the great things about this campaign is that even though it's a mock campaign with not much pressure, you can still do a lot for the College."
Phillips' campaign promises include putting printers in dorms, potentially some of them wireless; improving cellular telephone service in dorms; and changing course registration so that it is online.
Phillips said that before he proposed any large plans, he wanted to make sure that they were feasible.
"Our biggest thing is to ensure that anything that we're proposing we've checked and double-checked to make sure that it's something we can implement at Bowdoin," said Justin Strasburger '07, a member of Phillips' campaign.
"We feel that it's important not to run off and say some things we want to see done. We've come up with some ideas not only that we want to see implemented, but that are being implemented right now," he said.
Phillips has also been making visits to first-year dorms to introduce himself, accompanied by boxes of pizza.
"Because the [first years] are the least likely people to know the candidates, that's the easiest place to start fresh. First impressions are huge," Strasburger said.
The candidates, who receive no guaranteed funding of any kind, have also been working to raise money. Martens's team sold concessions at the lacrosse game last Tuesday and is holding a poker tournament this weekend. Phillips' group also plans to sell concessions at an upcoming lacrosse game and sold advertising space in a booklet to be published with information about Phillips' campaign.
Anya Trundy '06, Martens's campaign manager and vice president of the Maine College Democrats, has worked on state house and senate campaigns and is currently working for Maine Governor John Baldacci's campaign for re-election. She agreed with Potholm that the mock election was similar to a real campaign, but also drew a distinction.
"It's surprisingly like a real campaign. I think we try to run it really seriously and as close to how a real campaign would be run," Trundy said.
"The big thing is just the ground game, getting out and meeting people and getting your candidate known. The big difference between them is that normally, you have your party loyalists. You know who's on your side. You've only got a certain proportion of the population to win over. Here, it's hard to tell where everybody falls," she said.
Potholm said that the campaign was ultimately a way to make some concrete changes for the College.
"There's no question about the fact that they get the pulse of the students and take it upon themselves to get the president or dean to commit to changes, whatever it is," Potholm said. "Sometimes the issues are kind of yuppified, but they get into some substantial issues because they're listening to the Bowdoin world."