Democratic congressional candidates connect with students
Student voters watched as three congressional candidates squeaked rubber horns, answered trivia questions, and even called “bull” on one another during New Era Colorado’s “Meet the Candidates” event Monday night.
Voters in the 2nd Congressional District got the chance to see the Democratic congressional candidates Joan Fitz-Gerald, Jared Polis, and Will Shafroth in a nontraditional debate at the Boulder Theater.
New Era Colorado, a non-profit organization focused on politics for young people, sponsored the event.
Jason Machado, New Era Colorado’s public and legislative director, expressed a desire to make the debate and the voting process more comfortable for young people by using a YouTube format.
“We wanted to break down the barrier between the voting process and young people, so we decided to use a more open format,” Machado said.
The night included video questions submitted through YouTube, questions from the audience, a trivia portion and a lightning round of questions with quick yes or no answers.
The format and the content of the debate focused on issues important to young people in order to encourage political participation from the college-aged demographic.
Sophia Kirshner, a sophomore sociology major and a member of New Era’s student staff, said the debate helps bring the candidates to the youth.
“Politicians are real people to have discussions with,” Kirshner said. “That way, we can help influence the policies that affect us.”
The candidates commended the young people in the audience for their participation.
“The world is run by people who show up – and you showed up,” Fitz-Gerald said to the audience in her opening remarks.
Questions from YouTube and from the audience included those about the war in Iraq, health care, global warming, discrimination and partisan politics.
Though the candidates had different ideas in achieving their policy goals, all expressed a need for change.
“This is the first time in our nation’s history our children and grandchildren face a more uncertain future,” Shafroth said in a video address to kick off the event.
Though the candidates expressed similar viewpoints on many issues, Polis and Fitz-Gerald clashed during a discussion of sexual orientation discrimination in the military.
Polis called for Fitz-Gerald to disassociate with Colorado Veterans for America regarding comments made by CVA member Jim Hudson in the Jan. 25 edition of the Denver Post. In the article, Hudson questioned Polis, an openly gay man, for his decision to not serve in Vietnam because of his sexual orientation.
Fitz-Gerald countered Polis by telling him that veterans were hurt by a mailer from his campaign replacing an image of the American flag with a logo of the Blackwater security firm.
The main focus of the night was finding an exit strategy for the war in Iraq. All three candidates called for a halt in funding for the war and for private mercenaries.
Andrea Gibson, a spoken word artist, ended the night’s questions to a standing ovation with a verbally and emotionally charged poem about the forgotten veterans returning from Iraq.
“Thank you for your rage,” Fitz-Gerald said to Gibson. “I don’t understand why there isn’t more of it.”
For Lillian Soderman, a senior anthropology major, the debate helped her get a sense of the congressional candidates.
“I came because I want to be an informed voter,” Soderman said. “I want to know who I’m voting for holds my ideals and values.”
Christopher Simmons, a sophomore political science major, said he came to see what the candidates had to offer.
“During the debate, I kept jumping back and forth between who I liked,” Simmons said. “I’m going to go home to get on the internet to read more in depth on the candidates. But they all did a great job.”
Contact Campus Press Staff Writer Marcy Franklin at email@example.com.