Presidential candidates are gearing their campaigns toward New York as the state primary, set for April 19, rapidly approaches. Ohio Governor John Kasich, a candidate for the Republican nomination, came to Hofstra for a town hall on April 4, where he was met with open arms from some local community members, and tough questions from several students.
To prepare for Election Day, Hofstra’s Center for Civic Engagement partnered with volunteers from Amnesty International, a global organization that campaigns to end human rights abuse, to offer easy voter registration to students.
According to a study conducted by Project Vote, only 18 percent of United States voters in the 2008 election were below the age of 30. The study also concluded that only 11 percent of American voters in the same election were classified as new voters.
Barbara Epstein, one of the volunteers with Amnesty International that helped students register to vote at a table in the Student Center on March 24 said, “We are very pleased with the response. We’ve gotten over 100 students to register to vote so far.”
This election cycle has seen important growth in the number of college-aged people casting their votes. The growing interest was apparent on April 4, as students and community members lined up to see what one of the five leading presidential candidates had to say.
Omar Hamad, a senior management major, felt the community clearly showed its political concern. “There was a tremendous amount of support and interest from Hofstra faculty, the student body and community,” he said. “I think the wide political engagement we are seeing at Hofstra speaks largely to how much of a defining moment this election is.”
Although students are more interested, they’re not necessarily pleased with what they see. The Chronicle orchestrated a poll on Facebook that asked students three questions; one of which asked how they feel about the 2016 presidential campaigns.
The tallied votes totaled 124 and of those, over 86 percent say they are either displeased, very displeased or angry.
Tyler McCarthy, a freshman athletic training major and a registered voter in Massachusetts said, “I don’t favor any candidate right now. I think I see qualities in different candidates that I relate to but I haven’t decided who I’m going to vote for.”
This event was Kasich’s chance to sway some of those undecided voters like McCarthy, who have been instrumental in these close primary contests.
The Chronicle also asked students who they support for the presidency. Senator Bernie Sanders came out on top with about 58 percent of the votes. Hillary Clinton and John Kasich were tied for second with about 12 percent each and roughly seven percent of participants chose ‘none of the above.’
After Donald Trump, the Republican front-runner, called on Kasich to drop out of the race, Kasich explained, “Why would I get out when I’m the only person that beats Hillary in the fall. They just did a poll in Wisconsin – this is amazing – I’m up 14 points on Hillary in Wisconsin, and I’m going to lose in Wisconsin.”
He did in fact lose in Wisconsin getting 14 percent of the vote, finishing in third place to Trump’s 35 percent and Senator Ted Cruz’s 48.
Kasich touched on a range of topics during his visit – from political correctness to mental health.
“I believe that it is really important for America to make a commitment that the mentally ill should not live under a bridge or live in a prison,” Kasich said. “That should be stopped in this country.”
Along with locals and students, organization representatives were also in attendance. Bernard Macias, the associate state director for AARP on Long Island, wanted to see if Kasich would provide a plan for the future of social security. “We’re moving into an important space where we need to make sure our candidates have some sort of plan,” Macias said. “We want them to talk about it, so that we can protect this for future generations.”
Kasich did eventually talk about this hot-button issue. However, whether or not he gave a concrete plan is up for debate. “We have to save social security. It isn’t that hard to do it,” he said.
He then began speaking about someone who’s rich, “We’re not going to take away his social security, but we’re not going to give him what he thought he was going to get. I’m not going to give you zero, but I’m going to take some of it away so that I can make sure that person out here, who completely depends on it, gets what they need,” he said.
Nick Brown, a junior marketing major, wasn’t too impressed with Kasich’s answers. “Unfortunately what I took away from this event was that Kasich is just another politician,” he said. “At times he felt robotic to me with his answers and deflected some meaningful questions. However, that being said, I do feel as though he is the most responsible nominee for the GOP.”
Some students were not at all pleased to hear Kasich would be coming to Hofstra. Karla Bradley, the president of Student Advocates for Safe Sex (SASS), attempted to organize a protest outside the Student Center, however inclement weather kept the students inside.
“I, just as student Karla, was organizing a counter-protest because I do not believe in Kasich’s politics,” she said. “He has defunded Planned Parenthood, he said racially hostile comments and I don’t believe he has any reason to be a presidential candidate because of those experiences.”
Bradley is also the grassroots organizer for Planned Parenthood of Nassau County. “There used to be 16 abortion clinics in Ohio and now it’s down to eight. Ohio is not a small state; that means that it’s a lot more difficult for people to access the healthcare they need,” she said.
Similar concerns are likely on the minds of many college-aged voters. The final question asked in the poll was what issue is most important to them when considering their vote. The top answer was ‘Social Issues’ with about 37 percent of the vote. Economic policy came in second with 22 percent, followed by foreign policy, student debt, environmental policy and finally health care.
Joshua Wally, a sophomore finance major, supports Kasich for the presidency and feels the candidate relates to him. “I was able to ask a question to Governor Kasich regarding student loan debt and I believe he is as concerned as I am regarding increasing college costs and burdening debt,” Wally said.
A week later, President Rabinowitz spoke at a scholarship luncheon and referenced his interaction with Kasich in the speech, saying that in his first interaction with the candidate he was asked “how high is your tuition and can it be lower.”
Hamad, who voted for Marco Rubio and would now like to support Sanders, did feel he gained something from the town hall event. “I appreciate Kasich’s policies regarding Arab nations – developing relationships and allies in the region – and working with those countries to fight the growing rates of terrorism,” he said. “His rhetoric regarding the educational system, work force and recent graduates is very inspiring. I think he’s spot on when talking about skill development.”