BY: GOWRI ABHINANDA

Web Features Editor

As Election Day nears, many political candidates are firing up their campaigns with impassioned parades, chants and sign-waving for the final stretch to ensure their constituents vote for them.  Students at the Bay, such as senior Charles Horowitz, are also taking part in the push for local political campaigns. He said he is volunteering for Richard Stark’s campaign to become the next mayor of Weston. He hopes Stark will win as he believes Stark is the most qualified out of the other mayoral candidates, Jim Norton and Peggy Brown.

“I am volunteering for Rick because he is the only candidate that truly understands the issues our city faces, he is the only one in the race that will help to run Weston with compassion,” Horowitz said. “The experience he brings from his years in the state legislature is unparalleled, adding to his reputation as a changemaker, serving as Jewish Caucus chair and Minority Whip, getting things done even under a Republican supermajority.”

Horowitz said a major component of campaigning is canvassing in neighborhoods, which is when one goes door-to-door in order to advocate for a candidate, and persuade individuals into voting for the candidate they are campaigning for. He said he has networked to solicit votes for Stark, but that this action has been discontinued due to COVID-19, therefore moving campaigning to a virtual platform. This has put the campaign at a disadvantage against candidates who have continued in-person outreach.

“Going door-to-door has been sharply curtailed due to COVID-19, as we have transitioned to virtual events and fundraisers, phone banking, and text banking,” Horowitz said. “The biggest frustration is that Rick’s opponents do not believe that the virus is as dangerous as it is, so they are doing in-person events, which are more effective.”

Senior Sarah Brophy is also volunteering in a Florida-based political campaign. She said she is volunteering for Robin Bartleman, who is running for the Florida House of Representatives District 104, as she truly believes she will bring the change Florida needs at the legislature.

“Florida needs systemic change and Robin Bartleman will bring that,” Brophy said. “She doesn’t see us as Democrats and Republicans, but rather as a diverse community; she’s kind, sincere and hardworking and I know she will do great things.”

Brophy has mentioned that campaigning has pivoted to accommodate COVID, directing her to partake in contactless deliveries of leaflets and phone banking. This is the process of when those working for the campaign call voters individually, educating them on a candidate and hopefully persuading them to vote for said candidate. Brophy said that by no means is phone banking as effective as in-person conversations, but is hopeful that voters will trust Bartleman in leading the community.

“There’s a lack of that personal feel now, but I hope it translated to them that the people of Florida can count on her,” Brophy said. “They can count on her to mitigate the effects of climate change, ensure they have access to affordable healthcare, and fight for a school system that caters to all.”

Laurie Marks, who teaches American History, Law Honors, and is the adviser for the Political Awareness Club (PAC), said that in her role as the adviser, she works to provide opportunities for students to engage in political campaigns. Marks said that she has had a plethora of students over the years approach her, asking for her to suggest political campaigns for them to back. She said she loves giving guidance to her students, as this ensures that they can have the opportunity to volunteer and get involved with political campaigns. 

“As a teacher, I’m always happy to give students direction on how to reach out and what to do,” Marks said. “It’s a gift for a student to learn something in my class or PAC that sparks enough of an interest that they want to be deeply involved in the process.”

Marks said that students who are interested in involving themselves in the realm of politics should start learning through volunteering in local political campaigns. She mentions this as it allows students to get first-hand experience in creating a successful political campaign.

“It’s a front-row seat to how it’s done, and that is incredibly exciting,” Marks said. “It’s one thing to learn about politics in class and it’s another to see it in action, in a political campaign it’s as active as you can get in politics.”

Since Marks was 15 years old, said she engaged in political campaigns. She has worked on national level campaigns for President Barack Obama’s campaign in 2008 and locally for current District 104’s State Representative, Richard Stark, who is now running for Weston mayor. However, she said she’s investing more time into teaching now, away from direct political actions, in order to hone in on her students and teaching.

“Now that I’m teaching, I’m less involved in political campaigns to work with the next generation of powerful students,” Marks said. “I feel I contribute more to teaching to inspire a new age of young people and voters to be involved in politics.”

Brophy said volunteering for a political campaign is a valuable experience especially for those who are not eligible to vote yet. She said this is because the work students put in political campaigns can help influence the election in the favor of the candidate they are supporting.

“By campaigning for officials, we can have a say in what goes on,” Brophy said. “As someone who can’t vote in this election, it is one of the ways I can make a difference without a ballot.”

By watching students campaign in local campaigns in the City of Weston, Marks said she is filled with hope that more young people will be civically engaged. She said politics matter, and that it’s beneficial for students to pay attention to local politics as well, as they are often disregarded with the limelight on national politics.

“People need to pay attention like these students are because that’s what helps make the good decisions that America needs, and what we need locally,” Marks said. “Who we elect for mayor of Weston, for our school board, our representative for the Florida legislature is just as, if not more important for our daily lives as who we elect as our president because local politics are the key to representing people in the places where they need the most representing, and I’m so glad kids are realizing this.”

Horowitz echoes this sentiment of the importance of local elections, he said that although national elections take most of the public eye’s attention, local politics deserve equal importance to the national race between the incumbent Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. He said this is because of the direct implications local politics holds on constituents.

“All politics is local, the people form the backbone of the democratic process, and whatever office someone is running for, they have to cater to the needs and wants of the people,” Horowitz said. “Local races often decide who controls and what affects the people the most directly, such as garbage collection, road management, and water supply; so these races, while down-ballot, are important for the effect they have on the people in the most direct ways.”

Horowitz said he has enjoyed volunteering for Stark due to the organization they provided. He said he encourages other young people to participate in this practice as it is educational and enjoyable.

“The experience of volunteering for a political campaign has been wonderful and I have nothing but praise for Rick and the whole operation,” Horowitz said. “[Working on a political campaign] is extremely worthwhile and I would recommend it to anyone who is interested.”