No Rest for the Hilltop: Candidates Keep Coming

Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) signing eggs and two posters for Politics & Eggs in the conference room of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics before the event. (Photo from @JKazadi)

It’s no surprise to Saint Anselm students that campus is a hotbed for political activity. Every president since Dwight Eisenhower has been to the hilltop. The whirlwind is getting started a bit early, though. Presidents’ Day Weekend and the following days brought two prominent candidates to campus and even more to the state.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) returned to New Hampshire, most notably for an event at her alma mater, Dartmouth College. Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D-IN) was in Raymond, New Hampshire on Saturday to meet voters. Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), too, was in the state, bringing her message to the first-in-the-nation primary state.

Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) made his Granite State debut this weekend, spending multiple days in the state. He held a town hall event in Portsmouth that attracted around 500 people. A house party in Manchester brought in 350 people. Events in Rochester and Conway brought in about 200 each. It was a strong beginning to the senator’s New Hampshire effort.

Most notably, for Saint Anselm students, were two major events on campus. One was the CNN Town Hall with Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), which was held in the Dana Center on Monday night. That event was followed by a Politics & Eggs event at the Institute of Politics with Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA), widely considered a front runner in the race.

Chairwoman of the Kevin B. Harrington Student Ambassador Program Julianne Plourde ‘20 shared her thoughts on the busy presidential campaign. She was at both the CNN Town Hall and the Politics & Eggs event. “Being able to attend the CNN Town Hall for Senator Klobuchar gave a preview into what the next year is going to be like on campus. It’s exciting knowing that having presidential candidates and national news networks walking around campus will be the usual.” The experience, she explained, is pretty unique to Saint Anselm. “No other school around is able to give their students these experiences on such a regular basis.”

During the town hall, Klobuchar answered questions, including one from Olivia Teixeira ‘20, the President of the New Hampshire College Democrats. Teixeira opened-up about what it was like to be on camera and ask the senator a question: “Asking a question for CNN was a great experience. Despite rumors that the questions were staged, that is not the case. They made sure we asked genuine questions that we submitted beforehand and were very accepting of all the questions we submitted.”

She asked the Minnesota senator to share her thoughts about gun safety legislation. The senator’s response left an impression on Teixeira, she said. “I appreciated Amy’s genuine emotion when responding to my question and the answer she gave was a very shared Democratic belief.” Overall, Teixeira said she was more likely to vote for Klobuchar because of how she did at the town hall.

Grace D’Antuono ‘19 also attended the CNN Town Hall. She said that while she’s not considering voting for Klobuchar, she went to “learn more and to be a part of the beginning of the 2020 campaign here on campus.” She was impressed by the senator’s answer to Teixeira’s question, noting that Klobuchar “understands recreational gun use and wants to protect that while still promoting screening for background checks and banning assault rifles.”

The morning after Senator Klobuchar’s town hall, Senator Harris was at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics for a Politics & Eggs event. Harris’ stop came after a town hall event in Portsmouth where many in line had to be turned away because there wasn’t enough capacity in the venue.

Harris addressed affiliates and members of the New England Council as well as students of Saint Anselm College before taking questions. Her remarks centered on three issues: middle-class tax relief, education reform, and climate change. She promised that, as a candidate for president, she would “speak truths” on the trail and be honest with the American people.

She opened her speech by addressing questions that she would not seriously contest the New Hampshire primary. Harris denied these rumors, saying she plans on competing in New Hampshire and that she intends to do “very well” in the nation’s first primary.

Emily Burns ‘22 was in the audience on Tuesday. She said she was “really excited” to see Harris come to the hilltop. Burns thought the senator “spoke incredibly eloquently” and said she seemed “very presidential.”

Despite her glowing review of Harris’ performance, Burns was unsure that she would support the candidate down the road. “I’m not totally sure yet,” she said when asked if she was leaning towards supporting the senator from California. “One of my big concerns is prison reform and while she spoke about that, she has a kind of questionable past in that area,” Burns explained.

The controversy over Harris’ past as a prosecutor has been a major factor in the race so far, with some questioning whether Harris’ commitment to criminal justice reform can be genuine given her past. For her part, the candidate embraced her record during her speech at Politics & Eggs, talking about how she was inspired to become a prosecutor by some lawyers of the Civil Rights Movement, including Thurgood Marshall.

In a recent poll conducted by Saint Anselm College, Harris was viewed the third-most favorably by New Hampshire voters. She only trailed former Vice President Joe Biden (D-DE) and Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT). Sanders announced a presidential campaign on Tuesday.

Crisis in Virginia Continues to Spread

Governor Ralph Northam (D-VA) has denied that he was the person wearing blackface in a photo on his yearbook page. (Photo by Alex Edelman, Getty Images)

For more than two weeks, Virginia has been embroiled in a scandal that seems like it will never end.

A photo of Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s 1984 yearbook from Eastern Virginia Medical School emerged on Friday, February 1. On Governor Northam’s page of the yearbook, two men are seen at what seems like a Halloween party: one in blackface and one in a Ku Klux Klan hood and robe.

Initially, Governor Northam, elected in 2017 as a Democrat, acknowledged that he was one of the men in the photo but couldn’t remember if he was the one in blackface or the one in the Klan hood. He then backtracked and said, upon recollection, he was not in the photo in the yearbook but had dressed in blackface in college to dress like Michael Jackson.

Democrats and Republicans alike both immediately called for Governor Northam to resign. He has held out against those calls so far, telling CBS’ Gayle King “Right now, Virginia needs someone that can heal. There’s no better person to do that than a doctor. Virginia also needs someone who is strong, who has empathy, who has courage and who has a moral compass. And that’s why I’m not going anywhere.”

At a press conference to address the photo, Governor Northam told the press that he used “just a little bit of shoe polish” and won the Michael Jackson costume contest because he learned to moonwalk. A reporter asked if he still knew how to moonwalk, which Northam seemed to consider doing until his wife said it would be inappropriate.

Governor Northam’s undergraduate yearbook from the Virginia Military Institute included a racist nickname under his picture: Coonman.

Beyond the optics of removing someone with a racist past as governor, Virginia Democrats had another reason to want to remove Northam from the Governor’s Mansion. The Commonwealth’s Lieutenant Governor, Justin Fairfax, had been hailed as a rising star in the Democratic Party for years and is more progressive in his politics than Northam. Lieutenant Governor Fairfax assuming office midway through the term would also exempt him from Virginia’s four-year term limit for Governors, meaning Democrats and Fairfax could control the Governor’s Office until 2026.

As the calls for Governor Northam to step aside in favor of Lieutenant Governor Fairfax reached a peak, news broke about Fairfax that threw cold water on that plan. Vanessa Tyson, a professor at Scripps College, accused Fairfax of sexually assaulting her in 2004 when they both attended that year’s Democratic National Convention in Boston. Fairfax denied the claim and said that their relationship was consensual. Tyson responded that the encounter began as consensual kissing but ended with non-consensual oral sex.

A second woman, Meredith Watson, has also come forward since Tyson went public, alleging that Fairfax sexually assaulted her in 2000 when they were both undergraduates at Duke. Lieutenant Governor Fairfax has hired the same legal firm that represented now-Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing against the claims of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. Many members of the Virginia Democratic Party, including Senator Tim Kaine and former Governor Terry McAuliffe, have called on Fairfax to resign.

If both Governor Northam and Lieutenant Governor Fairfax were to resign, the next in line to the Governor’s Mansion would be Attorney General Mark Herring. The attorney general, however, is facing a racial scandal of his own. He admitted in an interview that he wore blackface and an insensitive wig in 1980 to appear like a rapper at a college party. Before admitting to his own racial incident, Herring had been one of the most vocal voices calling for Northam to resign. It is unclear if there is a photo of Attorney General Herring in the outfit circulating.

The fourth, and final, person in the line of succession to become the Governor of Virginia is Kirk Cox. Cox is the Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates. Unlike Northam, Fairfax, and Herring, Speaker Cox is a conservative Republican. Cox has called on all three embattled Democrats to resign.

The Virginia Republican Party has not been spared from this outbreak in revelations of racism: Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment was involved with a 1968 college publication containing slurs and blackface photos.

Now, the Democratic Party is faced with the question of whether or not they believe all three Democrats in the line of succession need to step down, giving the Governor’s Mansion to the Republicans, or if Attorney General Mark Herring may be worthy of forgiveness.

Bloomberg, Gillibrand Meet Granite Staters

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (D-NY) speaks at Saint Anselm on Tuesday. (Photo from Bloomberg’s Flickr account)

The 2020 presidential election is in full swing. This week was a busy one for prospective candidates. On Tuesday, Michael Bloomberg (D-NY), traveled to the hilltop for a Bookmark Series event, hosted by the New Hampshire Institute of Politics in conjunction with the New England Council. Bloomberg spoke about his 2017 book Climate of Hope and outlined his thoughts on global climate change.

After first meeting with Saint Anselm students and taking a photo, Bloomberg addressed a packed auditorium. The former New York City mayor admitted he is actively considering a presidential campaign. He told WMUR that he expects his decision to be made by the end of February.

In his remarks Tuesday, Bloomberg eschewed the glowing rhetoric of Kamala Harris’ Oakland announcement and instead spent his time proving his knowledge of climate change. During the question and answer portion, the potential candidate also spoke to a need to greater fund the arts.

His tour of New Hampshire continued beyond Saint Anselm. He went to Nashua, Dover, and Concord before heading home to New York.

There was a multitude of Saint Anselm students in the audience on Tuesday. One of them, Jackson Lawler-Sidell ’22, is a Republican voter who seemed to appreciate what Bloomberg had to say, specifically mentioning how Bloomberg addressed the future of the coal industry. “With the recent surge in the elimination of coal plants, it’s reassuring to see that someone is looking out for the families involved in the coal industry,” he said.

Lawler-Sidell continued, “Switching from coal to other cleaner energy solutions is something that needs to happen if we want to save our planet, but there needs to be a system in place to provide new jobs for families in the coal industry.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) addresses an audience of nearly 150 people at Stark Brewing Company on Friday. (Photo by Nick Fulchino ’19)

Another New Yorker, Kirsten Gillibrand, was in Manchester on Friday at Stark Brewing Company. After grabbing a beer, Gillibrand addressed a standing-room-only crowd. In her remarks, Gillibrand spoke of her desire to fight for America’s children. She took on President Trump directly, on issues ranging from immigration to divisive rhetoric. She promised voters she was up to the task of taking on Trump and leading the nation, “I promise you I have never backed down from a fight. It does not matter who I am fighting against it is who I am fighting for.”

During the question and answer segment, Gillibrand touted her record of legislative accomplishment. She cited her history of working with conservative Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) on legislation addressing sexual assault. As president, Gillibrand said she would work hard to bring the nation together.

She also addressed her desire to fight for criminal justice reform, pointing to the racism inherent in the current system. Specifically, she mentioned the discrepancies in sentencing for marijuana possession. She said that in New York, African-Americans are more likely to go to jail and face longer sentences than their white counterparts. As part of her plan, Gillibrand will work to decriminalize marijuana and end cash bail. Her promises on criminal justice reform drew loud applause from the room of Democrats.

Among her other proposals, Gillibrand called for publicly-funded elections, a repeal of the Hyde Amendment, and a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. The senator is still in the exploratory phase of her campaign but intends to roll out more policy as she prepares to formally enter the race.

Saint Anselm student Emily Burns ’22 came away from the event impressed with the senator. “As a New Yorker, it was super exciting to be able to see and meet my senator, but also to be able to hear in person her stances on various issues that are important to me,” she said. Burns continued, “I’m excited to see how her presidential run goes, and I’m excited to support her along the way!”