By Andy Gallagher
Stuart Koch, chairman of the political science department, led a discussion about the Nov. 3 elections and their significance in the Travers/Wolfe Lounge on Thursday night, Nov. 5, to a small but engaged audience.
The talk, sponsored by the school of Culture and Society and the department of Residential Education, was casual as Koch invited audience interpretation.
Discussion was largely based upon the New Jersey elections, which Koch said, “were very long. The ads were relentless. The phone calls were relentless.”
Koch said the reason the campaigning seemed “relentless” was because so much money was spent by each candidate on his campaign — $11 million by winner Chris Christie, the first Republican governor elected in New Jersey in 12 years, and $23 million by Democrat Jon Corzine.
But despite the intense campaigning, Koch lamented the fact that voter turnout was down to 40 percent this year as opposed to 67 percent last year.
This low turnout was visibly evident at the College, as Koch was further disheartened by last week’s “Signal Spotlight,” which depicted six out of eight students saying they didn’t vote, some proclaiming that they just simply “didn’t know.”
“Conversations about politics are important. Apathy on the College campus is what leads to the problems we have today,” Rich Widmann, junior history major, said.
A major issue pertaining to College students that Koch brought up was his concern that higher education may become a target for budget cuts now that Christie has been elected, creating “interesting times for state workers” and students alike.
Widmann commented on the fact that $8 million was cut from the College’s budget last year, and he too worries that that number could climb higher this year.
While a self-proclaimed Corzine supporter, Koch conceded that he understood why voters may have turned to Christie.
Regarding Corzine’s campaign, Koch said, “He really seemed disconnected from life … he’s not very personable.”
Furthermore, Koch said Corzine’s ads tried to make Christie look like “this evil fat guy, which could have had a negative effect on his campaign.”
Koch and students also talked about how the majority of inmates in New Jersey are in prison for nonviolent drug offenses, which becomes very costly for taxpayers.
As a result, “We don’t properly fund our prison system,” Koch said.
Beyond the political scope of New Jersey, the recent victory of Michael Bloomberg as mayor of New York City was discussed, particularly the fact that he spent $100 million on his campaign, outspending his opponent Bill Thompson 10-1.
During the election period in Maine, the legislature adopted a gay marriage bill, but much to the dismay of audience members, Maine voters came back and repealed the bill after elections took place.
Kawanna Leggett, assistant director of Residential Education and Housing said of the governor’s race debrief, “I’m very excited to see the turnout although it was a smaller group. I think it’s great to see the school of Culture and Society partner with Residential Education to talk about important issues in the state of New Jersey.”