By: Diana Gilday
SUNY Purchase, on Feb. 25, hosted the final town hall event for District 17’s 2020 Congressional race.
The town hall had a medium-sized turnout, with a majority of those in attendance being outside of the SUNY Purchase student body.
The town hall was hosted by senior political science major, Max Micallef. Micallef has hosted all the previous town hall events held by the college to educate more voters. Besides hosting the events, Micallef is also the main organizer.
Out of the eight announced candidates, six were present for the event. The candidates that were there were David Buchwald, Asha Castleberry Hernandez, Evelyn Farkas, Mondaire Jones, Catherine Parker, and Adam Schleifer.
Before the town hall, candidates and their representatives were introducing themselves to those in attendance. Jones made a point of introducing himself to every audience member. Buchwald had many of his representatives talking to audience members.
The town hall fell on the first day for candidates to file to be on the ballot, and many representatives were going around the Humanities theater in order to get petitions signed for their candidate. The candidates have until April 2 to get themselves on the ballot.
The candidates, after being introduced, each had an opportunity to introduce themselves to the audience. Candidates put a big emphasis on the ‘American Dream’, which was carried throughout the town hall.
The first question of the evening was, how the candidates would go about addressing student debt. Debt being a hot button issue, not just for college students, but for the nation as a whole.
“I believe in college forgiveness for debt, because I think at this point, the system is so broken and you're so penalized by this,” said Parker.
While the majority of the candidates held the same view as Parker, Buchwald held a different view towards erasing debt.
“I'm not prepared to just simply wipe out student loans,” said Buchwald. “Ultimately, you have to recognize their limit. Just because there's a student debt crisis is not the reason to just totally rewrite the past.”
The next question was what specific actions the candidates would take to go after the intersection of domestic violence and gun violence.
“When I was six years old, I was a public school student in New York City. And a little boy, in my first grade class, put a toy gun next to my head and pulled the trigger to what went click over and over again for most of the day,” said Schleifer. “We found out the next morning in the newspaper, that it was not a toy gun. And that the only thing that kept my skull intact and allowed me to be standing here today is that that gun didn't happen to have any bullets in it.”
All of the candidates were in favor of universal background checks, more red flag laws, and more mental health awareness.
“We're going to say the same things, universal background checks, red flag laws. And yes, a ban on assault weapons,” said Parker. “Absolutely. But we need to go further.”
The final question of the evening was how will a candidate actively involve themselves between the elimination of bigotry that government and legal authorities have seem to not care about. The bigotry in question being towards the LGBT+ community.
Candidate Schliefer was the first to speak on the issue, “We've come a long way. And we've got a long way to go on this.” His sentiment was the platform held by the majority of the candidates on stage.
The candidates universally believed that hate in this country had gotten significantly worse since the election of President Trump in November 2016. The common rhetoric was that a majority of Americans believed they could show their hate more now with Trump in office.
“It is about the way we let people, or rather the way we treat people in this country,” said Jones.