On Friday, April 11 at 7 p.m., New College’s College Democrats club hosted “Meet the Candidates”, drawing in a crowd of about 30 students into the Teaching Auditorium. Attending the event were democratic candidates Terri Wonder, for District 6 County Commissioner-at-large and Henry Lawrence, for District 16 Representative in Congress.
The two candidates, both Manatee county natives, opened the event by speaking about their individual platforms. Wonder discussed her stance on environmental issues, remarking: “I am fed up with how Manatee County does business.” She expressed her beliefs that the current, incumbent commissioner-at-large, Carol Whitmore, is corrupted and “in the pocket of corporations”.
“Essentially what we have happening in this county is a big environmental mess on our hands, and it’ll only get worse unless I get elected,” Wonder said.
Wonder also spoke about her education growing up, including her time as a research student at the University of South Florida under the tutelage of former New College professor provost George H. Mayer. “I have deep connections to New College,” Wonder said.
Lawrence spoke about his stance on education, a key issue in his platform. He shared his college experience and the faults that came with it. “I started trying to do too much at once,” Lawrence admitted. Lawrence, a former NFL player and three-time Super Bowl winner, has never run for office before. “Sometimes you head out on a path with a vengeance,” Lawrence said, “But then things start changing. You can’t predict what’s coming.”
Lawrence also shared his story about growing up as a son of migrant workers, born in Pennsylvania and spending his childhood traveling across the United States.
After each of the candidates spoke about their platforms, they opened up the floor to questions, where attendees asked a variety of questions ranging from the Affordable Care Act, to what running for office is like, to what they thought was the cause behind New College Professor Keith Fitzgerald’s loss when he attempted to run for House of Representatives in 2012.
Thesis-student Anthony Serifsoy asked: “What do you think is different about your campaign?”
“People are more fed up now than they were two years ago,” Wonder replied.
After the event was over, Lawrence and Wonder both stayed to talk to students more about their individual platforms.
“I love students,” Wonder said. “I’m a former community college professor. How can I say no to coming to New College?”
Lawrence stressed the importance of registering students to vote, regardless of political parties. “I think it’s important that we regain access,” he said. “Access is going to be extremely important.”
Lawrence and Wonder both currently have students on their campaign team, and are both looking for more student assistance. Both candidates’ elections are taking place in November; Lawrence also has hopes for a late August primary.
“Meet the Candidates” was hosted with aid from the Sarasota Democrats society, was the first of its kind for College Democrats. A third candidate, District 72 Democratic Congressional candidate Greg Para, was also scheduled to come, but had to drop out hours before due to a car crash.
Resident Advisor and third-year Amanda Bragg founded College Democrats in spring 2013. This is her first large-scale event for the club. “We’ve done smaller events, but it’s been difficult to get numbers up, as most clubs have issues with on campus,” Bragg said.
As to how the event was arranged, Bragg explained that “One of the candidates for Sarasota emailed me about speaking to students, and we thought it would be a good idea to have several candidates coming instead. We were also going to have a representative for Charlie Crist, but an unfortunate circumstance came up which prevented them from being able to attend.”