Ridgefield High School welcomed four candidates running for public office to its annual election assembly Tuesday, Oct. 23. Congressman Jim Himes (D) and Connecticut State Senator Toni Boucher (R) as well as their respective challengers, Harry Arora (R) and Will Haskell (D), participated in a candidates’ forum developed for the senior class by the high school’s government and politics teachers.
Encouraging citizenship is a critical component of the Ridgefield High School mission statement. Providing the students with the opportunity to see and hear for themselves each of the candidates is one way the high school teaches students how to make knowledgeable, reasoned decisions that impact society in a positive way – a key goal of the Social Studies Department.
In advance of the assembly senior students in their Government and Politics classes researched the candidates and prioritized questions on a variety of topics. Stimulating economic growth; legalizing marijuana; raising the minimum wage and making college more affordable were the topics for the two candidates running for the CT State Senate’s 26th District. Gun control; energy use and the protection of the environment; affordable health care; national security; immigration; college affordability and equality for all citizens were the issues for the 4th US Congressional District candidates.
After reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and hearing the rules of the forum, during the assembly the students heard each candidate share their ideas on how to best represent their constituents’ interests in either Hartford or Washington DC through opening and closing remarks as well as by answering the prepared questions.
Students Josh Burns and Sophia Haber posed the questions on behalf of their classmates while the Forum was moderated by Tara Krishna and Clay Vaughan. Fellow classmates Vidur Hareesh, Evan Smolin and Rachel Zaslovsky were the Forum time keepers.
“The senior class was incredibly respectful of the candidates who came to RHS today,” observed Social Studies Department Chair, Danny Martins. “The seriousness with which the candidates addressed our students and responded to the student questions was also impressive,” commented Assembly Organizer Carla Kahlbaugh, “It was a great honor for Ridgefield to welcome all of these important guests.”
With the mock election then in the students’ hands, the next day the senior class had the opportunity to cast their votes on Town voting machines tabulators with ballots made up especially for the high school, a cost underwritten by grants from the Ridgefield Rotary Club and the RHS PTSA. The ballots included the races for governor and United States Senator as well as Connecticut State Senate 26th district and the United States House of Representatives 4th district. Volunteers from the Ridgefield League of Women Voters graciously assisted students with the mechanics of the voting process, as they have been for almost 60 years. Those students eligible to vote in the November 6th election also had the opportunity to register.
Results from the Mock Election are always highly anticipated. With 265 ballots cast, the results of the Election were: Governor: Ned Lamont 131, Bob Stefanowski 130; Senator: Chris Murphy 142, Matthew Corey 120; Congress Jim Himes 146, Harry Arora 119; Ct State Senate District 16 Toni Boucher 54; Will Haskell 211.
Editor’s note: This story was written by Marilyn P. Carroll, president of Ridgefield League of Women Voters, and RHS teacher Carla Kahlbaugh.