Georgia voters are gearing up for an increasingly tense midterm election. Here at Chattahoochee High School, which sits comfortably in Georgia’s sixth congressional district, the most expensive House race in history is still fresh in the minds of many. The attack ads are blaring, the volunteers are canvassing and first-time voters are registering to make sure their voices are heard. As election day comes ever closer, it’s time for Georgians – including some Chattahoochee High School students – to make decisions that will shape their future.
Democratic, Republican, Independent, Libertarian, Socialist: it seems that there’s a political party or stance that can fit anyone these days. The following is a brief, objective summary of the candidates for governor and representative in GA-6.
Stacey Abrams (D)
Serving as House Minority Leader from 2010, Abrams supports many traditionally Democratic causes. As such, she favors legislation to reduce climate change and advance renewable energy; limit discrimination against the LGBTQ+ and immigrant communities; promote community policing and firearm regulations; and invest in Georgia’s economy through earned tax credits and infrastructure and education spending.
Brian Kemp (R)
The current Secretary of State and former state senator, Brian Kemp is a conservative business and family man. His agenda consists of four points: make Georgia number one for small business by removing regulations; reform the state government by capping spending and updating the tax code; improve rural Georgia by promoting economic development; and put Georgia first by cracking down on crime, funding education and lowering healthcare costs.
Ted Metz (L)
Though he has no prior experience in government, Mr. Metz, the Libertarian Candidate for governor, has plenty of ideas. In general, they are a mix of Abrams’s and Kemp’s views, as Metz supports investment in infrastructure and education (like Abrams) but is strongly in favor of removing regulations (like Kemp). His platform is relatively standard for a Libertarian candidate, focusing on limited government and greater social and economic rights for all Georgians.
Larry Odom (I)
At this time, Mr. Odom’s campaign has not put out any accessible information regarding his run for office.
Lucy McBath (D)
Though she lacks prior government experience, McBath is best known for her activism after her son’s death in a tragic shooting. As such, she advocates for stronger regulations for firearms, funding for Planned Parenthood and the continuation of the Affordable Care Act and Deferred Action for Child Arrivals Act. On economic issues, she opposes both the Trump administration’s tax cut and tariff policies and is concerned with climate change and the environment.
Karen Handel (R-Incumbent)
Elected to office in a special election after Tom Price’s resignation as Health and Human Services Secretary, Karen Handel has worked to implement conservative policies on a national scale. Unlike her opponent, Handel supports and helped to create the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, and is less outspoken on environmental issues. Handel, while she does not support the Affordable Care Act, intends to tackle the opioid crisis and secure funding for community health centers in Georgia’s sixth district.
Jeremy Stubbs (I)
At this time, Mr. Stubbs’s campaign has not put out any accessible information regarding his run for office.
But what do CHS students think of these candidates? According to a survey done by The Speculator, it seems that Abrams and McBath have a solid lead. With 21 responses, 14 students said they preferred McBath to the seven students who would have voted for Handel in the congressional election. For governor, 15 supported Abrams, four supported Kemp and two supported Odom. Jeremy Stubbs and Ted Metz received no votes for either question.
Students were also asked about their own political ideologies by selecting all the terms that described them. The majority (12 students) identified as Democrats, followed by Republicans (five students) and Independents (three students). Students identifying as Socialists and Libertarians numbered two each, and one student identified as a Centrist. A single student simply did not know, writing “idk.”
Regardless of the parties they may or may not identify with, youth participation in elections on all levels is significantly lower than other age groups. Mrs. Adams, Mr. Salba and Ms. Boudreaux were all asked a series of questions about how their students were engaged in politics and the need for young people to do their civic duty. These questions and answers are as follows:
- The U.S. Census found that 46.1% of 18 to 29 year olds voted in the 2016 presidential election, almost 12% lower than 30 to 44 year olds and significantly lower than other age groups. Why do you think this is?
- To what extent are your students engaged with politics?
- Why should students care about local, state and national elections?
- How can teachers, parents and other mentors encourage youth to “get involved” in politics?
- With the current political climate, some have said that politics are simply too nasty or upsetting for teenagers to have a voice. What do you say to this?
- Similarly, younger people are often ridiculed or dismissed for holding earnest political views. What effect do you think this has on youth participation?
- Do you have any words of encouragement for CHS students interested in politics?
- Teenagers are unaware: I think that a lot of times young kids don’t think voting matters. Government and politics isn’t always the most fun to talk about, and it’s easy to disengage. As they get older, and things like healthcare and childcare become issues and they start to have more life experience, people tend to participate more.
- Not really. Kids start to become more engaged when we hit things like elections or Congress. There’s an, “oh – we see these hearings on TV, we talked about this, and now it’s going on” moment. When we get to more tangible subjects about government, they tend to get more engaged.
- I think I’m starting to see now that students get that they have a voice. I think they’re starting to realize that their vote counts in the overall election. A lot of the issues are things that they can’t wrap their head around – but things like Black Lives Matter or Parkland are things they see and experience. When it hits closer to home, they understand why these elections matter.
- I think the best way for adults to help kids to get involved is for adults to get involved. If I want my daughter to care about elections, then we might go hand out flyers. It becomes a thing that you do, like voting, that they look forward to. If you don’t actively engage yourself, it falls on deaf ears, since it’s a little hypocritical. When kids see adults doing that, they see it’s actually doable.
- It’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. Politics and government set the tone for the next generation: what’s acceptable and the way we’re moving. To say that something’s too divisive for teenagers means that something is divise. If something’s so divisive, it can be an example of what not to do. History might be scary, but we have to learn to do better. Life isn’t always nice, but you still have to find out how to navigate it.
- The ideas of the Founding Fathers were out there during their time, too. The idea of the type of democracy that we have was a completely unique and original idea. I understand that there are always times that things are out there: desegregating schools, African Americans not being property. I don’t really give credence to the idea that some beliefs are just too off the wall. Anything that gets teenagers engaged is worth it. They might not be the most well thought out beliefs, but bits and pieces of these ideas can be good. Young people are willing to take more risks and greater risks, but that doesn’t mean that their ideas aren’t any less valid. They’re willing to do more to get their points heard, and the government could definitely step in to hear that.
- I personally don’t feel like it’s an old guy sport. If anything, the last few years have showed us that it’s anyone’s game. If you can get enough students who are passionate enough you will get there and make a change eventually. You will see your hard work payoff. Just know that it’s not SnapChat or Instagram quick.
- Often, people in the 18-29 group are working jobs that they can’t take off for. Before I was a teacher, I was working one of those jobs. I think younger people are told their opinions don’t matter and are disengaged. Colleges and high schools don’t do too much to inspire civic engagement, though I think our teachers do a good job. 18 year olds have a hard time relating to people who are older than them or just giving lip service to them.
- I think mine are more engaged than most. A lot of my students come out of AP Gov where they’re forced to engage with politics. Doing Model UN, I see kids who want to be engaged in the world: I think they know what’s going on and want to be a part of it.
- Because all three levels of elections do have direct effects on them. The closer you get to local elections, the more it affects minor things in your life. If you’re in a city that puts in a dress code – like no sagging pants – that’s aimed at young people. (Which is code for mainly African-American youth). That’s relevant, and if you let other people make those decisions for you, you’re not practicing what our system is meant to do. The states determine curriculum, licensing and funding for your university. Nationally, I think don’t vote, don’t complain. I don’t feel the federal government has as much impact as we think it does, but you can’t minimize the effect of the state on your life. Don’t overlook the fact that local elections matter, like those for judges. I think most people are self-interested voters, too.
- We can teach that it matters and what the system is. Direct endorsements aren’t okay, but broad encouragements – that don’t really mean anything – are our only option. Parents need to teach their kids why elections matter, why politics matter from a young age. We watched the political conventions and Sunday morning news shows when I was growing up, and while I’m much less involved than I should be, I am a registered voter.
- I think it’s reflective of society as a whole, and that’s one reason why teenagers should participate. It’s always been nasty and mean, though normally subtly or behind closed doors. In 2000, there was a robocall in South Carolina against John Cain that implied he had mixed race illegitimate children. The Atwater Effect, of using racism to win votes, gets used by Democrats, too, though normally on class. You can look to be above it, but you have to recognize that it will get dirty. People will do anything in order to win. It’s brutal, full of lies and misstatements. I think teenagers would love it if they really got into it, especially now. If you believe winning is the most important thing, you do what you have to do to win.
- It is discouraging. You can only be told so many times that you don’t matter and that you need to come back later. I think young people – though I may not agree with them – sometimes have the best views and the strongest views. At one point, we were younger people with political views. I absolutely had stupid views in high school and college, but it didn’t mean that they weren’t sincere. Churchill said: “anyone who was not a liberal at 20 years of age had no heart, while anyone who was still a liberal at 40 had no head.” Conservatives push youth aside since they tend to have more radical views – they’re not as jaded. The young believe in equal marriage and Medicare for all: these aren’t slim margins, they’re huge. If you have a view with a large group of people, you want to discourage them. Is it a deliberate attempt to discourage participation? No. It’s older people fixed in their ways. Everyone has views that aren’t well-informed or thought out.
- Don’t give up making your voice heard. If you believe in something and it’s well thought out, go with it. Just because an adult tells you it’s a bad idea doesn’t mean it’s wrong, though people who have totally ridiculous ideas should be ignored. But even then, just because a well reasoned idea is silly doesn’t mean you should give it up.
- This particular election was really disillusioning for a lot of people, and younger people in particular. Because they’ve grown up with the internet, I think the 18-29 age group is generally skeptical of government (which made a lot of people hesitant to vote for Hillary) and is generally socially progressive (which made a lot of people hesitant to vote for Trump). When people don’t see a candidate that they feel represents their interests and/or experiences, they’re unlikely to show up to vote.
- As with everything, it varies by student. I find that most of my students have a general awareness of what’s going on, but I don’t think many of my students spend much time really delving into political issues. I get it: politics are complicated, and y’all have a lot on your plates. I’m sympathizing with, not condoning, this.
- Our entire voting system is based on the idea that every eligible citizen has an equal voice in politics. But when people don’t show up to vote, they’re silencing themselves. I understand the hesitation to show up when people don’t see their interests or experiences reflected in the candidates, but voting is one huge way to potentially change this. As for local and state elections, I think that any major change that is made to our political system is going to come from the ground up, not from the top down.
- I think this starts with letting young people know that their opinions matter. Another huge thing would be helping young people figure out how to navigate the treacherous world of online media. I would imagine that a lot of teenagers avoid politics altogether because there is just so much information (and misinformation) floating around out there that they don’t know what’s real and what’s not.
- The fact that it’s nasty and upsetting is exactly the reason that teenagers should be involved in politics. If it’s nasty, it’s because the people who have been running things have made it that way. So what should we do? Shelter young people from it, and let the people who have been calling the shots continue to do what they’ve always done? Absolutely not. We should encourage teenagers to pursue issues they’re passionate about and affect change for the better.
- I would imagine this is discouraging. Sometimes younger people haven’t been shown how to have productive political discussions, and this can cause them to appear (to adults at least), overly emotional or foolish. Rather than silencing teenagers, we should consider it our responsibility to model productive ways of having difficult conversations. This can be a really slippery area for teachers, though, because we can get in trouble if we appear to be getting too political with students.
- Don’t be afraid to have difficult conversations with people, and don’t feel like you can’t engage in discussions just because you aren’t totally sure how you feel about an issue. Talking ideas out (especially with people who have differing views) is a great way to figure out where you stand on issues. If you aren’t already connected with peers who are also interested in politics, seek them out. There are few things more empowering than being surrounded by like-minded people.
From the candidates to charts and even a few chats, there’s a lot to know and discuss before election day. And that’s the most important part: election day is officially Nov. 6, but Georgians can still register to vote (and check if they’re already registered) online or by mail. Whether you vote red, blue or some shade in between, The Speculator sincerely hopes that this article has given the reader a better idea about the races – big and small – going on right around them.