Supporting youth voters and claiming that UCSB is “the reason” she is in office, Congresswoman Lois Capps spoke to several students on campus yesterday on issues ranging from the war in Iraq to presidential primaries.
The 23rd District Congresswoman appeared in the graduate student lounge last night after she was invited by several members of Campus Democrats. Although she spoke mainly on topics like the youth vote and its effect on campaign priorities in the recent Iowa and New Hampshire primaries, Capps also discussed local topics such as the recent Greka Energy Corporation oil spill that released 84,000 gallons in the northern part of the county as well as the upcoming district supervisors race.
During her visit, Capps was especially appreciative of her UCSB voters.
“This used to be a Republican district,” Capps said. “Nobody thought I would win when I first ran. This place is like hallowed ground for me. It shows that students can and will turn out.”
Additionally, while Capps spoke on the importance of the upcoming presidential elections, she also encouraged students and other community members to take more active roles.
“Our country is desperate for an inspiring leader, and I’m not saying it has to come out of the White House,” Capps said. “I don’t know who’s going to catch that fire, but we’re ready to have that match lit, aren’t we?”
Campus Democrats President Chrissy Elles, a third-year environmental studies and political science major, said she was especially grateful for Capps’ frequent appearances on campus.
“Lois is a great friend of Campus Democrats and supporter of students in I.V.,” Elles said. “It’s great to have her come and fill us in on what she’s doing. She appreciates how important the student vote is and that we’re not apathetic.”
Elles also said that while neither the Campus Democrats nor Capps endorse any particular Democratic primary contender, both will unite for the general election.
“California Campus Democrats doesn’t allow us to endorse a candidate, but we’ll get behind any Democratic nominee,” she said.
Still, some members such as first-year environmental studies major Alan Shirey said they already had an interest in a few specific candidates.
“I was just recruited, and I’m interested in this organization,” Shirey said. “I’m definitely interested in [Barack] Obama and Ron Paul. Obama is very Kennedy-esque, and Ron Paul just seems very truthful. I’m excited to see the youth coming out for this election. John Kerry didn’t really support the youth vote.”
Others, like second-year political science major Andrew Trindle hoped events such as the Campus Democrats meeting last night would provoke more youth involvement.
“I know the youth don’t vote as much as we should,” Trindle said. “I know we have some of the lowest turnout as far as age range in the nation.”
But youth turnout in the recent Iowa caucus was sizable. According to a CBS news report, young voters were responsible for 22 percent of Democratic votes, a figure that has tripled since 2004. Additionally, 239,000 votes were cast in the Democratic caucus, while only 116,000 were cast in the Republican counterpart.
The New Hampshire primary concluded last night with a similar record-breaking turnout, boasting a figure above 500,000. Capps said that these results are a sign of a growing momentum that could lead to a large turnout when California votes on February 5. Now, more than ever, she said, the student vote is crucial.
“If every student at every campus in this country voted, we would change the face of this democracy forever,” Capps said. “This could be the remarkable year we turn this country around. The best thing about this democracy is that we can change it.”