Five candidates aspiring to the unified Democratic ticket after the June primary and to the Maryland Governor’s seat in November discussed funding for public education and student loan debt at Montgomery College’s Takoma Park/Silver Spring Campus last month.
The Student Senate and the Campus Union Forum, both at TP/SS, organized the panel discussion that took place on April 18 between Richard Madaleno, Ben Jealous, and Krish Vignarajah, all running for governor, as well as Julie Verratti and Elizabeth Embry, running for lieutenant governor with Alec Ross and Rushern Baker. All candidates were invited, including current Governor Larry Hogan.
The candidates said they would ensure proper state funding for Montgomery College and for Maryland’s public schools. Jealous called for tuition free community college, a plan that Vignarajah echoed and added that she supported a state micro-grant program to support two-year students’ transportation expenses. Madaleno proposed community college be free for students of families making below a certain annual salary and favored increased spending for public schools.
Verratti, a Montgomery College alumna, spoke about the role student debt plays in hindering economic development, as graduates hesitate before taking risks while consumed in loans and said her and Ross’ platform intends to make it easier for people to start and grow a business. Embry pointed to her running mate’s record of economic growth in Prince George’s County.
There was agreement across the table on virtually all topics, including embracing immigration and supporting state residents who are undocumented. They answered questions from students, staff, and faculty, and met one-on-one with several of them at the end.
The issue I am most concerned about right now is education. But they all are very important to me, I live in Maryland and I feel they all affect me
One of the MC students who attended was Raymond Rice, a Silver Spring local. He plans to vote in the primaries and then in November. “I am not a kid anymore, so I need to know what’s going on in my government. A lot of attention is paid to the federal government while states and counties don’t get a lot attention, but that’s where a lot of stuff goes on that affects us,” he said. “That’s something I need to start paying attention to, especially since the last presidential election showed me where my attention should have been.
Rice said he knew about many of the candidates but not as much about what they stood for. “The issue I am most concerned about right now is education. But they all are very important to me, I live in Maryland and I feel they all affect me.”
Vice-president of the Student Senate Rashani Ward-Williamson said organizing this type of event, whether with gubernatorial or county candidates, had been one of their main goals this academic year. They teamed up with Victoria Baldassano, part-time faculty member and chair of the TP/SS Campus Union Forum.
“I have never gotten to see a candidate say his or her pitch, explain why they’re running and why we should vote for them. I should not just go to your website and read about you. I think that a personal relationship is very important,” Ward-Williamson said. “Having the candidates come here allows for the students, faculty, and staff to hear it in a place where we already are during the week. We are also in an environment in which we are learning, and there is no reason why we shouldn’t be teaching how to be a better voter.”