There was green everywhere: green lipstick, green eyebrows, green shirts, green pins and Green Party presidential nominee Dr. Jill Stein. Three days away from the 2016 election, Stein became the first and only presidential candidate to hold an event at Montclair State this election cycle.
Stein’s event comes as she’s polling at about 2.1 percent nationally, according to the the four-way RealClearPolitics average (Stockton’s latest poll has Stein at 1 percent in New Jersey). But some Montclair State students at the event say they will use their vote to send a message.
“You’re throwing your vote away, you’re throwing your voice away if you’re not going to vote for who you actually believe in,” sophomore Heather Francis, president of Montclair Animal Activists, said. “If you want some change, vote third party. It’s more about that there’s more than two options.”
Stein detailed a pragmatic reason for supporting her candidacy during her speech. If Stein receives at least 5 percent of the national vote, the next Green Party candidate could potentially receive millions of dollars in matching funds from the government to strengthen their campaign and potentially reach more voters.
“If she makes 5 percent, that means something,” sophomore sustainability major Qendresa Hajra, the vice president of Montclair State’s Environmental club, said. “Without our vote, that can’t happen.”
After a few opening remarks, Seth Kaper-Dale, the Green Party’s candidate for New Jersey’s 2017 governors race, warmed up the room and engaged the crowd through a responsive “the last shall be first” chant. Kaper-Dale’s speech focused on elevating those most vulnerable in society and promoting Green Party values.
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If Kaper-Dale was the opening act, then Stein was the rock star. Kaper-Dale introduced Stein and the Green Party’s presidential nominee received rowdy applause and cheers from the audience.
“We are all burning green now and we’re unstoppable,” Stein said. “So many people inside of this room, and outside of this room, are refusing to be silenced.”
Stein dove into her stump speech and detailed her plan to solve the student debt crisis and make college more affordable. And, she took a shot at Donald Trump.
“We say to Donald Trump, we don’t need your friggin’ wall, we just need to stop invading other countries,” Stein said.
Stein called Clinton the “queen of corruption” before ending her speech. After her speech was over, she fielded questions from the audience.
At one point, a man shouted from the back of the room, “Bernie is supporting Clinton!” The room responded with a boisterous “Jill not Hill” chant.
Hajra and Francis were originally both Bernie Sanders supporters. But after he lost in the primaries, they each read about Stein and decided to throw their support behind her.
“I needed to find someone else to represent me and my generation,” Hajra said. “I realized there isn’t only just two candidates, there is that other option. [Stein] is the only one who stands for the things that all of my generation stands for, when it comes to climate change and student debt.”
Before she took the stage to speak, Stein sat next to Hajra. Francis also felt Stein was the only candidate to talk about the issues that matter to her.
“She’s the only one who’s talking about the environment,” Francis said. “The environment is the most critical thing that we need to focus on.”
At least 350 people — many from outside the Montclair community — attended Friday night’s event. Marlen Paredes, a Kean University commuter student, made the 30 minute trip from Elizabeth to listen to Stein at Montclair State.
“I’m realistic in the idea that [Stein] is not going to become our next president,” Paredes said. “But I do want [Stein] to at least bring the Green Party up and have that platform, rather than two candidates that basically suck. There’s no other way to put it nicely.”