New Jersey was not one of the states that voted for a potential presidential nominee on March 1, but a pair of events on Super Tuesday brought this decisive day in the presidential race to Montclair State University.
Montclair State’s Office of Civic and Voter Engagement hosted a Super Tuesday viewing party in Machuga Heights on the evening of Super Tuesday. Earlier in the day, in conjunction with the Department of Political Science and Law, former New Jersey Sen. Robert Torricelli visited campus to discuss his own political journey.
Super Tuesday – the name for the day where the largest portion of delegates are awarded in each party’s nomination battle – brought good fortune to the Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton campaigns, while the Office of Civic and Voter Engagement brought pizza and politics to Machuga Heights. The viewing party was held in the Machuga Heights Multipurpose Room, and CNN’s live coverage of Super Tuesday was projected onto a screen that nearly stretched across the entire wall. There, students stayed to watch Tuesday’s political battles unfold.
Two students, freshman sociology major Anita Garcia-Harris and television and digital media major Aiden Wehrle, wore white T-shirts brandished with “Join the Political Revolution Today” on the backs. Garcia-Harris and Wehrle both said they supported Sanders. When asked about what part of Sanders’ message appeals the most to him, Wehrle said, “He wants to make health care universal and education free.”
According to an Iowa entrance poll, Sanders outperformed Clinton among Democrats aged 17 to 29 by a 70 percent point margin. Clinton has faced an enthusiasm gap with young voters, and Garcia-Harris commented, “Honestly, I don’t trust Hillary. A lot of people say she’s a shark. Bernie Sanders – you look at him and you feel like you can trust this person.”
Not a single student in the room came out and said they were supporting Clinton for the Democratic nomination.
Preceding the viewing party, Torricelli sat down with Political Science and Law Professor Brigid Callahan Harrison to discuss his political path and politics in general. Torricelli, a former U.S. Senator who served as the chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee from 1999 to 2000, embarked upon his political career when he was only 21 years old.
Torricelli started by working on Brendan Byrne’s 1973 campaign for governor, but he first became a national legislator when he was elected in 1982 to represent New Jersey’s ninth congressional district as a member of the House of Representatives.
“You’ve gotta get satisfaction [out of public life] because you feel good about it, because you did it,” Toricelli said. “I know in Bergen County and in Hudson County, that there are toxic waste sites that only got cleaned because I never gave up. I was just on the EPA again and again and again, and at some point, it became easier to clean it up than put up with me. I go past those sites now and I see houses there. I know someone is not getting hurt from there, and it just means everything.”
Torricelli’s political career was ultimately derailed in 2002 because of illegal contributions from businessman David Chang, but Torricelli maintained that withdrawing from the race was the right decision for him after 20 years of service.
“What [Torricelli] did today was talk about, you know, run for a county committee, go to a party meeting and some very real, tangible ideas that would provide a springboard for students,” Callahan Harrison said after the talk. “I think a lot of times, people want to become involved, but they’re not sure how to get from the idea in their head to how they actually take some action.”
Brian McArdle, the Coordinator for the Office of Civic and Voter Engagement, emphasized the importance of hearing a politician’s journey first-hand. McArdle added after the event, “Regardless of a politician’s past history, votes or whatever they were involved with – seeing them speak and talk about their journey is humbling no matter who they are, and that’s the best part of having them here.”
Super Tuesday is over, and New Jersey will get its opportunity to participate in the primary process on June 7. The Office of Civic and Voter Engagement will have a table on the second floor of the student center lobby on March 3 and 10, and will give students the opportunity to register to vote and gain more information on the process.