Saint Anselm Students Participate in Five Candidate CNN Town Hall

April 24, 2019

By Alexis Soucy

Five of the top Democratic presidential candidates took the stage together for the first time on April 22 during a youth-focused CNN town hall event held on the campus of Saint Anselm College.

Co-hosted by the New Hampshire Institute of Politics (NHIOP) and the Institute of Politics at Harvard Kennedy School, the evening featured Senators Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, and Mayor Pete Buttigieg in back-to-back moderated discussions. Students from Saint Anselm College, Harvard University, and other surrounding schools participated in the live audience, representing more than 30 states nationwide.

Klobuchar kicked off the evening in conversation with CNN anchor Chris Cuomo. This was a return trip for the Senator who participated in a CNN town hall on campus in February.

Adriana Fernandez ’21, who is originally from Nicaragua, asked Klobuchar to share her ideas regarding the federal responsibility to the education system.

International relations major Aiden Pierce ’22 asked Klobuchar, “Donald Trump won the 2016 election in large part because he appealed to a discontented middle class in the American heartland. How do you plan on winning back both their trust and their vote?”

Other questioners of the first hour included Zach Smith ’22, who wondered what aspect of Klobuchar’s life as a politician she wished the public better understood, as well as Sarah Tropeano ’20 with the question, “If you had one thing to say to young female voters or college students, what would it be and why?”

Warren took the stage for the second hour with CNN anchor Anderson Cooper. One of her constituents, Jackson Dwyer ’19, asked, “As a young Massachusetts voter and aspiring police officer who’s lived through countless tragedies . . . how can you assure me that you will support legislation that keeps law enforcement safe?”

A question on student debt came from history major Dena Miller ’20: “I, like so many other students, had to take out loans to pay for my education that I will be paying for years. What is your plan to deal with student debt and the rising cost of education?”

Earlier that day, Warren had announced her plan to reduce student loan debt by $50,000 for individuals with incomes below $100,000, on which she elaborated in response to Miller.

Sanders headlined the middle hour of the town hall marathon with Cuomo. Jordan Cook ’21, Kyle Machado ’22, Nicholas St. Germain ’20, and Georgia Dumars ’21 all asked the Senator questions.

Cook wondered what Sanders’ trade policy would be in regions where international trade with America has recently become more limited, while St. Germain wanted to know his stance on putting armed guards or a heightened police presence inside of schools.

Dumars asked Sanders what he would do as president to reach across the aisle to compromise with the Republican Party. Machado questioned his free college plan, saying, “One of the methods you proposed for funding this initiative would be through raising taxes on the wealthy. Because people with a college education tend to have higher incomes, could this plan eventually hurt us?”

Next in the lineup were Harris and CNN anchor Don Lemon. Student loan debt remained a common theme throughout the evening, and Angela Garozzo ’22 wanted to know what Harris would do to alleviate the financial burdens of student debt. 

Politics major Margaret McSherry ’20 asked the Senator, “As tensions grow between the United States and nations like Russia and North Korea, what should be done to prepare the nation for the possibility of cyberwarfare?“

Matthew Solomon ’20 wondered what specific protections Harris would provide LGBTQ+ community if elected president, and Max Ratner ’21 questioned her support of the Green New Deal.

Buttigieg wrapped up the night with a discussion moderated by Cooper. The questions covered topics including the mayor’s political experience, his plan for addressing corporate control, immigration and sanctuary cities, tuition rates, and more.

When asked by Cooper about a Trump administration official who accused Buttigieg of pushing a "hate hoax" during his back-and-forth with Vice President Mike Pence, he replied, "I'm not a master fisherman, but I know bait when I see it, and I'm not going to take it."