Political Forum A Success
Clinton residents made their way to the polls last Tuesday to exercise their American right to vote. They cast their ballots in municipal elections for mayor and city council members at voting booths around Clinton.
But the voting booths weren’t the first place where many of them showed up. A week before, voters made their way to PC to learn about the local candidates. Voters and local candidates, as well as PC students, converged in Edmunds Hall for the Meet the Local Candidates forum.
Dr. Ben Bailey, assistant professor of political science at PC, helped organize the event. He said the forum succeeded in helping inform local citizens.
“A few people who attended the forum told me this was the first time they had seen, met or heard from any of the candidates,” Bailey said. “They seemed to think that this kind of forum is very helpful for the citizens of Clinton to make informed choices at the ballot box.”
It’s not unusual for residents to know less about local candidates than they know about national candidates. Dr. Erin McAdams, associate professor of political science at PC and director of the pre-law studies program, said that research shows that “many Americans find it much more challenging to learn about who and what candidates in local elections stand for — especially in comparison with national elections.”
Bailey and McAdams organized the public political forum with the sole purpose of helping residents learn about the local candidates before casting their ballots. Edmunds Hall, easy to find on the PC campus, comfortable, and spacious, was just the right venue for the event.
“There was a good crowd, made up of lots of Clinton residents,” said Leni Patterson, executive director of alumni relations at PC. “PC is very much the perfect place to have this type of forum.”
Clinton residents came and went during the two-hour forum. They sat among fellow residents and PC students as WLBG radio host Randy Stevens asked the candidates questions on stage. Candidates took turns letting residents know where they stand on local issues.
The forum proved to be a success for more than one reason.
“We were able to learn more about the candidates, their priorities for the city and their positions on important issues that our community faces,” McAdams said. “Our hope is that this type of town-and-gown event can help to develop an even closer relationship between the College and members of the local community.”
Bailey and Dr. Booker T. Ingram, chair of PC’s Department of Political Science and director of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, agreed that the event helped strengthen ties between PC and Clinton.
“In my opinion, holding these types of civic events is one of the most important ways PC and the people of Clinton can build stronger connections,” Bailey said. “Having the community come to campus and engage the local political arena can only result in more trust and better outcomes for both the College and the City.”
The Meet the Local Candidates forum proved to be a success for PC students, too, who learned more about the local community. They joined Laurens County residents and non-residents at the forum to see democracy in action first-hand. While some of these students have taken courses related to campaigns, elections or local politics, the forum provided them with an experience they can’t get in a classroom.
“I believe the opportunity for our students to hear from candidates running for local offices may provide them a different perspective from ‘big picture’ politics and learn about what local issues in a community are of interest to community members,” Patterson said. “They also learn a bit more about how city councils might operate.”
The Meet the Local Political Candidate forum was such a success Bailey and McAdams hope to offer similar forums in the future.
About PC: Presbyterian College is between Columbia and Greenville, in the college town of Clinton, S.C. At PC, we’re noted as much for our challenging academics as we are for our one-of-a-kind mascot: the Blue Hose. Our students are one-of-a-kind too: They bring their own interests and abilities to campus and pursue them with gusto. Students customize their education by choosing from 50-plus majors and pre-professional programs. They’re taught and mentored by a faculty whose #1 priority is their students’ success. Students research, intern, and study abroad. And they get involved on campus, a place defined by honor and ethics. PC prepares students to be fulfilled personally and professionally so they can contribute to today’s global society.