State House and Senate Candidates Hold Forum for Cape Cod High School Students

Tim Dunn/

HYANNIS – A common talking point in almost every election is the total amount, or lack of, voter turnout by younger people. As mid-term elections in Massachusetts inch closer and closer by the day, the Barnstable School District is looking to change that trend.

The John F. Kennedy Library partnered with Cape Cod Young Professionals and Cape Cod Media Group to host a candidates forum for students on Friday, which seated about 200 high school juniors and seniors from seven Cape and Islands high schools.

The goal of the forum was to not only educate the soon-to-be eligible voters of the importance of their votes, but to also provide the opportunity to learn about the local and state politicians that serve their districts and interests.

“It’s to have a convening place for the young people in Barnstable to get exposed to a political candidate and understand how they can look at and compare different candidates based on what they say and what their platform is,” JFK Museum President John Allen stated as one of the motives to hold the event.

“The second part is to start to instill the civic role that they have in their life now and hopefully forever of recognizing that their vote counts. Maybe some of them might want to be a candidate themselves someday.”

Following opening remarks from various figureheads, the event divided into a number of breakout sessions with the local candidates for State Representative, where the candidates broke out into groups to explain their agendas to students. Following the breakout sessions, students reconvened in the auditorium for a Q&A session with the candidates.

Virginia Turner, the History and Social Sciences Coordinator for grades 6-12 in Barnstable also serves on Educational Committee at JFK Museum. She says events like the forum are gaining popularity across the Commonwealth and even the country.

“It’s really important because our hope is that we’re encouraging kids to get out there and be civically active and participate in our system, because as we know traditionally they don’t. There’s a large push in Massachusetts and really across the nation to bring back civics education and civics learning to kids so that they do participate,” said Turner. “An event like this de-mystifies what the candidates are all about. To see that they’re really human too and that they’re there because they want to support you.”

State Senate candidates followed the House candidates with introductory remarks and a Q&A session with the students attending.

Congresswoman Niki Tsongas (D-Lowell) provided the keynote address, speaking to students about her 11 year experience in the political realm, most notably being the first woman from Massachusetts elected to Congress in over 25 years back in 2007.

Tsongas kept the opening remarks mostly bipartisan, talking about the importance of political involvement, especially with young people. However, the Congresswoman also spent time highlighting what she calls a “diverse” breakdown of genders across Democratic Primary candidates.

“On the Democratic side through all of our primaries, 43-percent of our candidates in the Democratic primaries are female,” Tsongas boasted.

Tsongas’ 5th Congressional District in Lowell has been represented solely by democrats since her husband, Paul Tsongas, was elected to office in 1975. The district had voted for strictly Republican leadership for 80 years before that 1975 election, starting the streak in 1895.

Participating students came from Barnstable High School, Cape Cod Academy, Sturgis High School, Monomoy Regional High School, Dennis-Yarmouth High School, Saint John Paul II High School, Sandwich High School, and Mashpee High School.

All local House and Senate candidates were expected to attend the event.

By TIM DUNN, News Center

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