COLUMN: It’s politics as usual: Early impressions of the new candidates with a cherry on top

By Emma Claire Sohn

In the past week I’ve been bumper-stickered, buttoned, hand-shaked, brochured, yard-signed, patted on the back, smiled at and schmoozed. Election season has come. We won’t touch a ballot for another three weeks, but I don’t think I could stomach another spoon-fed stance on education. But free ice cream is free ice cream, and so I was obliged to attend the Illinois Student Senate’s Ice Cream Social “Meet and Greet” on Tuesday.

I went into this election season with an open mind, but the same stereotypes I’ve been witness to all my life are being perpetuated both locally and nationally.

Nicely put, the Republicans are old. Listening to Judy Myer’s brief self-introduction merited a “condescending lunch lady” note under her name in my book, which was later revised when she mentioned her previous career as a substitute teacher (I wasn’t too far off). Tim Johnson, our current representative from the 15th Congressional District, didn’t even show. The press secretary he sent in his stead had the persona of an undertaker, a step up from Johnson’s own skeletal self. I can only vote and hope that within the next three weeks his political career will better reflect his own ghastly character.

And the Dems aren’t looking any younger, or in touch, for that matter. Naomi Jakobsson looks as confused in person as her policies have been during her four year stint in office as the State Representative for the 103rd district.

Politics are looking gloomy as usual. Perhaps it’s heightened this year by the national scandals that have consumed the country. Maybe it’s the cut-throat vibe eminating from both sides of the spectrum as the tight battle for Congress heats up. Or maybe it’s the fact that this election will be one of the most crucial of our lifetime, as the leaders we punch out on Nov. 7 will determine how we handle the conflict in Iraq, our greedy energy policies and a slew of religious based moral issues. Or maybe the political atmosphere is just a reflection of the lousy weather that’s hit Champaign County recently.

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    There were a few candidates that stuck out as a glimmer of hope on the horizon. My personal favorites are Dr. Gill, the Democratic candidate for 15th U.S. District Representative, and Tom Abram, the Green Party’s response to Jakobsson as 103rd District State Representative.

    Gill is an emergency room doctor by trade, and if that’s not a respectable profession, I don’t know what is. He is a highly specialized professional trained in making quick, vital decisions. These are the kind of basic qualities that get muddled in the day to day hustle of professional politicians. Beyond that, Gill is a classic charismatic “everyman,” the type of guy that frequents the Quad armed with a smile on his face and a load of stickers – just like your family pediatrician. His friendly nature and experience in health care make him an easy choice for Congress.

    Mahatma Gandhi once said, “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” I hear a lot of complaining about politics around campus, but there are few who take Mr. Gandhi up on his challenge. I think that’s why I find Tom Abram so refreshing. Abram is a 2005 graduate from the University in electrical engineering and is currently employed by the University reducing energy use in small businesses in the area. If I woke up tomorrow with visions of Rush Limbaugh dancing in my head and a divine call to the Right in my heart, I would still admire Tom Abram. His desire is pure, a far cry from most politicians. And he’s running for the Greens, a party which refuses corporate funding, which reflects his policies and is a welcome change from mainstream politicians easily swayed by the corporate dollar.

    The Illinois Student Senate’s Ice Cream Social was an excellent opportunity to meet the candidates, but these individuals will be hovering around campus for three more weeks trying to secure your vote. Perception isn’t everything in politics, but it sure makes a difference in the polls. Go listen to our local candidates for yourself. Ask them where they stand on issues that are important to you.

    The ability to put a name with a face and a handshake far outweighs any Google search completed on the eve of elections. At the very least you’ll walk away with a free bumper sticker.