A fresh man in N.J. politics
Rider student campaigns for school board in his hometown
By Alexis Schulz
Voters will line up at the polls on Nov. 4 to elect a U.S. senator to represent New Jersey. A familiar Rider student’s name will be seen on the ballot.
Christopher Scales, freshman political science major, is running with six other candidates for three seats on the Hamilton Township School Board. Throughout his Steinert High School career he was involved with student government and, as a freshman, ran for student representative to the board of education. He then decided to run for three consecutive terms. He explained that his investment in politics began after a family tragedy.
“My father was a state trooper who died in the line of duty,” he said. “And after he passed away, Governor Jim McGreevy came to my house. He got to know me and inspired me to get involved with politics and meet political figures. After that, I realized that I wanted to make a difference in the community.”
His father Christopher Scott Scales, a state trooper, passed away in 2002 after being hit by a tractor-trailer at a tollbooth while conducting a seat belt check.
He said his experience as a student representative on the school board allowed him to familiarize himself with the issues facing Hamilton. He then got involved with the town’s Democratic club and brought up the idea of running for school board.
“Everyone was very supportive and all signed the petition I needed in order to run,” said Scales.
One of the biggest issues facing the school board will be coming up in January with the selection of a new superintendent. Scales said he did not foresee the resignation of the current superintendent and was surprised by it, but would like to work diligently to help find a well-qualified person to take his position.
“I want to make sure we as a board find a candidate that has a clear vision for the school district and knows how to implement things,” he said.
Scales said Hamilton has buildings that are over 100 years old and he would like to see the schools brought up to code. He also wants to implement common core standards and improve assessments.
“I want to make sure that Hamilton is on the right track and students will be successful,” he said.
For the spring semester Scales worked with his advisers to make sure he could balance college work and school board meetings if elected.
“Fortunately it looks like it’s going to work out if I win, but I’m confident that I will be able to work that out,” he said.
For his future in politics, Scales said he is primarily interested in the Hamilton schools. However, he might be interested in pursuing other positions in the future.
“Right now my main concern is the Hamilton Township school district and how I can make it better for children, staff, students and parents overall,” he said. “I feel that my interest takes place at the council. I might pursue new directions, but right now I’m only interested in the school board.”
In the Nov. 4 election, Democrat Cory Booker and Republican Jeff Bell are competing for the Senate position, and Democrat Bonnie Watson Coleman and Republican Alieta Eck are running for the position in the House of Representatives.
Shane Garland, sophomore political science major, who is a Republican, said he thinks students need to be encouraged to vote because of issues such as the economy and job growth.
“Students need to get the word out there that their vote matters,” said Garland. “A lot of students go home to vote, so it would help if people voted by mail.”
Garland said that he thinks a lot of students will not vote in this election because it is just for Senate and House of Representatives.
“Many people just don’t care about this election because it is not a presidential election,” he said.
Petra Gaskins, college Democrats’ president, said she feels it is imperative that students from Rider get out and vote.
“Many students believe that the issues presented in the election are subordinate to our generation,” said Gaskins. “We’re talking about higher education and student loans. These issues are going to compound and affect all of us.”
Gaskins said politicians who have come to campus know that many students feel their vote does not matter, and the politicians explain that this leads to a lack of resources for students.
“There are many other programs that politicians advocate for that assist other demographics,” she said. “I try to have my group understand that these issues are primarily for our demographic. If we don’t vote, then politicians won’t care.”
Scales spoke to this as well, saying that issues such as student loans and the ability for college students to pay off their debts should inspire students to vote.
“Student votes can be a deciding factor in who we send to Washington,” he said. “Our generation needs Social Security benefits and other things that other generations have right now. These are all important issues, and the people sent to Washington are the ones who will be talking about them.”
Some students feel there is not enough political presence on campus and if there were, students would be more inclined to vote. Lee Clark, graduate student in business communication, said he believes political activity at Rider could be better in the aspects of volunteering and participation.
“There exists no urgency amongst the majority of the student body to participate in the political process,” said Clark. “Political activity is growing here at Rider. However, it does not come close to matching that of surrounding colleges and universities such as The College of New Jersey and Rutgers.”
Clark also said that Democrats need to reach out to the college student demographic.
“The best manner for Democrats to connect with our generations is to stay relevant to the issues affecting us,” he said. “As times change, so do the issues that affect that given generation. The acceptance and utilization of social media and networking also proves important in the success in connection to our generation.”
Scales said that he worked hard to get his opinions out in the public and communicate to young people through social media.
“There are so many people in the community who are upset with a lack of communication,” said Scales. “This weekend I will be going door-to-door with literature pieces about what I stand for and see for the future, to try to inform people and get them out to vote.”
Scales will be the youngest person to hold a position in Hamilton Township if elected. The most important thing to him is reminding college students of the importance of their freedom to vote.
“We live in a country where we are fortunate to have the ability to choose our leaders,” he said. “We all really need to get out and vote.”