On Oct. 11, 50 hungry and impatient students crammed into Walker 203, waiting for the first “Pizza & Politics” meeting of the year to begin. But everyone running the event was a little late, and so was the pizza.
Lead by Nicholas Buccola, assistant professor of political science, “Pizza and Politics,” is a program of events each semester that invites students to eat pizza and listen to guest speakers and lectures or watch movies about current political issues.
The program was successful last year, with an average of 50 people attending each meeting.
The first meeting this semester focused on local elections and invited Democrats
County Commissioner Mary Stern and candidate for the Oregon House of Representative’s Susan Sokol Blosser to speak to students.
Unfortunately, neither could attend, but they sent their campaign managers.
Ryan Mann represented Sokol Blosser and Sal Peralta came for the Stern campaign.
The meeting lasted almost an hour, during which the managers were asked questions about their experiences. They passed out advertisements for their respective campaigns, too.
A graduate of Oregon State University, Mann pioneered a petition effort to lobby Congress to help students with tuition and other education benefits.
He went to Washington, D.C., with other students to present to Congress.
He was also an intern in the state legislature before becoming Sokol Blosser’s campaign manager.
Mann urged students to think about their votes and their voice in this and in all local elections and used his petitioning Congress as an example.
He said he understood that many people cannot make the 4,000-mile trip to Washington, D.C. to lobby, but pushed students to become involved at the local level.
“It’s true that your one voice may not be able to change much in D.C., but Salem is only 35 minutes away, and you can make a difference there.”
Sokol Blosser, who is running for the Oregon House of Representatives seat against Republican incumbent Jim Weidner, is a founder of Oregon’s wine industry and a successful Horatio Alger story: starting with little and working her way up to become a successful businesswoman.
Peralta spent less time telling students how he became involved in politics and more time talking about Commissioner Stern and blasting her opponent.
Stern has been a McMinnville local for a number of years and is currently in her second term as county commissioner.
The election could have been over on May 18, when the primaries took place and candidates are eligible to gain a majority of votes, which would result in no second election.
This would have made November elections unnecessary. However, Stern lost the primary by nine votes.
Peralta said he believes his candidate is the right woman for the job and that voters will know this as well.
“The voters see a moderate county commissioner running against the national
spokeswoman for the Constitution Party,” Peralta said.
Mary Starrett, Stern’s competitor, is a member of the Constitution Party.
“Faced with this kind of competition, if I can’t win this one, then I must be the worst campaign manager in the world,” Peralta said.
Matt Sunderland/Senior reporter
Matt Sunderland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.