Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Ron Paul Visit to University of S. Maine Creating a Stir

PORTLAND PRESS HERALD | Kelley Bouchard | January 25, 2012
Some students are excited about the congressman's visit, including Mark Truss, 23, a sophomore criminology major from New Jersey. Truss is a Democrat who's not bound by party lines.

"I'm interested in learning about all the candidates," Truss said Tuesday. "I pretty much watch what happens and try to figure who's best to run the country."

Other students aren't interested in Paul's pending visit, including Sean Rothgaber, 21, a junior from Hollis who's studying information technology. He's an independent voter who leans left.

"Ron Paul wouldn't be my candidate of choice anyway," Rothgaber said. "I like his foreign policy best out of all the Republicans, but I'd go for Romney because he's the least right. I think the world would like us a little bit better if we didn't have our foot down everyone's throat."

Paul is scheduled to speak at 11 a.m. Saturday in the Hastings Formal Lounge, on the first floor of Hastings Hall. The event is free and open to the public. The rest of Paul's schedule for Friday and Saturday is being developed, said Ryan Flowers, the candidate's deputy state campaign chairman in Maine.

Paul finished fourth in Saturday's primary in South Carolina, behind Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. The next primary will be held Jan. 31 in Florida.

Student Body President Chris Camire is helping to organize the event at USM with state Rep. Aaron Libby, R-Waterboro. Libby didn't respond to calls for an interview Tuesday.

Camire, an independent voter, got involved when a recent USM graduate who's a Paul supporter contacted him Monday, looking for help in planning a campaign event at USM. Camire's cellphone has been busy ever since.

"A lot of people are excited to see Ron Paul," Camire said Tuesday. "People are telling their friends and word is getting around. I heard from one student who's coming down from Colby College."

Camire said he's glad but surprised that Paul's campaign workers want to hold the event at USM's rural Gorham campus, instead of its more urban Portland campus. About 10 percent of USM's 9,300 students live in dorms on the Gorham campus; the rest live off campus or commute from towns around southern Maine.

"USM isn't always blessed with such cool people coming to campus," Camire said, noting that university administrators are working together to make plans for parking, public safety and Paul's campaign security.


"Ron Paul is a shock that
our political system needs"

Camire, 20, a sophomore from Auburn who's studying technology management, declined to discuss his political views about the election in general or Paul in particular.

"My No. 1 priority is to get more students interested and involved in the election," Camire said. "I'm hoping (Paul) will open the event up to questions and answers because I'd like to ask him a few questions myself."

One student who plans to attend Saturday's event is Anthony Diaferio, 19, a freshman from Island Falls who's studying criminal justice. He recently started working on Paul's campaign.

"Right now, it seems a lot of people don't know he's coming," Diaferio said. "A lot of people don't like to get into politics. I like Ron Paul because he's not a flip-flopper like the rest of the Republicans. If he doesn't win (the Republican nomination), I won't vote."

Meghan Connelly, 18, a freshman education major from Wells, said she hasn't paid much attention to the Republican campaigns.

But Connelly, a Republican and a Christian who opposes abortion, said she "might as well" attend Paul's campaign event. It will be in her dorm.

"I don't know much about him," Connelly said. "I normally just wait until it's time to vote, and then my mom and dad tell me who I should vote for."

Paul is an anti-abortion candidate who also believes that gay marriage is an issue to be decided by the states.

Victor Tardiff, 22, a math major from Augusta, said he plans to attend Paul's event but doesn't plan to vote in the presidential election.

"It's current events," Tardiff said. "It's going to be something interesting, and not much happens in Gorham."

Some students said they're glad that Paul is coming to USM but they won't be able to attend because they will be working.

One is Chris Perkins, 26, a veteran who did two tours in Iraq with the Marines. A junior art major who lives in Portland, Perkins said he likes Paul's approach to foreign policy and believes U.S. forces should leave Afghanistan.

"We spend so much money on wars that aren't necessarily constitutional," Perkins said. "As long as we're (in Afghanistan), we're just going to create more enemies."

Another student who will be working Saturday morning is Will Getchell, a senior political science major who spent last summer working for a security contractor in Baghdad.

Getchell said he's an independent voter with libertarian leanings who registered as a Republican so he can vote in Maine's upcoming presidential caucuses. He said some students like Paul because he stands up to "the establishment," opposes long and expensive wars without congressional approval and favors legalizing marijuana.

Paul's views on abortion and gay marriage are "wedge issues" that distract voters from real concerns, he said.

"Ron Paul is a shock that our political system needs," said Getchell, 23, of York. "He has been consistent in his views, especially foreign policy. He can't be bought."

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