Councilwoman Karen Reynolds (left) speaks with Democratic colleagues Ritchie Patton (front) and Bernard Carter (back). Photo by Ralph Acosta. | THE ALL STATE

With election day on the horizon, local campaigns have increased their efforts to rally Tennesseans to the polls. This includes Austin Peay State University’s Campus Democrats, which hosted “Meet the Candidates” Feb. 19. 

As the name suggests, the event was a chance for members of the APSU community to meet with various Democratic candidates. They spanned from those running for the U.S. House of Representatives to the Clarksville-Montgomery County School Board. 

The theme repeated the most throughout the night was the importance of getting involved with your local government. This was echoed by State Rep. Ronnie Glynn of District 67, who stressed that local policy is what affects your daily life — not what’s going on in Washington.

No matter what party one might align with, these candidates believe every constituent should be an active participant in their local democratic process, especially when it comes to voting.

However, this does not mean federal politics should be ignored altogether. With the Republican Party dominating state legislatures, candidate and former Nashville mayor Megan Barry argued that while things will not change on a state level, the Democratic Party can make things change in the state on the federal level.

Each candidate has a different reason for getting involved in politics. For some, like Councilperson Karen Reynolds of Ward 9, it was a careful response to glaring inequities in her community. For others, like candidate Allie Reynolds, it was a result of a traumatic experience worsened by state abortion laws. 

As the evening went on, each candidate was encouraged to give a brief speech. Highlights include Megan Barry discussing gerrymandering, the likelihood of winning, and the importance of fair representation. “If you don’t run against them, we’ll never win,” said Barry. 

Another was Ritchie Patton, a Northeast High School graduate, who focused on the importance of stability in the school system. In running for a position on the school board, Patton hopes to build the school district into something students can rely on, even after graduation. 

A key goal in many of the candidates’ platforms was to pay teachers more. According to those like School Board candidate Bernard Carter Jr. of District 6, recruiting and retaining quality teachers is vital to ensuring the success of young students. The only way to achieve this, said Carter, is to offer teachers better pay for their labor. 

For two hours, from 6 to 8 p.m., attendees mingled with each other, discussed hot topics, exchanged information, and visited tables for each candidate. Each table was decked out with free pins, cards, yard signs and even handmade bracelets. 

“Meet the Candidates” offered a unique opportunity for APSU students to get to know their local politicians and their stances on pressing issues over refreshments. With it, the College Democrats hope to educate local voters and encourage those who can register to vote to do so.