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Students meet candidates at forum

SNOHOMISH — An estimated 300 people — mostly high school seniors — listened to local candidates and party leaders pitch their causes and positions at a Saturday morning breakfast gathering in the Snohomish High School Commons Sept. 30.
“Democracy is alive and well in Snohomish,” said Snohomish High’s principal Eric Cahan, who welcomed students and a few comm-unity members, and then led them in the Pledge of Allegiance.
More than one dozen candidates, plus represent-atives for the Snoho-mish County Democrats and Republicans, and spokespeople for and against a city measure on retail marijuana, addressed the attendees.
The students must work four hours for a political campaign, said AP govern-ment teacher Sean Brix;
they received one hour of credit just for attending the breakfast. They could also sign up for campaign work while there.
“(We are) trying to expose them to the political process,” Brix said.
Many students appeared to be signing on to campaigns even before the panel of candidates presented their views.
Seniors Benjamin Howard, Hannah Fee, and Morgan Johnson chose to listen to the candidates present their positions before choosing which campaign to join. “We don’t know much about them,” said Fee.
The candidate breakfast is a long-standing tradition at SHS begun by late teacher and coach Tuck Gionet, who died in 2015.                         
Social studies teacher Kaci Cowan now spearheads the event.
“My first year here was my first exposure to this (type of forum),” said Brix, who is in his fourth year of teaching at SHS. Cowan “took the reins after Tuck passed,” and is doing “a tremendous job,” he said.
The candidates who spoke this year included
Kristin Kelly (D) and Sam Low (R), running for Snohomish County Council, District 5; Snohomish mayoral candidates Karen Guzak and John Kartak;
Daryl Ferguson and Jason Sanders for Snohomish Council Position 3; R.C. “Swede” Johnson and
Tom Merrill, Council Position 4; Linda Redmon and Bob Dvorak, Council Position 5; Larry Countryman and Eric Reyes, Council
Position 6; and Richard Flath and Bill Betten, running for Fire District 4 commissioner Position 3.
Mayor Tom Hamilton and resident Susan Bjorling respectively spoke for and against an advisory measure on whether to allow mari-juana retailers within city limits.
Mario Brown spoke as chair for the regional Snohomish County Democrats and Russell Wiita addressed the group as chair of the 39th District Republicans.
The common threads in most of the three-minute speeches were appeals to young voters to get involved in the political process. Many speakers highlighted that they were SHS graduates.
Snohomish County elections manager Garth Fell was on hand to register voters.
“The excitement is seeing them be part of the process,” said Fell. Twenty-five students registered to vote at the
breakfast, Cowan said.


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