Canaan Laflamme couldn’t vote for U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney in his re-election bid if voting booths opened today. But he invited the Congressman to a public forum anyway, knowing a lot will change in the next month.
“I will be 18 by the election,” Laflamme said.
In South Carolina, residents younger than 18 can still register to vote as long as they will be of legal age on Election Day. In fact, 17-year-olds can vote in a primary as long as they are 18 by the general elections, York County elections officials said.
Laflamme leads the Republican student group at Nation Ford High School, hovering at 15 to 20 members. Brandon Weed leads the 10- to 12-member Democratic student group. Unlike Laflamme, Weed won’t be 18 by November. Many students in their groups won’t be eligible to vote either.
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Mulvaney’s appearance at the school Oct. 8 was more about encouraging participation than swaying constituents for his Nov. 4 contest against Democratic challenger Tom Adams.
“Get involved,” he urged students.
Mulvaney (R-Indian Land) addressed about a dozen issues, including healthcare, immigration, Benghazi, bipartisanship, college tuition costs, Crimea and the quality of school lunches. About 50 people, mostly students, filled the media center, where the event was held.
Weed said he appreciated Laflamme inviting counterparts from the left side of the aisle to question the Congressman. Weed said he thinks of himself as independent, but far-right values in the region push him toward voting Democrat. He said he respects Mulvaney’s take on issues that impact students regardless of whether they can vote next month.
“It’s not a hypocritical opinion,” Weed said. “I think Mick Mulvaney wants to do what he wants to do in a way that’s fair and balanced.”
One issue, economic sanctions as policy for conflict in Ukraine, put Mulvaney on the same side as the president. Most issues did not. Some issues like how much personal revenue should be taken in taxes – Mulvaney believes about 25 percent – had answers that were prepared in countless prior civic gatherings.
“I usually ask that question of high school kids,” Mulvaney said. “How much money do you think the government should take from you?”
Other issues still lack a clear answer. Like keeping Ebola out of the country. Mulvaney said eliminating direct flights from countries battling the disease would do “very little” and having the world essentially quarantining nations is “not going to be an easy thing.”
“I honestly don’t have an answer,” Mulvaney said.
Mulvaney said he’s leery of arming people to fight the army known as the Islamic State because they could then turn those weapons on the United States, and that he believes federal debt is the biggest social and moral issue of the day. He also said York County and Columbia legislators are better equipped to route new roads and other infrastructure in growing areas like Fort Mill than Congress.
The second-term Congressman said he believes in term limits for elected officials, but agrees with Supreme Court justices being appointed for life. He said he doesn’t agree with the court’s recent decision not to hear cases on gay marriage, but respects the legal process that is guiding the decision.
Laflamme, who first reached out to Mulvaney’s office this past summer, hopes the event brought some clarity for students on the political process. Himself included, as he has a big decision to make Nov. 4.
“I’m hoping that they’ll learn about politics, and learn about issues that impact our country and will impact it for years to come,” Laflamme said.