By Veronica Sandate Craker
Local and state politicians gathered at Richland’s John Dam Plaza Sept. 20 to reach out to constituents during the Young Professionals of Tri-Cities Rock the Vote event.
The group hosted a similar event four years ago at Jack-Sons Sports Bar and Restaurant during the last presidential election. The event was so successful the group decided to bring it back, making it bigger and better, YPT co-chair Matt Sweezea said.
“We wanted to create a Live at Five with a spin and obviously get the younger adults here in the Tri-Cities to get out and be able to meet the candidates and talk to them one on one,” Sweezea said.
Both parties were represented with information booths for local, state and national candidates. Volunteers were on hand to talk to the public about the candidates and their platforms.
“Our main goal with Young Professionals is to give our organization opportunities to network and we want them to be able to connect with our local elected leaders,” Sweezea said. “We feel it’s very important for them to get out here and make it happen.”
Candidates who attended the event were given the opportunity to address the crowd.
Jay Clough, who is running for the State Legislature in Washington’s Eighth legislative district, touched on his agenda to bring more jobs into the area, as well as show support for the wine industry. He was also happy to share his enthusiasm for voting.
“I registered to vote exactly when I turned 18,” Clough said. “It’s a holiday for me.”
His opponent Brad Klippert also spoke about the importance of voter participation.
“If there’s one thing I am proud of, if there’s one thing I believe in — it is you,” Klippert said. “There’s so many things you could be doing. There’s so many places you could be. But you care about your community enough, about your state and about your nation that you’re here tonight.”
Klippert talked about the need for a stronger education system, for legal immigration control and his pro-life beliefs.
Between candidate presentations local band Goodnight Argent took the stage to perform some of their hit songs. It was the band’s popularity that brought Darena Ahquin of Richland to the event.
Ahquin said she considers herself an independent voter and was happy to have the chance to hear from the local candidates.
“I like to hear the candidates speak on the platforms they are running on,” Ahquin said. “I vote my conscience and that way I feel like I am making a difference even if it is just a small difference.”
The mother of three said she hopes her involvement will rub off on her kids when its time for them to vote.
“I want to be able to show my children and hopefully their children that power comes in actually voting and not just saying one thing and another,” Ahquin said.
The Country Gentleman Restaurant and Catering was one of the sponsors of the event, offering food and a beer garden.
Steve Simmons, restaurant owner, helped kick-off the event with a speech about the importance of voting.
“On behalf of my generation — the baby boomers — and my parents generation, I’d like to apologize all of you X’s and Y’s and Millennials,” Simmons said. “We truly have kicked the can down the road for decades and it will be you that cleans up the mess.”
He encouraged the youth to get involved in their community and to study both parties before making a decision.
“We need people with vision, character and courage to lead government at all levels,” Simmons said.
For more information on YPT visit youngprofessionalstc.org.