‘Show up and vote’: Huffman inspires high school students
The congressman had a clear message for students: Get out and vote. Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, met with 75 students Tuesday morning at San Antonio High School, an alternative school for 10th- through 12th-graders in Petaluma. They gathered casually in the multipurpose room, where Huffman answered students’ questions on a wide array of issues, including immigration, gun control and climate change.
“One of the things I’m excited about is that I see in your generation, more and more young people — even if they’re not quite ready to vote — are starting to figure out that politics matter,” said Huffman, who was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2012.
It wasn’t the first school visit for Huffman, who met with students at Petaluma’s Casa Grande High in March shortly after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. He also held a North Bay student-led summit on gun violence that month at San Rafael’s Dominican University.
With midterm elections less than two months away, Huffman on Tuesday made a plea to students to use their voice by voting.
“We’re having a real hard time getting younger people to vote, so it’s one of the reasons I like to come out and visit with high schools,” Huffman said. “Vote however you want. Vote Republican, Libertarian, Democrat, whatever, but please understand that it’s important to actually show up and vote.”
Veronica Ramirez, a senior, asked Huffman about President Trump’s immigration policies. It was a question that stemmed from her personal experience.
“I have some family members who are immigrants, and it just breaks my heart hearing the stories. And I just wanted to know what (Huffman) thought about it,” said Ramirez, whose family emigrated from Mexico.
Huffman said family separations need to end, DACA shouldn’t have been revoked and that there should be a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 10 million people living in the country illegally, but are otherwise law abiding.
Ramirez followed up and asked if he thought Trump understood the consequences of his administration’s immigration policies.
“I think he’s not only aware of it, but he intends it,” Huffman said.
Huffman also addressed questions about the 2016 election, Russian interference and voter apathy.
“Hearing that Trump got elected probably because a lot of people didn’t vote, that really pushed me. Kids need to look into it and vote,” said Ramirez, who last week turned 18 and plans to vote for the first time in November.
Huffman made two political predictions while chatting with students. First, he said Trump may resign in the next six months amid the many controversies surrounding his administration. Second, that unlike in the 2016 election, there will be a multitude of diverse Democratic presidential candidates in 2020.
One student asked how impeachment works, and if that meant Vice President Mike Pence would become president. Huffman said he would trade Trump for Pence “in a heartbeat.”
“I have my disagreements with Pence on policy, but I don’t think Pence would simply wake up in a bad mood and take us to war,” Huffman said. “I think Trump would.”
The event had lighter moments, too. Students asked Huffman what he would do if he weren’t in Congress.
“When I was your age, I wanted to be a dolphin trainer,” he told students. “I thought that would be the coolest job in the world.”
San Antonio High Principal Rebecca Lofton said speakers are routinely invited to the school, and Huffman’s visit — facilitated by Valerie Cartwright, a school counselor who previously worked for him — was “hopefully impactful.”
“I think he’s got a very easygoing manner that’s easy for students to engage with,” Lofton said. “And I think he was honest, which is always important with my students. They can tell if you’re not being honest.”
Amaris Villasenor, 17, felt Huffman’s visit made a difference for students.
“It probably encouraged a lot of us to vote,” Villasenor said.
Other issues Huffman addressed were gun control, climate change, wildfires, medical marijuana, the 25th Amendment and congressional term limits.
After Huffman left, Shane Melanson, an 18-year-old senior, discussed immigration issues with fellow students during a break. Like Huffman, they opposed Trump’s family separation policy.
“It’s not right,” Melanson said.
A self-described conservative Democrat, he plans to vote for the first time in November.
You can reach Staff Writer Susan Minichiello at 707-521-5216 or email@example.com. On Twitter @susanmini.