Villanovans run for office

Andrea Wilson

With all the attention paid to the current presidential election, it may be easy to forget the hundreds of other local and state races that voters will decide next week, and that several names seen on ballots will be those of Villanovans, past and present.

Though younger generations are traditionally known for political apathy, two notably young candidates are aiming to change that trend. At 19, junior Chris Koszalka is running for council in his home borough of Sayreville, N.J., on the Libertarian ticket. The youngest council candidate in the race, Koszalka sees his age as a great advantage.

“Young people tend to be very energetic,” he said. “The politicians in Sayreville are 40 to 50 years old,” Koszalka said. “There are no new ideas. When the old thing isn’t working, you bring in something new.”

In response to criticisms of his young age, Koszalka pointed out that the minimum legal age for council candidacy is 18.

“I pay taxes. I vote. I’m old enough to defend our country. Why shouldn’t I be old enough to run for office?” he said.

Koszalka said deciding to join the race for a council seat was difficult, since he worried that his official duties could interfere with his activities on campus, which include serving as both a resident assistant and a peer counselor. However, he determined that if he wins the election, he has enough credits to continue his academics as a part-time student and still graduate on time in May 2006. He said he had to do something to change what he called the “shoddily run” local politics in his hometown.

“This is an extraordinary experience, especially for someone my age,” he said.

Though he began his campaign with low expectations of victory as a third party candidate, Koszalka said he has recently learned that he has a better chance of winning than he originally believed.

Regardless of the outcome of next week’s election, Koszalka plans to remain involved in politics by helping to form a University Libertarian group here on campus. He expressed a positive outlook for the political future of his young generation.

“In general, people of my generation, we’ve become sort of complacent,” he said. “This could be the turning point. People are getting more and more involved.”

Another young Libertarian, Chuck Moulton, a second-year student at the University School of Law, has set his sights on the 13th United States Congressional seat. Like Koszalka, Moulton also sees his young age as an advantage in his political career. At just 25, Moulton is the minimum age legally required for Congress. He admits, however, that his chances of winning are extremely slim.

“I’m acknowledging that fact,” he said, noting that a win would require him to take a leave of absence from his law studies.

Despite the extreme unlikelihood of victory, Moulton, who completed his undergraduate work at the Rochester Institute of Technology, is content that his candidacy has prompted discussion about issues he says his major opponents, Republican Melissa Brown and Democrat Alison Schwartz, have largely ignored, including the drug war and government spending.

He also sees his candidacy as a valuable experience he can use in his future political career. Believing this year’s run will increase his name recognition, he plans to run again for the same office in the next congressional election in 2006.

“I’ve learned a lot about the process that I will be able to use for a more serious run in two years.”

Moulton said older politicians tend to ignore issues that will mainly affect younger generations, such as problems with social security.

“These things will be my generation’s problems to deal with,” he said.

“Young people aren’t as involved in politics as they should be,” he said, though adding that an encouraging growth in interest among young people has occurred throughout the 2004 presidential campaign.

“I think it is a politically aware campus,” he said of the Law School. He thinks voters are often divided on generational issues in the same way that “our grandparents’ generation was divided over racial issues.”

Moulton, like Koszalka, plans to remain involved in campus political activities after next week’s election. After founding a new Libertarian group on the Law School campus this year, Moulton organized a visit by Libertarian Presidential Candidate Michael Badnarik on Sept. 27.

Among other political candidates tied to the University community is Democrat Greg Vitali, who graduated from the University in 1978 and from the School of Law in 1981 and now works as a political science professor. Vitali is running for a seventh term as a Pennsylvania State Representative, tackling a range of issues from global warming to public service announcement abuse.

Democrat Jerramiah Healy, a 1972 graduate, is running for mayor of Jersey City, N.J. If elected, Healy has promised to focus on cleaner streets, crime control and tax reform. Republican Gary Algeier, a 1969 law graduate, is running for re-election to township council in Randolph Township, N.J.