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Campaigning for the future

Teri Vance
Nevada Appeal Staff Writer
Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal
NEVADA APPEAL |

Kenni Kinsey, 18, will be voting in her first presidential election this year and wants to make an informed decision.

Although she doesn’t think she quite understands all the issues yet, she said she got closer on Tuesday.

Carson High School seniors in U.S. government and history classes attended forums interspersed throughout the day. At each forum, students listened to presentations from representatives from the Barack Obama and John McCain campaigns. It was then open to questions.

“I think it was very helpful, for me at least,” Kinsey said. “I’ve been hearing lots of different things, and today they answered our questions directly. I feel more informed about both candidates.”

She said she will read both of their Web sites before making her final decision.

And that, said Robin Darney, a volunteer with the Obama campaign, was the point of the forum.

“We want them to know that being an informed voter means casting a responsible vote,” she said. “Being informed is really the key.”

The town hall style forum was organized by seniors Rebecca Gansberg and Callie Ward, who are both voting for the first time in this election. Ward organized a Youth for Obama club at the high school, while Gansberg organized a club for McCain supporters.

Three forums were held Tuesday, and three more planned for today to accommodate about 440 seniors enrolled in the high school.

Darney told the students how, for 25 years, she was nonpartisan but switched her registration to Democrat when Obama entered the race.

“He’s intelligent. He’s level-headed. He’s engaged. He cares,” she said.

Tom Derbesy, a field representative from the McCain campaign, left school at Northwest Nazarene College in Nampa, Idaho, to serve on Nevada’s McCain committee.

He traced McCain’s history in the Navy and his five years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam.

He said McCain learned during that time, completely deprived of his rights, the true value of American freedom.

“When you take his character and combine it with his leadership experience, that’s what really sets him apart as the man who’s most fit and most able to lead this country.”

Students asked questions ranging from the economy, to education, to immigration and the war in Iraq.

Mike Longero, advance-placement U.S. government teacher who oversaw the forums, said he was not surprised by the sophisticated questions raised by the students.

“I actually expected it,” he said. “They’re pretty good students.”

And he was impressed by the campaign representatives as well.

“They maintained a dignified discourse,” he said.

A mock election is planned at the high school on Thursday for juniors and seniors. The results will be sent to the Nevada Secretary of State’s office to be included in the national survey.

– Contact reporter Teri Vance at tvance@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1272.