As James Timilty steps down from his seat in the Massachusetts State Senate, Foxborough resident Paul Feeney and Sharon resident Ted Phillips campaign against one another for his position. The Feeney campaign has grabbed the attention of the Wheaton College community in recent weeks.
Casey Smith ’20, who has been working on the Feeney campaign since early August, explained Feeney’s platform: “Paul was a campaign manager for Bernie’s Massachusetts campaign and was recently endorsed by Bernie. He heavily emphasizes blue-collar workers through leftist policy goals and he has the immense support of unions in the area. He is trying to work on creating jobs in realms such as renewable energy technology. He advocates for the people and progression.”
Considering that many of Feeney’s initiatives and goals reflect beliefs and passions upheld by many students at Wheaton, his campaign has caught the attention of students and faculty alike. However, while the campaign has sparked attention, it has not sparked involvement from students.
Smith expressed her surprise at the minimal Wheaton involvement: “As of right now, it is just myself that is involved. I am surprised by such a low Wheaton turnout.” She added, ”I think it’s partly due to political apathy; people don’t understand the importance of local elections.” Smith also noted that the low involvement could be attributed to the fact that the Feeney campaign is a part of a special election.
While there has historically been a divide between Wheaton students and the Norton community, Smith exemplifies the type of involvement students can have in Norton affairs. Many clubs and faculty members at Wheaton seek to see a greater connection between the Norton and Wheaton communities. The attention the Feeney campaign has garnered is a brick in bridging the gap.
Smith has high hopes for Wheaton students’ involvement in local politics in the future. “The second we interact [with Norton residents and activities], we realize [that] community matters,” she said. “Sometimes political involvement, such as canvassing, writing senators and making calls, is dry but it matters the most.”
Outside the realm of the Wheaton community, the campaign has, according to Smith, “a huge network of volunteers.” The Feeney campaign has attracted over 80 volunteers from the Norfolk and Bristol districts.
To fellow Wheaton students with an interest in politics, Smith said, “Little elections matter. Voting is so important. Local politicians will change so much more than you think they will.” She also noted that Feeney advocates for “debt-free college,” an issue that may be of interest to many Wheaton students, and encourages her peers to “observe and participate” in the election.