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Government & Politics

Next Generation Of Voters Share Views At Jeff Sessions Speech

Rachel Cramer
Yellowstone Public Radio
Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke at Montana State University in Bozeman, April 8, 2019.

Free speech and immigration were some of the hot button issues discussed at Montana State University Monday. Young voters shared some of their views at an event with Jeff Sessions, the former US Attorney General.

Ellie Krizan is a sophomore studying political science and history at MSU. She says some conservatives feel like they can’t speak openly about their political views.

“The biggest thing I worry about is people’s free speech being restricted — not just on college campuses but anywhere. We do have a First Amendment Right in America, and sometimes I feel like we can’t fulfill that right,” said Krizan.

Krizan is the Vice Chair of the College Republicans at MSU. The student group invited former Attorney General Jeff Sessions to speak to about 300 people Monday night. Sessions served as Attorney General from February 2017 until November 2018 when President Trump requested his resignation.

In addition to immigration, crime and religious liberty, Sessions talked about his stance on free speech.

“You don’t have to be shy about your beliefs in America. This is America. It cannot be that an institution or a government can say, ‘Your words offend me,’ or a group says ‘Your words offend me; your words hurt my feelings’ and then demand that the speaker just shut up,” Sessions said.

Sessions’s visit lands as candidates in Montana are announcing their 2020 campaigns. Nationally, Montana had the highest percent increase in youth voters from 2014 to 2018. Over 40 percent of 18-to-29 year-olds voted in the state last year compared to less than 20 percent in 2014.

The former Attorney General's talk in Bozeman drew potential voters in that age range, like Andrew Bidegaray, a freshman studying biochemistry. He went to the event as part of an Honors College requirement.

“Public lands is something I’m definitely passionate about as well as I find myself growing more and more towards libertarianism with each day of being in college. So something along the lines — I know it’s almost a paradox — but social libertarianism,” said Bidegaray.

“Well I think a candidate that supports limited government and maintains our constitutional rights is the most important to me,” said Andrew Chaubin, a finance major in his second year at MSU.

He said he would need to do more research about some of the Montana lawmakers running for office in 2020, but he would most likely vote for Trump in the presidential election.

“I think one of the good things he’s doing is rolling back a lot of regulations and asking all agencies to cut their size,” Chaubin said. He's from Washington but said he plans on registering to vote in Montana.

Emma Tarbath, a junior studying business management and finance, said she has voted before. Reproductive rights and immigration are big issues for her.

“Mostly I lean towards a liberal side, and I just kind of just wanted to hear someone who’s a powerful figure and somebody who has opposing views to me. And I thought it would be a really great opportunity to learn about the other side and learn other points of views,” said Tarbath.

College for many students is a formative time for shaping political beliefs. MSU College Republicans Chairman Parker McComb hopes to harness that energy with events like these.

“We really strive to push the conservative viewpoint on campus, and since we are at a university, it’s kind of the prime time for young adults to figure out what they believe, and we want to present them with every side of the story,” said Parker.

McComb’s group is teaming up with the university’s Turning Point USA Chapter to bring Charlie Kirk and Candace Owens to MSU April 18. The two speakers are leaders of Turning Point USA, a controversial conservative non-profit organization.