2016-10-27 / Front Page

Finally, an election that transcends the politics

Recalling teacher Wodek
By Eric Carlson
Of The Enterprise staff


KIRA METCALF, a Leland Public School senior, introduces a spokesman for 1st U.S. Congressional District candidate Jack Bergman during a mock election rally Tuesday morning in Leland. KIRA METCALF, a Leland Public School senior, introduces a spokesman for 1st U.S. Congressional District candidate Jack Bergman during a mock election rally Tuesday morning in Leland. The 15th biennial mock election and political rally held at Leland Public School this week was bittersweet for many students and faculty – but was somewhat sweeter for Democrats.

As usual, Democrats held an advantage with the mostly underage voters. But on Tuesday, the emphasis transcended politics.

The event was held in honor of the late Ed Wodek, a Leland civics teacher who died in February of cancer.

Wodek began the mock election program at Leland 30 years ago.

The political rallies he and students organized every other year attracted not just thousands of students from dozens of schools throughout the region, but many high-level political candidates — from sitting U.S. senators representing Michigan to candidates for seats in the Michigan state legislature.


ATTENTIVE STUDENTS taking notes for school assignments listen to 1st U.S. Congressional District candidate Lon Johnson speak to about 455 students at a mock election rally in Leland ATTENTIVE STUDENTS taking notes for school assignments listen to 1st U.S. Congressional District candidate Lon Johnson speak to about 455 students at a mock election rally in Leland For that reason, the rally has always attracted significant media attention as well, including some national media attention and live coverage by C-Span on cable TV through several election cycles.

A half-dozen media representatives attended this week’s event.

“It’s just impossible to fill Ed Wodek’s, shoes of course,” said second year Leland civics teacher Brandon Wheeler. “But I’ve received so much help from our administrators, other teachers and our students – and it’s great to be carrying on Ed’s legacy,” he said.

This year, 455 students from five local schools filled Leland’s gymnasium for the rally and heard directly from 1st U.S. Congressional District candidate Lon Johnson, a Democrat, as well as Libertarian Diane Bostow and Green Party candidate Ellis Boal.


DAN SCRIPPS of Northport, running for a seat in the State House, was one of several candidates who spoke to students from five local schools during a mock election rally Tuesday morning at Leland Public School. DAN SCRIPPS of Northport, running for a seat in the State House, was one of several candidates who spoke to students from five local schools during a mock election rally Tuesday morning at Leland Public School. The Republican candidate for U.S. Congress, Jack Bergman, was unable to attend – and it may have cost him the straw poll. After hearing a speech from a Bergman surrogate, more than 72-percent of the students voted for Johnson, with Bergman garnering less than 18-percent. Bostow earned nearly 15 percent, and Boal nearly 12 percent.

The biggest laugh and applause line at the rally occurred during Johnson’s speech when he vowed to help improve northern Michigan’s telecommunications infrastructure if elected.


MEDIA COVERAGE of Leland Public Schools’ biennial mock election rally has always been strong because of it has always included appearances by actual candidates, not just students. MEDIA COVERAGE of Leland Public Schools’ biennial mock election rally has always been strong because of it has always included appearances by actual candidates, not just students. “I’m looking at my cell phone here in Leland and I’m only getting one bar.” Johnson quipped. “That’s ridiculous!”

Also present at the Tuesday morning rally was the Democratic candidate for the 101st State House seat, Dan Scripps of Northport. The Republican candidate, Curt VanderWall, was represented by Leland senior Jennifer McMullen who delivered a speech on his behalf.

Scripps won the straw poll with 92 percent of the vote.

“I think this is the fourth time I’ve showed up at this event – and you can really feel the ghost of Ed Wodek here today,” Scripps said. “And I can tell you that, during the breakout sessions we have with students after all the speeches, we often end up getting better questions from the kids than you get from adults out on the campaign trail.”

Leland senior Spencer Crimmins was assigned to greet Johnson when he arrived at the school and escort him into the gymnasium where Johnson was officially introduced to the crowd by Leland senior Madison Siddall.

“I’m kind of surprised that General Bergman didn’t show up, but am glad he at least sent his communications director to speak for him in his absence,” Crimmins said. “This event has always been a big deal and it still is.”

Crimmins said he will not turn 18 in time to vote for this year’s general election, although some of his classmates will.

“Even if not everybody in the gym at this event is eligible to vote yet, a lot of them go home and talk to their parents and other family members about it – like I do,” Crimmins said.

As part of the mock election held following the rally, 59 percent of the students casting ballots voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton for president. Republican Donald Trump earned nearly 30 percent of the vote — barely more than Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson who checked in at 25 percent. Green Party candidate Jill Stein earned 17 percent of the student vote. The Natural Law and U.S. Taxpayers candidates for president garnered single digits.

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