Libertarian Congressional candidate Drew Miller delivers 'message of unity' to Hempfield students
As a self-described "pragmatic Libertarian," Drew Miller said his primary goal as a lawmaker would be to bring people together.
"These two parties are just way too powerful, and they're divisive," the third-party candidate in the special election for the 18th congressional district told Hempfield Area High School students Friday.
"I wanted it to be a message of unity," Miller said of his remarks to the students. It's a message he thinks resonates with the crowd of 17- and 18-year-olds, who seemed interested in hearing what he had to say.
Miller, 37, a Pittsburgh attorney, was the third and final candidate to visit Hempfield Area this week. Republican candidate Rick Saccone, 59, a state representative from Elizabeth Township, and Conor Lamb, 33, a former federal prosecutor from Mt. Lebanon, also addressed students in Hempfield Area's Project 18 program.
Project 18 is a course open to seniors that combines community service with academic coursework intended to bolster students' understanding of local and state government. It was started in 1974 after passage of the 26th Amendment, which gave 18-year-olds the right to vote.
Project 18 is a nonpartisan program, and the candidate visits are intended to give students the chance to learn how the campaign process works. Teacher Ken Stough said this week's visits were unique not only because the candidates are running for a federal office, but also because there's a third-party candidate on the ballot. He thinks the visits helped inspire students to become lifelong voters.
"I'm very pleased with the students," Stough said. "They stepped up and asked a lot of really good questions and allowed themselves to get curious about it."
Students like Nolen Ferree embraced the Libertarian candidate, pushing Miller to talk about why he became a Libertarian and how Libertarians could have been more successful in previous elections. Ferree said he appreciated Miller's take on Social Security because his policies could give him more control over his personal finances in the future.
"If I could invest that money myself, that would be much more beneficial in the long run," Ferree said, adding that he liked Miller's emphasis on personal freedom — a theme that was present throughout the candidate's remarks on issues like abortion and birth control, homelessness, mental illness, prison reform, tax reform and fighting the opioid crisis.
Among Miller's overarching goals would be to reduce the impact of government, he said.
"The government has no right to tell us what's best for us," Miller told students.
Whether or not they agreed with his views, students said they welcomed the chance to hear from a third-party candidate.
"I think as a young person, I do want to see more third-party involvement in the future," said student Emily Tain. Her role in the Project 18 program is to reach out to parties other than the Democrats and Republicans — Green, Tea, Communist and the Democratic-Socialist parties are among those she's contacted this school year — and to invite representatives from those parties to visit their class.
Classmate Taylor Ritson agreed, adding that she would like to see more diversity in the candidate pool. More specifically, she'd like to see more women run for office. All of the candidates in the 18th congressional district race are men, and the winner will represent about 707,000 people in portions of Allegheny, Washington, Westmoreland and Greene counties.
"I want people to have more choices," Ritson said.
Jamie Martines is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org, 724-850-2867 or on Twitter @Jamie_Martines.