Academics, Campus wide, College of Humanities & Social Sciences, Student Stories

Campaigns and Elections

By Marissa Thompson | November 28, 2022

In the Charleston Southern political science department, there is a class that is only offered every two years in the fall: Campaigns and Elections. In this course, students learn what goes into campaigns and learn prediction criteria. Students even try to predict the outcome of a real election as it and its campaign play out. 

Professor Christi Gramling, well known for her in-class simulations which serve as a tool to help students gain real experience with the concepts they are learning, has students in the campaigns and elections course pick two candidates and create campaign teams in order to run for mayor of a fictional town—and students and staff will decide who wins.

Abigail Barnett and Deymon Fleming Jr.

“The idea for doing simulations comes from my background,” said Gramling. “My first introduction to teaching was as a faculty advisor for the National Youth Leadership forum. We focused a lot on students and their best learning styles. Ideally, you want to create assignments that embrace those different learning styles. There are some classes that lend themselves very well to simulations; hopefully, it helps students understand those concepts better than they did before. Almost always, the participation is fantastic–most  students really enjoy it and get a lot out of the experience.”

This year, the scenario goes as follows: In the fictitious town of Summerville, Colorado, what was once a sleepy stop along the path for travelers who were searching for gold, has bloomed into a seasonal village. Every year, starting Nov. 1, the residents of Summerville host a Christmas experience as a popular tour destination for people from all over the country. However, tourists tend to be a bit rowdy coming in and out of town, stopping along the way to take pictures on the side of the road and occasionally being caught trespassing—some have even attempted to enter the homes of residents, believing it to be a part of the scenario. 

One might think that this casual crime from guests would be taken more seriously. Unfortunately, the mayor, Augustus Geisel, was rumored to tell the sheriff and his men to have a “Christmas heart” with crimes that guests might commit in order to prevent bad press and keep the money coming in. 

In addition to this issue, the town has suffered at the hands of traffic. The roads in and out of Summerville tend to get backed up with tourists as they travel in for the holiday celebrations. A single traffic accident could cause hours long delays and congestion which prevents residents from traveling as they please. 

The issue of trespassing was a common complaint among townspeople, especially among those who lived in the mountains of Summerville, as guests hiking through their property often scared off animals that were being hunted. 

This problem came to a head when a family, while trespassing, attempted to gain entry to the home of one of the mountain villagers. She was enraged, brandishing a weapon at the tourists. She began a tirade of crime in a successful effort to mar the reputation of Summerville, which decreased tourism and took a toll on the economy.

If all of this were not enough, Mayor Geisel, was caught embezzling funds from the town in order to purchase a personal vehicle and jewelry for his mistress. 

With the mayor run out of town and its economy, infrastructure, crime rate, and public trust for the government in shambles, Summerville needs a mayor who can pick up the broken pieces and bring this little Christmas village back to its former glory.

The two candidates, Abigail Barnett and Deymon Fleming Jr., have each developed platforms and run campaigns throughout this month and need students and staff to participate in every way possible.

Students and staff may have received emails from these candidates requesting support for their campaigns. In addition, students and staff will be invited to come vote for one candidate or another Nov. 30 in the Whitfield Center for Christian Leadership lobby all day. Voters will receive a paper ballot and fill out their name and student ID number if they have one.

Those who wish to vote may also wish to be informed on who they are voting for. Each campaign has a platform and promises they have made to constituents to address the issues present in Summerville.

Barnett, a 20-year-old junior, a major in political science and a minor in criminal justice, is one of the candidates. Some may recognize her from her position in student government at CSU as the vice president of the student government association. She is also a Campus Ambassador, an Emerson Fellow, a staff member for Campus Crusade, and a lifeguard and swim instructor. In addition, she is a member of Render, the women’s ministry group.

Fleming, a 19-year-old junior as a second-year student, majoring in political science with a minor in leadership, is the second candidate. He describes himself as a servant to all and a team player. He is the quarterback of the football team, a Resident Assistant, the president of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, and an academic scholarship recipient here on a full ride between that and football. 

Fleming’s campaign platform is focused on bringing back the culture of winning to the town of Summerville. His goals are to address issues of infrastructure and crime, but most importantly, he wishes to address the deep mistrust and create an environment of trustworthiness and transparency. He would also focus on making the mayor’s office one which listens to its constituents.

Barnett’s campaign platform is focused on unity and working toward one big vision that all residents can share. Her hope is to create a sense of community and belonging within Summerville. She wants to bring together the residents from different areas and help all parties feel more represented in Summerville. She wants to be tougher on crime and protect those who live in the mountains from trespassers so that they may maintain privacy and security. She wants to build up the economy through local partnerships and improve roads and traffic infrastructure. She wishes to rebuild the reputation of the government within Summerville.

Each candidate has plans on how to address these issues.

Barnett, if elected, would focus on building relationships and rebuilding the police force, with an emphasis on the re-evaluation of the protocol and procedures in practice. She would allocate further funding to the department in order to improve training for the police and improved security, especially during the holiday months. She would also provide more regulations and clarity for guests regarding rules, property and traffic. In the long-term, she would like to allocate funds to revamping roads in order to reduce traffic and traffic accidents. She would also like to utilize frequent town halls in order to allow people to feel represented and feel that their voices are being heard.

Fleming, if elected, has plans to create infrastructure that would provide designated stopping points for guests on the side of the road so that they have no need nor impulse to trespass property or slow traffic. Ideally, he would like to make this a collaborative effort between the mayor’s office and the residents of Summerville. He would like to increase transparency in the mayor’s office and partner with the various departments of Summerville and create accessibility to the mayor so the constituents feel heard.

So why vote for either candidate?

“I’m a servant leader. One thing about me is I am going to get the work done. People have bet on me all my life to get the job done. I am willing to take on a challenge—obviously this is a challenge, and I would be naïve to say that taking on this office in this great city isn’t something that’s challenging, but I’m not a person that’s afraid to take on that challenge and get the work done. These are the issues that need to be addressed in Summerville, and I am a person who is going to get in and get the work done soon, quickly, efficiently so that Summerville can prosper again,” said Fleming.

“The reason why I think our residents should vote for me is, not because my opponent isn’t a valid, wonderful candidate, but I think we need somebody who is willing to take action and do something. We can talk all day long about vision, but specifically, I think I have drive, and I can be a moving force to get things done. Visionaries are great; big picture is wonderful, but in order to fulfill the big picture, you need to have the details, and I am very detail oriented. I think I can get a clear, more direct focus, which hopefully means we get clear, more precise change. Any leader should be a servant leader. Ultimately, it’s not what you think, but what is best for the people you’re serving. I definitely think that I’m a good fit for this role,” said Barnett.

Students and staff are encouraged to come out and vote on Nov. 30 and make their voices heard.

Who will be the next mayor of Summerville? It’s up to you. 

Marissa Thompson is a senior communication major and is an intern with the Office of Marketing & Communication.

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