Students weigh in: a guide to top contenders of the Democratic Primaries


AFP/Getty Images

Photo courtesy of Getty Images, by Jim Watson
The Democratic Primaries are crowded, with ten candidates qualifying for the second Democratic Primary debate hosted by NBC News. (L-R) Entrepreneur Andrew Yang, Mayor of South Bend, Indiana Pete Buttigieg, Former US Vice President Joseph R. Biden, US Senator for Vermont Bernie Sanders and US Senator for California Kamala Harris are among the top six candidates according to polling, and they are all hoping to stand out among the crowd.

The Democratic presidential campaign season is crowded and roiling with controversy, which is no surprise considering that 19 candidates are still running to secure the 2020 Democratic nomination. Whether due to apoliticism or a wait for the packed field to narrow down to the final contenders, many students have tuned out any news of the presidential race. However, more debates are coming up and the primary season is only months away, beginning in February of 2020. Some students will be of age to vote and, if not, have family or friends who can. For those who might not be keeping up with the news, this guide provides several key student-centered values for the top six candidates based on the latest polling data, as well as student opinions .

Disclaimer: Candidates are listed in no particular order. We chose the three policy areas based on perceived areas of student concern. We decided to cover only Democratic primary news because there is no serious Republican primary challenger to Donald Trump. The student opinions provided here in no way reflect the overall opinion of the student body nor that of The Lowell. Personal research of all issues is strongly encouraged.

Photo courtesy of Reuters, by Gretchen Ertl
Bernie Sanders speaks at the New Hampshire Democratic Party state convention in Manchester, N.H., on Sept. 7, 2019. The Vermont senator first ran for president in 2016, and now he is among the top three candidates on the way to the 2020 presidency. In early October, the 78-year-old suffered from a heart attack while on the campaign trail.

Bernie Sanders

  • Education Policy: Tuition-free college, trade school, and preschool; complete student debt cancellation
  • Healthcare Policy: Single-payer universal healthcare
  • Environmental Policy: Green New Deal, ($16.3 trillion investment, 20 million jobs created, electrical-transportation decarbonization by 2030, total by 2050, investment for total repayment within 15 years) international action

“[Sanders has] been the most consistent in policy and has the highest chance of defeating Donald Trump.”

-Nathan Marks, 11th grade


“[Sanders will beat Trump because he] is leading the polls currently and he also goes for the Green New Deal, and he’s popular.”

-Lauren Muchowski, 11th grade


“Bernie has a good chance of actually beating Trump, because during the 2016 election, a lot of voters who would have voted for Bernie voted for Trump because Bernie is about helping the working class, which is what Trump touted in the 2016 election. [However,] there are a lot of things that [Trump has] done that don’t help the working class.”

-Dylan Louie, 11th grade


Photo courtesy of Reuters, by Mike Blake
Warren addresses LGBTQ issues in a town hall hosted by CNN on Oct. 10. Warren recently ran an ad with a false statement (and a subsequent notice of its falsehood within that ad) on Facebook to prove that recent changes by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg were allowing false information to be widely disseminated by his service.

Elizabeth Warren

“[Warren] is very educated, [has experience as] a Senator from Massachusetts, and…she [always] wanted to become an educator, and I think that getting someone from the public who has ideals that she has, [is important] and I agree with her and I think she’d make a good president.”

-Lauren Muchowski, 11th Grade


“[Warren is] the one who has the most policy proposals, and, she’s the one who seems most likely to at least carry out part of them. She does have a bit of a track record for carrying out policy proposals. [She has a] way of viewing things that show[s] that she’s really into solving problems… and she seems to be the person who’s most likely to be able to unite people to solve problems if she’s the president. Even though I [think] Elizabeth Warren [is]… most likely to defeat Trump… quite frankly, that’s not likely at all because none of [the Democratic Candidates] are as…impressive when speaking…as Trump is, even though Trump isn’t really impressive in a good way.”

-Anonymous, 11th Grade

Photo courtesy of the Associated Press, by Ringo H.W. Chiu
Joe Biden speaks at the SEIU Unions For All Summit on Oct. 4 in Los Angeles. The former vice president has recently been facing criticism for his family’s alleged business involvement with Ukraine. These claims, many fueled by President Donald Trump and his supporters, have not yet been fully investigated.

Joe Biden

“[Biden isn’t] exactly left-leaning at all, and he’s been quoted on record as saying nothing would fundamentally change if he were elected president.”

-Nathan Marks, 11th Grade 


“I actually don’t think [Biden would defeat Trump]. I think a lot of people do think he [will], but he just gets too weird whenever he’s asked questions and he’s always flustered, so…”

-Spencer Atkisson, 10th Grade

Photo courtesy of the Associated Press, by Marcio Jose Sanchez
Pete Buttigieg, America’s first openly gay presidential candidate, addresses LGBTQ issues during at CNN Equality Town Hall on Oct. 10. The youngest in the race at 37, Buttigieg stands out from the crowd for his relative inexperience, being the mayor of South Bend Indiana, a city with just over 100,000 inhabitants.

Pete Buttigieg

“[Buttigieg] just seems like a relatively intelligent guy with good judgement, which is something rare in a politician, especially with our current president. If he’s put in a tough situation, he could probably make a decent decision, [and] his policies are more moderate than that of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, which I find appealing because I think some of their plans are a little bit excessive.”

-Spencer Atkisson, 10th Grade


“[Buttigieg doesn’t] actually give any policies, which is a huge red flag in my book. I watched multiple interviews, and… he can go through a whole interview without saying a single policy or explaining anything. He’s just being really shady, also he has like [none] of the [African American] vote.”

-Dylan Louie, 11th Grade

Photo courtesy of Quad-City Times, by Kevin E. Schmidt
Kamala Harris explains her version of a “Medicare for All” plan that doesn’t eliminate private insurance during the Healthcare Round table on August 12 in Burlington, Iowa. The California senator and Oakland native recently revealed a plan to offer up to six months of paid family and medical leave to all workers, adding to her “Children’s Plan.”

Kamala Harris

“I personally don’t really like Joe Biden or Kamala Harris…especially after Tulsi Gabbard came after Kamala Harris. I think a lot of Kamala Harris’s work when she was a DA was not very good. Although she set records, she was putting people in jail for minor, low-level drug offences.”

-Lauren Muchowski, 11th Grade


“Most people want to vote for [Harris] because she’s SF-based, and most African Americans want to vote for her since she’s African American, but I feel like her agenda [will] push us into a state of remission based on her past agendas as district attorney… especially on Criminal Justice Reform. If you look back into her history, it talks about how she tried to force people into giving false statements or tried to get them to get off by lying about what they did like, ‘Oh, I’ll give you 10 years off your sentence if you simply say this,’ when that isn’t ethical.”

-Shavonne Hines-Foster, 11th Grade

Photo courtesy of the Associated Press, by John Locher
Andrew Yang speaks at a gun safety forum on Oct 2 in Las Vegas. Yang, a former entrepreneur and tech executive, is the first Asian-American man to run for President as a Democrat. The candidate has received much attention online, where his supporters are nicknamed “Yang Gang.” His main policy proposal at the moment is an ambitious “Freedom Dividend,” or a form of universal basic income that will give every American citizen $1,000 a month.

Andrew Yang

“[Yang’s] main flagship proposal, Universal Basic Income, [or] the “Freedom Dividend,” gives a thousand dollars a month to every single US citizen. He touts the ideas of the revolution of machines and how they’re taking our jobs through automation, and, to be honest, everyone can see that’s happening, we can see that our main street stores are closing and supermarkets are closing, everything is like Amazon, everyone’s buying from Amazon, Facebook, Google…it’s important to realize they’re the big winners of this economy where machines are taking people’s jobs. So in order to combat this, we need to give all the poor people, like, in the middle of America, a thousand dollars a month, because it just makes sense and I’m all for helping the poor people. He just represents this idea of a grassroots campaign, like really grassroots. [He] literally came out of nowhere, [with the] support of totally, like, unknown people online, giving like $1-2 donations. I just know he gets money, and it’s from people, actual people, and not big corporations. He’s not rich already from previous politics. I don’t like filthy politicians [because] they’re scheming and they always pander to companies, which sucks, which is why we need to bring in new, fresh blood. That’s the only way we’re going to flush out politics.”

-Dylan Louie, 11th Grade