Students shun image of being politically apathetic Mock debate draws partisan supporters

Students across Maryland had bad news for President Bush yesterday. In a mock election held over the past week, the incumbent finished third in the polling, more than 2,000 votes behind Texas billionaire Ross Perot.

Of the nearly 220,000 votes cast, 103,080 went to Gov. Bill Clinton and 57,225 to Mr. Perot.


The results were announced at a mock debate last night at Edmondson Westside High School in Baltimore that drew several hundred high school student government leaders from across the state.

During the program, students hashed out the issues, traded one-liners, shouted, shrieked and had a general good time.


"All too often we hear people say students are apathetic," said Andy Goodman, a senior from the Gilman School. "Well, tonight we have a chance to prove those people wrong."

The program began with little sign of political dialogue, as Democrats in the front of the auditorium shook their banners and chanted "Clinton/Gore" at the Republicans in the back who yelled, "We want Bush."

Clinton supporter Eileen Deguzman of Prince George's County stood in the front row shaking a Bush placard over her head at the Republicans. Then she turned to reveal the back of the sign, which read: "NOT."

The flip-side message on her other placard read: "Perot/I don't think so."

Things picked up as students took the stage to debate health care, the deficit and jobs.

Rick Bell of Northern High School in Calvert County donned a Bush mask and fielded questions from fellow student Aaron McGowan. As Aaron asked, Rick mimed his answers to a tape of Mr. Bush's responses from the recent debates.

The most creative moments came from the Republican St. Mary's County students, who staged a version of the "Jeopardy!" television game show with the three major candidates as contestants.

As the moderator hammered the Clinton character -- "First of all, use your bell, second of all, you're wrong" -- Democrats in the front row fired back.


"America 2000?" said Earl Adams of Prince George's County. "What about '92?"

The exercise in electoral politics at Edmondson was part of the National Student Parent Mock Election -- a poll held yesterday involving millions of families nationwide.

The purpose of the mock election is to give young people a sense of the power of participation and to encourage teens to vote in future real elections, organizers say.

With 38 states reporting so far in yesterday's mock election, Mr. Clinton had already won with 275 electoral votes to Mr. Bush's 38 and Mr. Perot's 23.

In partial results of the popular vote, Mr. Clinton took 42 percent, Mr. Bush 29 percent and Mr. Perot 27 percent.

The mock election was sponsored primarily by the Department of Justice's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Program. Other contributors ranged from the Xerox Corp. to Time magazine.


Toward the end of last night's festivities at Edmondson, the 14 or so performers in the "Jeopardy!" skit came out for a curtain call, leaned back and blew goodbye kisses to the largely Democratic audience. "That's what we're going to do to you, Bush," said Clinton supporter Earl Adams, who blew a kiss right back.