At the age of 20, LSA senior Eric Plourde has already made his first political gaffe.
Before a televised debate against Ann Arbor mayor John Hieftje on Oct. 14, the Libertarian mayoral candidate compared himself to a certain infamous vice-presidential nominee — “I feel like Sarah Palin,” he said.
“I was cool ‘til then, but the lights were on, the camera was on and I was debating someone with a lot more experience, so I was getting a little bit nervous,” he said. “I was just throwing out a joke and then the next day, the front page of the Daily read, ‘Mayoral candidate compares himself to Palin.’ ”
Plourde said the slip led to questions from voters about how his platform compared to that of the moose-hunting governor’s, but by then, Plourde was used to being in the hot seat.
During his time as president of College Libertarians, the group gave away a free gun on campus twice, a decision that Plourde said he had to defend to his roommates and others on countless occasions.
“The first time we gave away the gun, we were a brand new group and I’ll be honest, I planned that event so the Daily would come and cover it and Libertarians on campus would see that there was a College Libertarians,” he said. “Sometimes it’s a little bit of maneuvering, but it is consistent with our ideas.”
Plourde attracted even more attention during his campaign for mayor by proposing that that freshmen caught intoxicated on campus shouldn’t be slapped with fines and a misdemeanor.
“Obviously, that’s a way to gain attention and a lot of people said that’s just a way to get votes from students, but God forbid a candidate try to get votes,” he said.
Plourde ended up receiving 14.72 percent of the popular vote, which Plourde told the Daily at the time made him “ecstatic”. He never harbored much hope of unseating an incumbent Democrat like Hieftje — instead, his aim was to push libertarian issues into the local dialogue.
Johnny Slemrod, the current chair of College Libertarians, said Plourde’s campaign for mayor is an example of his “gift” for simplifying the complexities of libertarianism to something that students can understand.
“He boiled it down to something like (minor in possession), something that affects all students,” he said.