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Whig-Clio set to host first congressional primary candidate forum in its history

A building with ionic columns flanked by trees overlooks a grassy field. The sun shines overhead.
Whig Hall and Cannon Green.
Zehao Wu / The Daily Princetonian

On Tuesday, the American Whig-Cliosophic Society will host a candidate forum for the Democratic primary of the 3rd Congressional District of New Jersey — the district of Senate-hopeful Congressman Andy Kim (D-N.J.). Organizers told The Daily Princetonian it is the first event of its kind in Princeton’s history.

Kyler Zhou ’27, Whig-Clio’s Director of Programming, said in an interview with The Daily Princetonian, “I hope it sets a precedent for the future of Whig-Clio events, and in the future of student organization events at Princeton.”


Zhou is a News contributor for the ‘Prince.’

Whig-Clio invited all five candidates to the forum, four of whom will attend. Joe Cohn, State Assembly member Carol Murphy, Brian Schkeeper, and Sarah Schoengood will field questions from three student moderators. Assembly member Herb Conaway ’85 was set to attend and included in early promotional materials, but pulled out.

“While we were very excited to have Assemblyman Conaway participate in our forum, he unfortunately informed us on April 11 that he would no longer be able to attend. The Assemblyman did not cite a reason for doing so,” Daniel Shaw ’25 wrote in a statement to the ‘Prince.’

The Whig-Clio organizers say that they chose the 3rd Congressional District because it’s one of the most closely-watched primaries in the state, with the added allure of it being the former district of Kim, who’s now running to replace Senator Robert Menendez.

While the University is not physically located in the 3rd Congressional District, Whig-Clio invited press organizations from the district to cover the event, as well as local organizations to attend. University students are also invited to attend.

In an interview with the ‘Prince,’ Shaw discussed the planning process for the event, which involved reaching out to candidates, coordinating their schedules, ensuring that participants agreed on the rules, and finally, writing questions.


“We’ve been putting in a lot of really hard, very good work,” Sophia Burnston ’27, Whig Speaker and one of the organizers for the forum, told the ‘Prince’ in an interview. 

“I know we’re all very excited. I’ve been working with a wonderful team. A lot of people have put a lot of effort into this, so it’s gonna be really wonderful,” she added.

The candidates told the ‘Prince’ that they are excited to be on the same stage with their competitors.

“I’m really looking forward to being on the stage with most of my opponents. I think it’s a great opportunity for students at Princeton and others to learn about what each of us bring to the table,” Cohn said in an interview with the ‘Prince.’ “I think it’s going to be a fun evening.”

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Schkeeper similarly told the ‘Prince’ that he is looking forward to “meeting three of his fellow candidates” and “getting in front of the voters.” He is also “looking forward to getting on stage and delivering [his] priorities and views on how to improve the district.”

“I’m excited about connecting with the community alongside my fellow candidates. This election year is crucial — we need everyone’s voice to be heard,” Schoengood wrote in a statement to the ‘Prince.’ “I look forward to sharing my ideas and vision with NJ-03 voters in this special format because there are a lot of important issues to discuss.

Murphy and Conaway did not respond to requests for comment.

The event organizers also told the ‘Prince’ that the forum will be used as a “prepping ground” for future similar events, perhaps in the fall.

“I definitely intend to host more debates in the fall semester,” Zhou said. “We’ve set a precedent for the society going forward.”

“This is truly a testament to the power of Whig-Clio, to the power of student organizations in Princeton too,” Zhou continued. “We’re solidifying and growing our position in New Jersey politics and also just political discourse in general".

The forum will be held on Tuesday, April 16 at 7 p.m. in the Whig Hall Senate Chamber.

Charlie Roth is a senior News writer for the ‘Prince.’

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