Casting multiple ballots on the evening of July 21, the Federalist and Nationalist parties of The American Legion's Boys Nation chose their candidates to run in the upcoming election for Boys Nation president and vice president this evening.
The Federalist Party  candidate for president is Matthew Ellow of Lacey Spring, Ala., and vice president is Louis Lombardo of Arlington, Texas. The Nationalist Party  candidate for president is Joshua Cook of Knoxville,Tenn., and vice president is Michael Hill of Broken Arrow, Okla.
Ellow said he had planned to run for Boys Nation president, "but after I got here, I was humbled by the presence and intellect of everybody here. Quite honestly, I didn't think I was going to make it."
During his campaign speech, Ellow spoke about what he felt is "one of the greatest problems in America – a lack of belief in one another, in citizenship, patriotism and just working together. I did not want that to happen in our party." Gun control is one of Ellow's main concerns; he wants to regulate guns, not ban them.
"Ban is out of the question, it's a Second Amendment right," he said. "I believe in gun regulation." His belief, he says, falls in line with the policy that the majority of Alabama citizens would want him to pursue.
Ellow said the main point of the Federalist Party's platform is that the power of government "comes from the people, from the Constitution – free rights and free rein to govern ourselves. It's simple – rights for every human, every American, everyone around the world."
Boys Nation has allowed Ellow to meet "the best and the brightest from across the nation. These are just the smartest young minds from around the states. For them to nominate me as the presidential candidate for the Federalist party, it's an honor, it's a privilege, and I look forward to serving."
Ellow said he has appreciated The American Legion since his freshman year in high school "when my Army instructor introduced the organization to me, and every year, I've just grown to become more appreciative of the Legion. When this is all said and done, no matter what the outcome, I can't wait to go back home and support my post, and support the Legion across the United States."
Ellow's running mate Lombardo added that immigration and the decriminalization of marijuana are other issues that will probably be debated later today. "Education is also an issue that we hit hard, as well as the economy and foreign policy," he said. "We're looking at the countries that are in the spotlight today, and we've been talking quite a bit about China – mainly the economics" and how the United States can create a more favorable balance of trade.
Calling the Boys Nation experience "fantastic," Lombardo said he's met friends here "that I will carry on for the rest of my life. And I know that every single one of these 98 (senators) here are going to be doing big things later on in life.
"I definitely want to thank The American Legion for providing this for us," Lombardo said. "I know we cannot thank those veterans enough. It's been an amazing experience and, no matter what happens in the election, this will be one of the best weeks in my life."
Ellow's opponent Cook said his election strategy "was pretty simple. I came in here, I had a goal in mind, I knew I wanted to be president. So when I first started, I began making friends and that was the important thing. I really focused on making friends because I knew friends would back me up no matter what deals people would try to make in the background. These guys I'm loyal to, these guys are loyal to me and that's the real reward here."
Quality education is a priority issue for Cook, as is gun control or "gun awareness is what we're going to call it," he said. "We were afraid that if we called it gun control, as soon as we said those words, somebody was going to be turned off, and we didn't want that.
"We're also going to focus on immigration because that's a big issue now, and we're going to have a strong middle-of-the-aisle platform that's going to win us the general election." Cook said he and his party members had heard the news that the Texas National Guard has been called out to help secure the border with Mexico.
"As far as our platform goes, we are pro-securing the border," he said. "I believe that is the first step in the right direction. It will be interesting to see how the (Texas decision) develops."
To win the election, Cook said he will "focus on rallying my guys in the Nationalist Party, and then I'm going to talk to friends that I have in the Federalist Party, and work across the aisle – something I wish would happen more with the real Congress."
Cook thanked The American Legion for sending him to Boys Nation and to Boys State in Tennessee. "I want to say a humble ‘thank you' to my opponents who graciously accepted the fact that our party had chosen me."
Cook's running mate Hill promised if elected, he will run the Senate "with a fair and unbiased hand. I'm going to use the Constitution and Declaration of Independence as my philosophy. It's the voice of the Senate and the voice of the people that matters – I'll be just the chair."
Hill said his party has a strong platform, and "we have a brotherhood, and I want to extend that to the Federalists. I don't just want to limit it to one party. Bipartisanship is great, but I want to unify – a voice of one. It's the voice of the American people."
Important issues for Hill include de-emphasizing ethnic background as a criterion for acceptance into colleges and universities. "I am Hispanic-American and I've noticed that special treatment is given to me because of that," he said. "But I don't want a college to accept me because I'm Hispanic; I don't want them to use that as a qualification. I want everyone to be on a level playing field – what you've done, what you've worked at, and what you put into your life – not fate. But how you handle blood, sweat and tears."
Hill thanked his parents, his friends, The American Legion, and his Boy Scout troop. "Anyone who's affected my life is the only reason I'm here."
The four candidates will debate this afternoon at 3 p.m. (EDT) and elections will follow at 6:30 p.m. Both events will be streamed live on www.legiontv.org .