Political debate fills Rotunda E

Heather Mangan

Heather Mangan

Students filled the seats of Rotunda E, and some even stood in the aisles, as the College Republicans and Democrats argued about some of the biggest political issues this election season.

The two parties sparred about education, terrorism, Iraq and a host of other topics for almost 90 minutes in the Oct. 20 debate sponsored by the Political Science Club, the College Republicans and the College Democrats.

Each party had three members who represented them and answered prepared questions from the other party, prepared questions from the Political Science Club and spontaneous questions from the audience.

Juniors Austin Olson and Ryan Brunner and sophomore Sarah French debated for the Republican Party. Sophomores Justin Goetz and Stephanie Chase and senior Josh Horton represented the Democrats.

Although no winner was determined, some students had opinions.

“I think the Democrats conveyed their message better than what the Republicans did,” said Cari Uecker, a junior nursing major.

“I thought the Republicans looked really formal, but really weren’t prepared,” said Mark Held, a sophomore journalism and biology major from Sioux Falls.

The two sides argued about issues concerning the war in Iraq, the War on Terror, the No Child Left Behind Act, higher education, the Pell Grant, tax cuts, health care, socialized medicine, pharmaceutical industries, environmental regulations, Homeland Security, church and state, gun rights, North Korea and other issues.

There were some issues that weren’t brought up or only briefly mentioned that the panelists felt were important. Olson wished there had been more questions about farming, said the ag business major from Woonsocket.

Goetz, a history and political science major from Aberdeen, said he would have liked to talk about labor support, crime, environmental issues and stem-cell research.

The time constraint didn’t allow for those issues to be discussed, Goetz said, even though the debate lasted an hour and half.

Both Olson and Goetz agree that the most talked-about issue was the war in Iraq. Goetz said that is one of the prominent issues in this presidential election and most people want to know about it.

“It’s such a tricky issue,” he said.

Some audience members were happy with the issued discussed.

“I’m glad they stayed away from the social issues,” said junior Jason Frerichs, an animal science major.

Olson agreed, saying he didn’t mind not dwelling on social issues such as abortion and gay marriage.

“I hate beating those two drums,” he said.

The debate was beneficial to some students. Amy Law, a junior nursing major from Sioux Falls, said that she liked seeing students debate. She said the panelists put issues on the student level.

“I think it opened my eye as to what the other party (believes),” said Law, a registered Democrat. “I thought it was really informative.”

In many of their answers, the panelists talked about what their parties’ candidates would do on that issue. The College Republicans backed Bush’s policies and decisions while the College Democrats talked about what Kerry could do for the United States. The panelists discussed John Thune, Sen. Tom Daschle, Larry Deidrich, Rep. Stephanie Herseth.

Olson said that although most students come in with their minds already made up, the debate could have swayed some voters.

“I think that if you came as undecided voter, you got the gist of what the candidate’s stance is,” he said.

Both sides said their opponents fought fair. Goetz said that the College Republicans had a good grasp on the issues.

“I think they had their position marked out,” he said. “I thought both sides presented their sides well.”

Olson agreed.

“I think (the College Democrats) did a good job,” he said.

#1.885794:2814974091.jpg:Justin Goetz.jpg:Democrat Justin Goetz:Mike Carlson#1.885793:809172003.jpg:Austin Olson.jpg:Republican Austin Olson:Mike Carlson