UK students react to on-campus Kentucky gubernatorial debate


Candidates for Kentucky governor Matt Bevin and Andy Beshear take part in a debate on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019, at the Singletary Center for the Arts on the University of Kentucky campus in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Jordan Prather | Staff

Hailey Peters

Kentucky gubernatorial candidates Matt Bevin and Andy Beshear participated in the second Kentucky gubernatorial debate at the Singletary Center for the Arts on UK’s campus on Tuesday evening, Oct. 15.

The event was televised live and several of the questions, posed by moderators Bill Bryant of WKYT and Shannon Cogan of WAVE Louisville, were submitted from people all over the state of Kentucky. A good portion of questions asked were submitted by University of Kentucky students.

Despite tickets for the debate being free and the debate taking place on UK’s campus, there were not many students represented in the audience. Nearly the entire first half of the rows closest to the stage were filled with adults who gave large standing ovations to incumbent Republican candidate Bevin, and the rest of the concert hall saw a few pockets of Beshear supporters and even fewer students peppered throughout.

Olivia Bloss, a senior international studies and political science double major, said she thinks the behavior of the debate’s live audience was not accurately representative of UK’s campus. 

“I think it was really important for students to understand how their vote impacts them,” Bloss said. “I definitely appreciate that they took questions from students…but I don’t think that there were as many students as I would’ve hoped, especially being on UK’s campus…there weren’t really a lot of students and I wish that [tickets] had been open to students first.”

Like in the first debate, the candidates were both asked questions on a wide variety of issues concerning healthcare, education and criminal justice, to name a few. The questions were selected carefully by the moderators in order to address the concerns of many people in the state, however some students said they wished conversation would focused more on issues relevant to campus.

“There was only one question about higher ed, which is a little surprising,” Bloss said.

But holding this debate on UK’s campus meant a lot to students who were able to attend. Lucas Tomlin, a senior majoring in Information Communication Technology, said it’s important for students to be informed about the issues that affect them and to let their voices be heard come election day. 

“It’s important to keep yourself educated, whether that be watching the debates or reading up on issues from as unbiased of sources as you can find,” Tomlin said. “Not enough of us [college students] vote, and I think that if we did, there would be a different outcome…It’s important for us to show our voices.”

Kentucky general election day is Tuesday, Nov. 5. Polling will be open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. local time, and locations can be found at .