UK College Dems, Reps to expose students to campaign issues

By Ashley Hockney

As elections draw near, students can turn on the television and watch any number of campaign ads advising them how to vote in November. But Thursday night, two groups want to pull students away from the mudslinging, and toward some “civilized” debate.

UK College Democrats and College Republicans, along with the Student Activities Board, will host a “Red vs. Blue” debate Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Worsham Theater.  The event will be a discussion of the issues of the upcoming elections. Admission is free.

A moderator will start the debate with questions about topics previously discussed by the three hosting groups. Members of the College Democrats and the College Republicans will then debate in response to the questions.

“There will be a focus on everything from energy dependence to voting rights to immigration — on both a national and local level — and higher education,” said Joe Gallenstein, president of the UK College Democrats.

Other issues will involve the war, oil crisis and minimal discussion of the actual candidates.

The main focus of this debate is to show the ideology of each individual party, said Jacob Sims, president of UK College Republicans.

“If you don’t know where you stand, it’s a great way to get acclimated [to the issues],” said Robert Kahne, a member of UK College Democrats.

The debate will end with a question and answer session, allowing students to ask questions about the topics they are most interested in. Gallenstein said they wanted this “town-hall style” so students could ask the questions they really care about.

“We want to foster youth involvement, which we can do with the town hall format,” Gallenstein said. “We’ll have a great crowd asking great questions and we’ll inform the electoral as best we can.”

The presidents of both organizations agreed student involvement is a common goal.

“This debate is for the students,” Sims said. “We’ve heard these topics over and over, but we want students to listen and decide which side they can relate to more.”

Political debates often conjure images of bickering and fast-paced crossfire, but this debate is about civil discussion, Sims said.

“We actually sit down and exchange ideas,” he said. “We are thinking things we haven’t been accustomed to thinking and we want to put a little bit of discomfort in the way you’ve been thinking.”

Sims and Gallenstein said continuing student involvement is a priority for both parties, because when election season is over, apathy tends to return to most students’ attitudes.

“I fear that as soon as the election is over [political involvement] will decrease,” Sims said. “Both Joe (Gallenstein) and I agree that we need to come up with something to keep people in it.”

Despite these common goals, the night is sure to be highlighted by argument as each panel argues their individual ideas, Gallenstein said.

“It’s our job to represent our candidate, our party and our ideologies to the best of our ability,” he said.