NSU hosted the senatorial and gubernatorial debates last week in the Rose and Alfred Miniaci Performing Arts Center.
On Oct. 19, senatorial candi-dates Democrat Kendrick Meek, Independent Charlie Crist and Republican Marco Rubio answered questions from several Florida journalists. On Oct. 20, candidates for governor, Democrat Alex Sink and Republican Rick Scott partici-pated in the second of three debates before the elections. WFOR-4 anchor, Michael Mora, moderated both hour-long debates.
The first issue discussed in the senatorial debate was the creation of jobs. Rubio, who won the coin toss, responded first.
“Jobs are not created by politicians. They are created by everyday people,” he said.
Crist attributed the difficulties in the job market during his time as governor to the economy.
“These have been the toughest four years in our state, as it relates to the economy, since the Great Depression,” he said.
Finally, Meek defended the stimulus package saying that it was “a platform for a better economy.”
Another issue raised in the debate was immigration. While Meek and Crist agreed on making the naturalization process easier, Rubio said his parents and his wife’s parents were immigrants but that he was running on a platform that enforced America’s current laws.
He also said, “I don’t oppose the DREAM Act. I believe that children who were brought here by their parents at a young age and want to continue their education or serve in the military; I am in favor of them becoming citizens. But the DREAM Act doesn’t stop there. It affects people of up to 35 years of age.”
Eduardo Carrera, freshman biology major, was one of nine student leaders invited to attend the debate. He said he agreed with Rubio’s stance.
“People over 35 had the possibility of coming here legally and chose to come illegally. Their children didn’t,” said Carrera.
During a portion of the debate, candidates were questioned about their character, which caused Crist and Rubio to verbally attack each other.
While some students enjoyed the fervor of the debate, others said they thought candidates did not answer the questions.
“Meek, for example, he didn’t really answer the questions. He just said ‘vote for me’,” said Noemi Bermudez, freshman biology major, who also watched the debate in the Miniaci.
Charles Zelden, Ph. D., professor of history in the Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences, said the candidates were not able to answer the questions because their speeches were scripted.
“It was all about jobs, jobs and ‘I’m for seniors and he’s not.’ Sadly, we don’t have real debates anymore. They know the media and in real debates you can make mistakes and those mistakes end up on YouTube and Jon Stewart … So, what we had here today were three separate speeches,” said Zelden.
The next day, candidates for governor Democrat Alex Sink and Republican Rick Scott debated on similar issues as the senators as well as homosexuality, government accountability and their opponent’s ability to govern.
The two businesspeople agreed on three aspects: their opponent is very committed to his and her family, their opponent is not ready to govern, and Florida’s economy will recover if the state is run like a business.
“You go back and do exactly what you do in a business. You start, you look at every agency and you say: ‘Can I do that less expensively? Is it priority? Should we continue to do that?’ So if you do that, there are significant savings,” said Scott.
The candidates also discussed education and the FCAT, Florida’s standardized test. While Scott said he believed the FCAT is good enough for now, Sink said children should be tested more than once a year.
“We should have ways to evaluate and measure students’ performance all through the year. So that if we get to November and a child is falling behind in reading or math, we don’t have to wait until the end of the year to say we have to do some remedial help here,” she said.
The candidates also discussed immigration. As was the case the previous night, the candidates agreed that the federal government should be the one to control illegal immigration.
John Iannotti, junior history major, said, “Rick Scott could have answered the immigration question better. I have no doubt that he embraces policies like Arizona has enacted, and if he’s in favor, that’s a good thing, but he should have voiced it.”
During much of the debate, the candidates criticized each other’s character and previous business dealings. Sink accused Scott of being a mudslinger, and Scott called Sink a “Tallahassee insider.”
The insults are a way to appeal to their target audience, said Jennifer Reem, M.S. instructor of communication studies.
“He’s trying to paint himself as an outsider by calling her a Tallahassee insider,” she said. “She said she has the endorsement of 10 newspapers and he doesn’t. He said that’s because he doesn’t talk to them because he’s out there talking directly with the voters.”
While some viewers like Reem and Iannotti were glad the gubernatorial candidates answered the questions better than the senatorial candidates, there were others who thought it was not enough.
Carol Bubani, 78, said, “They kept saying we have to do this and this, but they didn’t give any ideas of how they were going to do it.”