U.S. Senate, Gubernatorial Debates Brings Political Spotlight and Theater to USF


The back-to-back events are expected to draw national and local media and help voters make a choice on Nov. 2.


USF.edu News Report


TAMPA, Fla. (Oct. 20, 2010) – In an election season that has seen a historic three-way U.S. Senate race, new schisms in political parties and a fierce debate over the future of Florida and the nation, the University of South Florida will be front and center on the national political stage Sunday and Monday with the USF/USF Student Government, CNN and the St. Petersburg Times debates.


For the first time, USF is hosting two major political events back-to-back on campus, transforming the Marshall Student Center and adjacent Theater 1, where the actual debates will take place, for 48 hours into a major center of political activity.


 The live, nationally-televised debates come just days before the Nov. 2 election and in the thick of early voting in Florida.


The Senate Debate between Independent Charlie Crist, Democrat Kendrick Meek and Republican Marco Rubio will be held on Sunday, Oct. 24 at 9 a.m. CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley will serve as moderator, and the debate will air on CNN’s State of the Union with Candy Crowley.


The Gubernatorial Debate between Republican Rick Scott and Democrat Alex Sink will follow on Monday, Oct. 25 at 7:00 p.m. CNN’s chief national affairs correspondent John King will moderate and the debate will air on his program, John King, USA.


 A limited number of tickets for the debate were distributed to students through a lottery Tuesday, but students, faculty, staff and the general public are invited to join the event at the Marshall Student Center ballroom, where a debate watch party will be in full swing.


On Sunday, St. Petersburg Times political columnist Howard Troxler will host the debate watch event, and USF Distinguished Professor of Political Science Susan MacManus will take on the emcee duties on Monday. In addition, a  USF “Spin Zone” featuring leading faculty commenting on the issues of the day – health care, governance, the environment, international affairs, business, sustainability and education  - will provide additional perspectives to the candidates’ stands on issues.


Immediately following the broadcasts of both debates, the candidates have been invited to greet participants in the Marshall Student Center Ballroom.


“It is an honor to partner with CNN and the St. Petersburg Times to bring these politically significant events to the USF campus,” said USF Student Government President Cesar Hernandez. “I am thrilled to help provide our more than 47,000 students with this wonderful opportunity to engage in state and national politics. These Senate and Gubernatorial debates will help further inform our students and surrounding communities of the important issues impacting all of us.”


USF Student Government received more than 900 requests from students for tickets to both Debates. More than 400 tickets were distributed Tuesday to USF students through a lottery held by Student Government.

Approximately 100 student volunteers will be behind the scenes of the debates. Members of Student Government, USF Ambassadors, SAFE Team and other student organizations will provide aid to the candidates, assist as media liaisons, and take opinion polls. Dozens of reporters from media organizations will be on hand to cover the event, including a public television crew from Japan.

Election fever is nothing new to USF. In the 2008 presidential election, 85 percent of registered on-campus USF students voted.


During this year’s student orientation, more than 2,000 voter registration cards were distributed to new USF students. Since August, Student Government with its various partners, including Hillsborough County League of Women Voters, Democracy USA, FACE Florida and Rock the Vote, distributed approximately 10,000 voter registration forms and helped more than 500 students register or update their voter information.


The Times and CNN bring a long history of producing political debates. The Times has coordinated debates for national, state and local offices for 16 years; USF and the newspaper partnered with the Commission on Presidential Debates in 1996 to present the Vice Presidential Debate between Al Gore and Jack Kemp from St. Petersburg.
"This fall's Senate debate continues our strong tradition of raising the political conversations and serving democracy," said Times Editor Neil Brown. "It serves our core mission of getting information to voters so they may make thoughtful decisions on Election Day."


Lara Wade, Jenna Withrow and Vickie Chachere of USF.edu News contributed to this report. For more information on the debates, call 813-974-9060.