Candidates Clash in Gubernatorial Debate

Hundreds of people showed up at the debate watch party as the candidates for governor fought on stage.


Protesters inside the Marshall Student Center oppose immigration law adopted by Arizona.


By Vickie Chachere and Daylina Miller News Writers


TAMPA,  Fla. (Oct. 25, 2010) – Entering the final week of a hard-fought, down-to-the-wire campaign, Democrat Alex Sink and Republican Rick Scott faced off in nationally-televised debate that literally brought the governor’s race home to the University of South Florida.


The two candidates, running in a statistical dead heat in the final days of the campaign, attempted to distinguish themselves for undecided voters in a debate aired live on CNN’s State of the Union with John King. The cable network co-sponsored the debate with the St. Petersburg Times, USF and USF Student Government. It was the second event of a major political double-header for USF, which hosted a U.S. Senate debate Sunday.


Students, campaign workers, voters and curious onlookers filled most of the seats in the Marshall Student Center Ballroom for the event, the crowd numbering more than 500 at the peak of the event.

 Photo: Aimee Blodgett/USF News

And they were one tough crowd. The crowd complained loudly about the negative tenor of the debate, the lack of specifics and the sense that after an hour of the two going at each other, voters still didn’t have a good sense of how they would tackle Florida’s considerable problems.


“They just keep attacking each other, really, and it seems like they’re not talking about many issues, said Kathryn Dalrymple, a senior psychology major. “I’d like to know more about where they stand on the issues. It’s fine to defend yourself but it’s been 25 minutes already.”


“I don’t like either of them. They’re just yelling at each other like kids,” said Daniel Narciso, senior in mechanical engineering.


USF Distinguished Professor of Political Science Susan MacManus predicted the headline in the morning papers would focus on one thing: Neither candidate knew the exact amount of Florida’s $7.25 minimum wage, a sly but telling-question tossed out at the end of the debate to the two millionaires.


“It was horrible,” lamented Tyler Myers, president of USF’s chapter of Pi Sigma Alpha, the national political honor society. “I assumed that Rick Scott didn’t know the amount of the minimum wage, but Alex Sink should. That always hurts Democrats worse.”


MacManus said she thought the debate would do little to sway voters from either camp, but the more serious effect might just be on undecided voters.


“If you were for Alex Sink, you’d still be leaning for Alex Sink. If you were for Scott, you’d still be for him,” she said. “If you were undecided, you might just stay home.”


That wasn’t what many voters who turned out were seeking in the night’s contest.


Bethany Finch, a freshman music education major; came for credit for University Experience class and to learn more about the candidates.


“I know what the candidates stand for but I want to know why,” she said


Michael Frazier, a music composition and jazz studies major, also was looking to learn more about the candidates than what he’d seen so far in a season of campaigning.


“I don’t know much about either candidate because it seems to be a lot of back and forth arguing,” he said. “I want to see what the candidates are all about up front where they can’t hide behind the media.”


 Lynne Grigelevich, a teacher from Land O’Lakes brought 16 students from the

 Junior State of America debate club. Some of the students will be voting for their first elections soon.


“We’re hoping we’ll get a better understanding of who the candidates are and where they stand,” said senior Caitlin Hollander, “Since some of us are 18, it’ll give us a better understanding of who to vote for.”


And Charlotte Buell, a senior in political science major, thought both candidates might have lost this one.


“I think the average voter is going to be turned off,” she said.