Candidates address student issues

Georgia Public Broadcasting held the first ever student-led Gubernatorial debate on Sunday, Oct. 3, 2010. It was an organized effort between multiple universities, including Tech, University of Georgia, Georgia College and State University, George State University and Morehouse College. Tech’s Student Government Association (SGA) hosted a Debate Watching Party in conjunction with this event in the Ferst Theater. The candidates for governor at the debate included Roy Barnes (D), Nathan Deal (R) and John Monds (L).

The debate party took place in the Student Center Theater and was attended by many students.

“[The debate’s] been planned for months. It’s to increase awareness and student voter registration,” said Michael Mosgrove, SGA’s organizer of the debate party and second-year MGT major.

GPB has broadcasted on campus events in the past, such as the Inventure Prize Competition, but chose to film in studio for the debate due to the intercollegiate nature of the event. The actual debate was entirely student-led, with SGA Presidents and leaders from each university fielding questions from students submitted on www.gastudentvote.com

The debate was kicked off with questions from the SGA Presidents on student related issues. The candidates’ responses emphasized matters concerning secondary and technical education, but not on issues that do not directly affect college students. Deal, the Republican candidate for Governor, stated his overarching goal is fighting boredom in schools and encouraging technical schools. The debate was then turned to more pressing education issues.

“Politicians are raiding the HOPE scholarship. We need a 180-day school year,” Barnes said.

While noting that HOPE was not on safe grounds, no candidate referenced any major plan to overhaul the system. Deal mentioned that he was in favor of reform and making it a true merit-based scholarship. Barnes stated his opposition to an Atlanta casino whose revenue could increase the HOPE fund by 40 percent on the grounds that casinos attract the wrong kind of people. All three candidates attempted to reach-out and encourage students that they’ll act in their interest.

“I’m not opposed to a college student on the Board of Regents,” Barnes said.

Deal, the first to answer, responded that while he is opposed to having a student on the Board, he would still do his best to act on behalf of students. Barnes briefly talked about the plan to open another engineering school in the University of Georgia. While he did not state his opposition, he did mention he thought there were better options.

“We should have another engineering program in GCSU,” Barnes said.

Barnes and Deal also addressed various controversies surrounding their political history. Barnes said that he is still proud of his record and of taking the Confederate symbol off the flag, something that contributed to him losing his previous bid for re-election.

The candidates’ positions on decreasing unemployment and restoring the economy generally fell within party lines. Deal said he supports more tax cuts for small businesses to make Georgia competitive while Barnes supports investment in various technological and infrastructure programs, such as the green jobs industry, biofuels and a new light rail.

Libertarian candidate Monds answered to questions related to government control on various aspects of Georgians’ lives. He said he also supports measures such as legalizing hemp in an effort to increase Georgia government revenue and increase industrial activities.

Candidates also had the opportunity to ask questions to each other. Monds and Deal heavily criticized Barnes for policies alleged to have led to Georgia’s bottom-tier education system. Barnes confronted Deal, asking him to disclose his financial statements. Deal is currently under fire for failing to release business loans totaling almost three million dollars as required by states elections law. Neither Barnes nor Deal heavily addressed their respective controversies.

“I’m happy they all came out and spoke well,” said Merry Hunter Hipp, member-at-large in the SGA Undergraduate House and second-year PUBP major.

Students will be able to vote for their gubernatorial candidate of choice on Nov. 2, 2010.