With federal election drama sweeping the nation, it can be easy to forget about state politics. On Wednesday afternoon in the CAC Theater, representatives for the WSU College Republicans and College Democrats debated the policy issues that will help shape Kansas in the years ahead.
Juniors Paul Schofield, a Republican, and Tim Dodd, a Democrat, took to the stage to discuss such topics as budget cuts, voter rights, Medicaid, and much more. For the students, the debate was an opportunity not only to voice their own opinions, but to vouch for their parties.
“I think it’s vital to share my liberal views—especially in a red state,” Dodd said.
Jeff Jarman, Interim Director of the Elliott School of Communication, moderated the event, and in stark contrast to this year’s presidential debates, the tone remained civil throughout, despite the differing stances.
One point of conflict was on the issue of K-12 funding in the state which some have deemed unconstitutionally low. Dodd agreed with the claim and called on the state to adequately compensate educators.
“We have to pay our teachers more money just to keep the profession viable,” Dodd said.
Schofield agreed that teachers were being undervalued, but did not see an increase in funding as the answer.
“Money is going towards administration and technology. It isn’t being spent effectively. Throwing money at a problem won’t fix it,” Schofield said.
He also challenged Dodd’s claim that funding for fine arts was a necessity in K-12 schools.
“We spend far too much money on the unnecessary,” Schofield said.
Another discussion focused on Kansas’ voter registration laws and whether or not it is necessary and effective to require individuals to provide proof of citizenship when registering. Dodd characterized the law as unjust.
“We must level the playing field. This disproportionally targets the less fortunate,” Dodd said.
Schofield, who himself waited nine months to acquire his birth certificate from out of state, saw nothing discriminatory about the policy.
“If we’re going to treat people equally, we must treat everyone equally. Everyone is subject to the same requirements,” Schofield said.
At the end of the debate, the two students fielded questions from the audience. This led to a candid discussion of the presidential election.
The votes we cast in November will be felt throughout history,” Dodd said.
The former Bernie Sanders advocate now plans to “unequivocally vote for Hillary Clinton.”
Though Schofield will not vote for Clinton, he has decided not to back his party’s nominee either.
“I like what (Donald Trump) is said to stand for, but I don’t like what I actually see. I cannot in good conscience vote for him,” Schofield said.
Overall, the debate was a good time for students to be informed and reflect on the issues. Freshman Council member Cynthia Matson was glad for the opportunity to attend.
“I feel like it was a success in that I learned a little more about politics,” Matson said.
Schofield too viewed the debate as a success.
“Anytime someone is forced to think about both sides of an issue, you’re doing something right.”