Heated arguments flew back and forth between members of the College Democrats and College Republicans at Beef O Bradys in the Marshall Student Center on Tuesday night as the two organizations met to debate the issues that will present themselves in the election next week.
Though the event at first seemed overshadowed by the cheering sports fans watching the Miami Heat vs. Boston Celtics basketball game in the surrounding sports bar, almost half the restaurant focused in on the debate.
We are nearing the end of the election season, College Democrat Sean Sorbie, a senior majoring in political science, said. Tempers are flaring because it is an important election. People are only getting so into it because they care.
Sorbie, along with College Democrats president Colton Canton and Taylor Wisor, debated against College Republicans Justin Homburg, Ralph DElia, and Jessica Hartwell in a town hall format open to all USF students.
The event was sponsored by Student Government (SG) and moderated by BullsRadios Cole Giering, a senior majoring in biomedical sciences.
The night started off with opening remarks by Canton, which was decided in a coin toss won by the College Republicans.
It is not jobs, or the economy, he said. It is trust. If you walk into the voting booth, the question you have to ask yourself is Who do I trust?
In response, the opening statement from the College Republicans was from DElia, who answered this question and made his partys stance clear by supporting the Republican candidate, former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney.
Someone we can trust better over the past four years is Romney, he said.
Giering asked each side questions from topics decided by SG and later by the audience of Beef O Bradys patrons, a handful of SG officials and organization members via written submissions.
Some of the questions hit closer to home than those posed at the debate, including the first question of the night, which centered on Pell grants.
Homburg said the country needs to look at whether or not it can afford supporting Pell grants along with all the other expenses in the country.
But Canton was opposed.
Pell grants cut out the middle man, giving money to students for education, not profits from loans to banks, he said.
The debate also spanned to foreign policy and whether U.S. military intervention in foreign crises is appropriate.
Sorbie, a former Marine and vice president of the USF Student Veterans Association, answered citing the complications of intervening in foreign affairs.
There are costs of acting as the world police, he said. This is not something to politicized, and not something to be addressed casually.
DElia said the two parties were likely to agree on the topic.
When American interests are at stake, then it is time we should intervene, he said.
Later in the night when the moderator began taking questions from the audience, arguments reached a heated peak as a question arose regarding each partys stance and actions regarding womens rights and how this will impact the female vote next week.
The College Democrats answered first, referring to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, which promotes equal-pay for female workers.
College Republicans pointed out that a former female employee of the Obama administration referred to her experience as a hostile workplace, and later quoted Obamas own words that without a track record, one can make a big election out of small issues, and they said what the Democrats were doing in this election with women voters and the Lilly Ledbetter Act.
Womens rights are a small issue? Canton interjected.
Both parties began going back and forth with passionate rebuttals that broke the standard two-minute response time that was originally outlined in the rules at the beginning of the debate.
Once the topic had simmered down, Giering allowed one more question without room for rebuttal before beginning closing remarks.
Both parties shook hands off-stage after the debate.