Students respond to governor debate

Katherine Martin

Last night’s gubernatorial debate gave 415 UA students the chance to see candidates Ron Sparks and Dr. Robert Bentley touch on pressing issues for the state of Alabama.

Raegan Harris, a junior majoring in psychology and Spanish, said although the debate did not solidify her decision on who to vote for, it allowed her to see each candidate put on the spot, instead of only reading about them on their campaign websites.

“I’ve been more open to listen to both sides,” Harris said. “Education and immigration were the topics that were most important to me, so I was glad to hear each candidate’s opinions.”

Seth Morrow, communications director for UA College Republicans, said the debate allowed people to see the differences between the two candidates.

“I thought tonight was a clear contrast between two candidates,” Morrow said, “one who wants to create jobs and one who wants to gamble away Alabama.”

Michael Patrick, president of UA College Democrats, said the Decision Alabama debate has the potential to sway independent voters who may still be on the fence.

“I was much more pleased with Sparks leaving the debate than I was coming in,” Patrick said.

Patrick said the biggest contrast came down to substance.

“Bentley talked a lot about job creation, but didn’t say how he was going to do it,” Patrick said.

When it came to the topic of gambling, Morrow said that, while he agrees with Bentley’s stance on allowing the citizens to vote on the topic, he sees it as a short-term solution to creating more revenue. Morrow said he believes that, in the end, creating jobs is the solution.

Patrick said that, regardless who becomes governor, there is likely to be a vote in the legislature.

“Immediately, gambling benefits would be inflated because it’s new to the state,” Patrick said, “and it will eventually level out.”

Both candidates agreed Alabama needs strong immigration laws.

Sparks said he does not support the Arizona immigration law, but he will create “the toughest immigration law in the country.”

“I could not morally support a candidate who supports the Arizona law,” Patrick said. “There’s a contrast between strong immigration and racial profiling.”

Morrow said he thinks Bentley understands that Alabama is not Arizona, so Alabama doesn’t need an Arizona law. Alabama needs a law that is molded to Alabama, he said.

The issue of health care reform was also a question brought up in the debate.

Sparks said he hopes to find a proposal that fits Alabama so that the federal government doesn’t take over health care. He also said he believes that all Alabamians deserve affordable health care.

Bentley said he totally opposed the health care bill and would support a legal challenge.

Morrow agreed with Bentley’s opposition.

“The health care bill is absolutely the worst bill ever,” Morrow said. “It’s a bill that we still don’t know exactly what’s in it.”

Patrick said Sparks is not attacking the federal government for trying to help the people of the United States and will help Alabama focus on affordable health care.

“If the state government is doing what they’re supposed to be doing,” Patrick said, “the federal government will not impose.”

Jimmy Young, gubernatorial debate coordinator for the Student Government Association, said the overall student response seemed to be that everybody was impressed and learned a lot about the candidates.

“Moderator Debbie Elliot did a great job covering topics that were most important to the state of Alabama,” Young said.

Young said having the University as the site of the debate shows that it is more than just a football school.

“It was a unique experience for students to see first-hand the candidates face off on these issues and become more educated,” Young said.