In what is shaping up to be the most hotly contested Michigan Student Assembly election in recent memory, presidential and vice presidential candidates’ tempers almost reached their boiling points last night at a debate sponsored by the College Democrats.
The debate, held at the Anderson Room in the Michigan Union, allowed members of the College Democrats and the public to hear arguments from each party.
The group’s leadership will decide Wednesday night which candidates to endorse.
This is the first time the group has chosen which candidates to endorse by using a debate, Benton said.
The debate was necessary because it’s “such a contentious race this year,” she said.
The endorsement could prove pivotal in the election. The group will e-mail its picks out to the 2,500 members on its e-mail list.
“The reason that the College Democrats endorsement is so sought-after is that we have such a large and strong membership on campus,” said College Democrats vice chair Jamie Ruth.
The presidential and vice presidential candidates for each party spoke briefly about their main ideas and then answered questions from the audience.
Of the questions, the issue of whether to grant MSA funds to students group that may lobby sparked the most heated debates. Because College Democrats lobby on behalf of Democratic politicians, the audience had a large stake in the issue.
The group has found it increasingly harder to get money from MSA for political events, Benton said.
Last month, MSA voted down a resolution to allow funding for lobbying student groups proposed by Rese Fox, Michigan Progressive Party presidential candidate. Opponents of the proposal cited concerns about its effect on MSA’s tax-exempt status.
At one point, MPP vice presidential candidate Walter Nowinski motioned toward Students 4 Michigan’s presidential candidate Nicole Stallings and her running mate, Justin Paul, pointing out that they had cast the two deciding votes that killed the resolution.
Much of the crowd of about 100 erupted in applause in support of Nowinski.
S4M vice presidential candidate’s impassioned rebuttal, though, elicited a similar response when he explained that his and Stallings’s votes were based on concerns from the University administration.
“This is very touchy with the administration,” Stallings said in an interview after the debate. “There was no need for the resolution. We want to handle it delicately.”
Student Conservative Party presidential candidate Ryan Fantuzzi and running mate Tommi Turner also aggressively attacked Fox’s resolution.
Turner said the language in the resolution would even allow MSA to directly fund lobbying, not just to fund other student organizations that lobby.
“For candidates to say they won’t fund these groups or to drag their feet is deeply disturbing,” College Democrats Treasurer Will Fogel said.
Another point of contention was MSA’s role in political issues that may not affect students directly. One of SCP’s campaign cornerstones, according to Fantuzzi, is that MSA should not take a broad stand on political issues outside of student life.
“MSA is overreaching right now,” Fantuzzi said.
The Defend Affirmative Action Party has built itself around the foundation of combating the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, which has put an initiative on this fall’s ballot to end some affirmative action programs in Michigan.
“We’re not a single-issue party, but we give emphasis where emphasis is due,” said DAAP presidential candidate Monica Smith.
MPP candidates said they agree with DAAP on MCRI.
Stallings stressed preparing for what would happen if MCRI passes this fall.
“Regardless of outcome, there needs to be lots of planning,” Stallings said.