Observers and panelists at the second and final debate held Monday between candidates for the top spots in the Minnesota Student Association seemed more interested in the candidates’ weaknesses than their campaign promises.
Despite the fact that all three tickets for the MSA presidency have echoed one another in a pledge to run clean campaigns, debate panelists and audience members pushed the candidates to set themselves apart from their opponents during the debate in Coffman Memorial Union. Questions included requests for the tickets to point out their opponents’ weaknesses and, at times, reveal their own.
“One weakness that (both my opponents) have is too much MSA experience,” said presidential candidate Derek Shemon. Neither he nor his running mate, Jason Strid, have experience in the organization. “Any way you look at it, students are sick of MSA.”
Although the other two tickets have at least one candidate with MSA background, both have said they would also like to change the student body’s perception of the organization and try to get more students involved in MSA.
But Kiaora Bohlool, the vice presidential running mate of Corey Donovan, said that Shemon and Strid’s lack of experience will not benefit the student body.
“Not having experience in MSA is scary,” she said, “because if you’re going to come into an organization and you’re going to lead that organization, you have to have some kind of familiarity with the organization.”
Donovan and Bohlool serve on MSA, as does presidential candidate Jigar Madia. His running mate, Bridgette Murphy, would be a new-comer to the organization if elected.
Given the opportunity to point out their opponents’ weaknesses, Madia said that he and Murphy are the only ticket with a set agenda. The pair have laid out specific goals for each month of their term in a plan dubbed “Twelve Months of Action.”
“No other ticket here has the guts to offer you a substantial platform for their term,” Madia said. “Whatever promises they have made are irresponsible. This is the same recycled garbage we get every year.”
After the first debate, held April 9 in St. Paul, several of the debate panelists said they wanted the tickets to better distinguish themselves from one another. Panelists at both debates included representatives from the greek system, MSA, the College Republicans, U-DFL, the residence halls and the Minnesota Daily.
Since then, the candidates have stepped up their postering efforts, which led to more lively discussion. Buzz words such as Donovan and Bohlool’s campaign slogan, “progressive justice,” and the Madia and Murphy’s self-imposed description as a nonpartisan ticket became a debate issue.
“I don’t know what (progressive justice) means,” Madia said after a panelist asked all three tickets to discuss the slogan. “It seems like a broad generalization. It’s not a tangible platform goal.”
Bohlool deflected the question back to Madia and Murphy by questioning the nonpartisan platform her opponent’s say they have taken.
“I want to talk about another word that I have seen on posters, and that would be nonpartisan,” Bohlool said, referring to Madia, who has called himself a moderate Republican and Murphy, who has said she is a liberal.
“When you take a Republican, and you take someone who is kind of a liberal, and you put them together, that does not zero it out and make it nonpartisan,” Bohlool said. “It makes it bipartisan.”