Final words debated before the elections

Spinnaker

Several hundred students watched two local attorneys Oct. 27 represent presidential candidates Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama in a debate moderated by UNF President John Delaney, just eight days before Election Day.

Kevin Hyde, representing McCain, and Chris Hand, representing Obama, both had two minutes to respond to questions about the economic crisis, social issues, energy, the war in Iraq and education, as well as a few questions entered into the debate from students in attendance.

The representatives were chosen for the debate based on their prominence, intelligence and involvement in the community, said Dr. Matthew Corrigan, associate professor for political science and public administration.

Hand, a native of Jacksonville and practicing attorney with Terrell Hogan, opened the debate and first topic of discussion – the economic crisis – with a simple question: “Are you better off today than you were eight years ago?”

Hand cited how America went from having a budget surplus to a budget deficit and blamed “the great deregulation” for the current economic status.

“There is a lot of blame to go around,” Hyde responded. “This is not the end of capitalism; a balance of regulation must be achieved.”

On social issues, the main topic of discussion was gay marriage, a topic on which both representatives shared common ground. They agreed on the recognition of civil unions and common rights.

With energy, both agreed creativity and ingenuity would be present in the process of independence from foreign oil, although Hyde advised against any draconian measures to eliminate the reliance on petroleum-based products.

Both presented alternative energy proposals and steps to make future energy sources more eco-friendly to the environment.

Both candidates have made firm statements on the war in Iraq. Hyde backed McCain saying although no specific timetable was set for withdrawal, he understood the need to do so.

Hyde remained adamant about the wasteful spending on the operation and cited multiple times the billions of dollars spent monthly to fund the operation. He backed Obama’s phased withdrawal proposal and echoed the need to refocus operations on the Afghani border, which is the “real source of terrorism,” Hyde said.

As the final topic of education approached, both representatives applauded Delaney for his determination in not cutting faculty positions.

Hand supported the creation of Obama’s American Opportunity Tax Credit, which would make tuition for community college students free and support at least two-thirds of the average tuition of public colleges and universities. Recipients would be required to fulfill 100 hours of community service to be eligible.

Hyde lauded the success of the Jacksonville Commitment and stressed the responsibility of local governments in financial assistance for students who might be burdened seeking for student loans. He also commended Hand, saying he would respect Hand as a worthy opponent in the courtroom any day, although they have never faced one another in litigation.

Delaney was impressed by the debate and student turnout, he said. “No matter what the outcome [of the election], America will still be here,” Delaney said.

E-mail Jonathan Morales at [email protected]