The College Democrats and College Republicans squared off Oct. 22 in Farber Hall to state their parties’ opinions on issues coming up to this November’s election — now less than two weeks away.
Seniors Chris Zimmer, Clay Hoffman and Rachelle Norberg represented the College Democrats, while junior Jason Nerland, and seniors Joe Bliss and Sam Reuland argued on behalf of the College Republicans.
A new feature to the debate this year was the segment Defend Your Candidate, where each group argued for their party’s candidate for the senate.
College Republicans spoke in favor of Mike Rounds.
“I don’t think Rounds needs any defending,” Nerland said. “He was a good governor.”
Nerland said when Rounds was in office, he created jobs and balanced the state’s budget.
“He epitomizes the Republican platform,” Nerland said.
College Democrats argued for Rick Weiland, pointing out Weiland supports lower rates for student loans and college affordability.
“He’s an average guy and an average South Dakotan. He has gone to every single town in the state – that’s dedication,” Hoffman said.
Each group opened with the philosophy behind their political party before being asked how they stand on the state’s proposed amendment, which would raise the minimum wage for non-tipped workers, an issue where the Democrats stood in support and Republicans against.
The groups were then asked what they believed was the cause of annual tuition increases.
“This is an issue that’s tricky,” Nerland said. “There’s not one solution to the problem, and there’s not one problem.”
The College Democrats rebutted, saying the key was learning how to contain student debt and adjust interest rates.
In a later question, both groups agreed ISIS is the U.S.’s current greatest threat, but disagreed on a possible solution.
“The solution is not what we did in 2003 with the Bush administration,” Zimmer said.
Zimmer said the key was to form a coalition with other governments through diplomatic actions and aim for strategic, simultaneous attacks.
But the College Republicans had a different idea of how to effectively combat ISIS. Nerland said the solution rests with gathering more intelligence on the terrorist organization.
“We don’t just sit back and drop strategic bombs on people we don’t even know are terrorists,” Nerland said.
The groups also answered audience questions regarding the Patriot Act, whether the U.S. should invade the Middle East and if marriage equality is a state or federal issue, among others. The debate also touched on the race for governor.
The Republicans stood in support of current governor Dennis Daugaard and said Mike Rounds was correct to appoint him as a lieutenant governor.
“He understands how to get it done in Pierre,” Bliss said.
Norberg argued for Susan Wismer and said Wismer wants to expand Medicaid — citing it’s a sound decision.
“Dennis Daugaard hasn’t done enough for me as a South Dakotan,” Norberg said.
The debate ended with a localized question from the audience on how to fight food insecurity in Clay County. The College Republicans argued for an individualized approach without government intervention.
“Let’s emphasize personal charity,” Bliss said.
The Campus Democrats said a possible solution could be eliminating the local two percent sales tax when it applies to food purchases.
“It’s not making it significantly cheaper, but it’s something we can do,” Hoffman said.