Students with an interest in the local elections had their chance to compare candidates on Sept. 27 when John Carroll University hosted the Cuyahoga County Executive debate.
The event was sponsored by the John Carroll Conservatives, the College Democrats, Pi Sigma Alpha and the department of political science.
Of the six candidates running for office, five were present: Ken Lanci (I), Ed FitzGerald (D), Matt Dolan (R), Don Scipione (I) and Tim McCormack (I). Green Party member David Ellison was absent from the debate.
The main focus of the candidates during the debate centered on creating jobs, establishing a new moral political climate for Cuyahoga County, and keeping college graduates in Cleveland.
With students and other Cuyahoga County citizens filling the Donahue Auditorium in the Dolan Center for Science and Technology, audience members were given the chance to write down any questions they had for candidates on a note card to be proofread and then given to the moderator.
Carroll Conservatives President Nick Tribuzzo estimated there were between 150 and 200 in attendance at the debate, many of whom submitted questions to the candidates.
“I was pleased with the audience involvement,” he said. “We got quite a few questions, and, unfortunately, had to turn down a few of them due to time.”
One surprise question that was asked of the candidates was who each of them would vote for if they were not running.
Some candidates, such as Lanci, did not answer the question with a direct answer. Dolan and Scipione answered with another candidates name, and FitzGerald decided to choose Ellison, on the sole basis that he was not present at the debate.
College Democrats President Alix Audi felt it was a very interesting question.
“Obviously you could see a few candidates were caught off guard,” she said. “It’s not a question they would get at the various open forums or debates they’ve been to.”
Tribuzzo also thought this was a very impressive question.
“I think it showed that they all really think they’re the qualified candidate, but you have to expect that kind of answer because they’ve been in the race for so long,” he said.
Each of the candidates were given time to introduce themselves and provide a small rebuttal, followed by six questions, two from each sponsoring organization, an open forum, and then closing statements.
The format, it seemed to some, made the debate more informational and less formal.
Tribuzzo said the format reflected that of a previous debate held for the Cuyahoga County Executive candidates.
“It was more informative but there were times when there were conflicting viewpoints,” he said. “It was a debate, but the answers the candidates gave were more for promoting themselves than debating the issues at hand.”
Audi believed that the format was effective in that it facilitated a better discussion than a screaming match would have.
“We felt that it was a good debate, and as a whole we were happy that each candidate was able to give his own response to each question,” she said.
Before the event ended, candidates expressed their gratitude for the opportunity to come to John Carroll for the event, and asked for the audience’s vote.
Tribuzzo was content with the turnout, as well as the audience’s interest in the debate.
“The students showed interest in the democratic process, and overall, the event was quite successful given the amount of time we had to schedule it,” he said.