Politics is usually the last thing that is on the average college student mind, but for many political science students, politics are a part of everyday conversation and agendas. While there are a lot of discussions and emphasis towards the Presidential Elections in 2016, the general public – particularly students – fail to realize that local elections are just important as well. Due to the lack of attention students show toward local elections, the University of West Georgia’s (UWG) Political Science Department joined together with the Political Science Club to host the Carrollton Mayoral Debate on Oct. 21 in Bonner Lecture Hall. The two organizations hoped the debate would serve to educate students about their role in the local political system, just in time for the City Carrollton elections on Nov. 3.
The debate happened by the requests of students who wanted to be a part of the local political action occurring in the Carrollton community. In past years, political science professors or candidates running for office hosted debates at the university; this year, however, the tables turned and students took charge of planning and hosting the debates.
“This was completely initiated by Lans Carcioppolo, who is with the College Republicans,” said Dr. Robert Sanders, Professor of Political Science at UWG. “He really took the reign on this; he went and contacted the candidates and set up for the venue. I really have to commend the students for taking on the initiative.”
The debate was held at UWG for two reasons: the first being that the university is the center of the Carrollton community and culture and has a significant relationship with the city government. The second and main reason for the debates, was to get students involved and learn more about the political process and how it affects them currently and in the future.
“It’s a part of learning process, if [students] can see debates, campaigns and various candidates, they learn from it,” said Sanders. “It was really a two-fold for the university to get involved and students learning about the political process.”
The debate consisted of three prominent Carrollton figures, Walt Hollingsworth, Mike Patterson and Fred O’Neal.
This year’s race will be historic as O’Neal is the first African-American to run for the Carrollton mayor seat. A native of Dayton Ohio, O’Neal is a financial advisor for Edward Jones Investments in Carrollton and set to be the voice not only for the Carrollton community but for the city’s growing African American population as well.
“Mr. O’Neal is very competent as far as running a prudent business and not being wasteful,” said Sanders. “He has the views a little bit of a different segment, maybe more of a progressive view and minority stance.”
Three political science majors at UWG, Lans Carcioppolo, Troy Crittendon and Sarah Clanton, moderated the debate.
“The idea of the debate was to have a well-rounded moderator table, which was sponsored and represented by the [College] Republicans,” said Crittendon. “The political science club served as the middle ground, and the [Young] Democrats were represented as well. I was able to take the position of being at the moderating table and it was definitely a good opportunity.”
The candidates were pressed on issues such Carrollton’s relationship with the university, resources for Carrollton City Schools, green space and business regulations.
“One of the main responsibilities of the local government is education,” said Sanders. “The real important issue is funding for education and their plans for regulating the fiscal budget.”
The debate is the first of many things the Political Science is doing to assist students in realizing that they are the leaders of today and tomorrow. It emphasize the importance of knowing current issues and maintaining a healthy relationship within the community.
“Students should be knowledgeable of the political issues that are pressing in their community,” said Crittendon. “The youth is definitely the driving force and the future for many political decisions to come.”