Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Auburn hosts second governor debate

Republican Robert Bentley’s platform is job creation. Democrat Ron Sparks’ platform is improving various public services through a lottery. The gubernatorial candidates steered most of their answers back to these two themes during Tuesday’s gubernatorial debate at Auburn University, said Michael J. New, assistant professor in the University’s department of political science.

The University’s Student Government Association hosted a viewing of the debate at the Ferguson Center for interested students. New acted as commentator both before and after the debate.

“Sparks was a bit aggressive today, which may be a function of the fact that he is behind in the polls,” New said. “And while I’ve seen Sparks go on the offensive quite a few times, I don’t know that he has drawn a lot of blood.”

Gina Miller, a graduate student political science, said she enjoyed this debate more than the previous one.

“I was less impressed with Sparks, however,” Miller said. “I felt like he responded to Bentley’s strong arguments more with platitudes. I would say he did better in the first debate than this one, mostly because he did not have strong rebuttals.”

New said he thought both candidates gave competent answers to all of the issues that were posed. One question focused on prioritizing agencies that must be funded through the general fund.

Bentley said he believes funding Medicaid and the prison system are top priorities. “There are two agencies that must be funded,” he said. “Medicaid is one. We must also fund the department of corrections. If we don’t fund that, we will be letting people out of prisons.”

Bentley pointed out that there are currently 25,000 prisoners in Alabama with only 13,000 places. He advocates alternative sentencing, such as rehabilitation for drug addicts.

“Our jails should not be acute detoxification centers for this state,” he said.

Sparks said he believes Medicaid and education should be priorities in funding.

“I’m the only guy in this election who has put one penny toward education,” Sparks said. “Can you imagine looking into the eyes of the people in Alabama as governor and saying ‘I don’t have the money for education?’”

Sparks said that he wants to pass the lottery for two reasons — to improve the pre-K programs and create scholarships.

New noted that most of the questions posed were on bread-and-butter issues, such as taxes, healthcare and infrastructure, instead of on social issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage and gun control.

“The fact that Bentley has conservative views on social issues in a conservative state would have worked to his advantage,” New said. “Bentley checks off all of the boxes a Republican candidate should check off.”

New acknowledges that Sparks is very knowledgeable about the gambling and lottery issues, and he said Bentley could have done better combating those arguments. “Bentley was able to win by not losing,” New said.

Michael Forst, a sophomore majoring in economics and English said he thought the debate itself was similar the last one.

“It was a pretty lackluster debate which showed the candidates’ positions,” Forst said. “I really enjoyed listening to Dr. New’s insights – both on the political process and his reaction to the debate.”

New said he thinks Sparks has his work cut out for him. “I would be very surprised to see [Bentley] lose, but in politics anything can happen,” he said.

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