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January 22, 2016

Democrats Debate on Behalf of Their Primary Picks

The University of Chicago Democrats (UC Dems) and the Institute of Politics (IOP) held a mock Democratic presidential debate on Thursday at The Revival theater in Hyde Park. Students from UChicago Students for Hillary, UChicago Students for Bernie Sanders, and Maroons for Martin O’Malley assumed the roles of presidential candidates.

The hour-long debate, moderated by IOP fellow and democratic political operative Patti Doyle, followed a question-and-answer format where each candidate was given a chance to answer questions on a wide range of issues from climate change and gun control to health care and financing education.

Calvin Cottrell represented Clinton, Tyler Kissinger represented Sanders, and Kennedy Greene represented O’Malley. Cottrell and Greene worked for their respective candidates’ campaigns last summer. Kissinger is the head of UChicago Students for Bernie Sanders.

Questions on implementing policies to address climate change prompted discussion on each candidate’s ability to draw bipartisan support in an increasingly polarized political atmosphere. Greene, representing O’Malley, stressed his construction of offshore wind turbines in Ocean City, while Cottrell, representing Clinton, emphasized his candidate’s promise to build a half billion more solar panels by the end of her first term.

Many students in the audience came from different presidential candidate groups on campus in support of their representative. Jessica Law, a second-year sociology major, said that she heard about the event from her involvement in UChicago Students for Bernie Sanders. “I think the debate went very well and the speakers stayed true to the candidates,” Law said.

Third-year Henry Bensinger, the executive director of UC Dems, said the goal of the organization is to get more students engaged in politics, and he thought that a mock debate would be a great way to get all the different presidential candidate groups on campus in a conversation with one another. Bensinger said that while the UC Dems primarily had students in mind for the target audience, they “also thought about the members of the community, since we aren’t going to get a presidential debate here in Hyde Park.”

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