Sen. Steve Aguilar said he and other candidates on the Connection slate will not attend an election debate if they do not know and agree on the panelists who will ask questions.
The debate is scheduled for tonight at 7 p.m. in room 123 of Dane Smith Hall.
Aguilar, the vice-presidential candidate on the Connection slate, said he made a verbal agreement concerning the panel two weeks ago with Amanda Zubiate, vice-president of the Pre-Law Association, which is sponsoring the debate. He said they agreed that the panel would consist of one pre-law member, one College Republicans member and Margaret Toulouse from the College Democrats.
Aguilar said that the make-up of the panel has changed and now may have three members of the Pre-Law Association, which he said is not appropriate.
“I think you need to have more diverse people from other aspects of the political realm,” Aguilar said.
He added that he wants to know who the panelists are so candidates from both tickets are not ambushed by people who might be biased.
Zubiate said the College Democrats have decided not to be on the panel because they want to concentrate their money, funding and energy on another debate that is not related to ASUNM.
“If they don’t have the time, then I’m not going to force them to do it,” she said.
Zubiate said the College Republicans agreed Monday afternoon to put someone on the panel. She added that the panel may consist of one or two College Republicans and one or two Pre-Law members. She said she invited all student organizations to attend and be on the panel, and though many have shown an interest in being in the gallery, no one has committed to being on the panel.
Zubiate said she is not revealing the names of the panelists because she is unsure of who will be on the panel, and she does not want people to approach the panelists prior to the debate.
“I don’t want my panelists being influenced not only by senators but by student organizations saying, ‘Hey, I heard you’re on the panel. Make sure you ask them this,’” she said. “I want it to be real student issues. I don’t want an ulterior motive behind it.”
Zubiate said the Pre-Law Association appreciates the senators who helped the group but will treat all candidates the same during the debate.
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Zubiate said one of the main goals of the debate is to inform students about the election and issues on the ballot such as Senate Bill 5B, which would eliminate allocation of student fee to the Daily Lobo.
“Hopefully this will give them the opportunity to hear both sides in an equal setting,” Zubiate said. “That’s what I’m aiming for — an equal setting for all candidates.”
Candidates will have a minute and a half to introduce themselves prior to the debate. Zubiate will be the mediator and three panelists will get to ask two questions each to the candidates that they choose. During the Bill 5B discussion, representatives on each side of the issue will get 10 minutes of speaking time and have three minutes to respond to a question by a member of the panel. After a brief intermission, the audience will have 45 minutes to ask questions.
Sen. David Padilla, vice presidential candidate for the People slate, said he will be there regardless of how the debate is organized.
“You’re never going to get a fully unbiased debate the way I see it,” he said. “I’m not here to complain about the actual structure of the debate, I’m here to voice my concerns, answer questions, do whatever I can. And if I get attacked in any certain way, I will make it known that I feel that I am getting attacked and that I don’t have to answer any questions.”
Padilla said he did not like how the agenda that he saw for the debate said “Bill 5B — Daily Lobo vs. Senator Grant Nichols,” because it should be open to all of the candidates to speak about.
“It shouldn’t be vs. anybody,” Padilla said. “It should just be a topic — it should be an issue.”
Presidential candidate Andrea Cook said she wants to know who is on the panel to make sure that all of the candidates have equal representation. She said she wants an atmosphere that is fair and conducive to learning the issues.
“We just want to make sure that none of our candidates will be attacked and that the Pre- Law Association will have that under control,” she said.
Sen. Tim Serna, presidential candidate for the People slate, said it shouldn’t matter who is on the panel because candidates running for an executive position should be prepared.
“I think that they should be able to conduct themselves in a professional manner, no matter who is asking them questions,” he said.
Sen. Grant Nichols, who is running for reelection, said he will attend the debate to discuss Senate Bill 5B, which he wrote. He said he thinks the debate over his bill is a great idea.
“Obviously it isn’t cut and dry,” he said. “It’s not black and white. There are a lot of issues that people need to take into account. I think the students that go will really, if nothing else, come out very, very informed.”