Elections 2016: Keith Perry & Rod Smith Senate Debate at UF

The 2016 presidential election debates have been quite interesting to watch on TV. However, when it comes time to watch a debate unravel in front of your very eyes it’s quite different.

State Senate Candidates Keith Perry and Rod Smith, debated in front of a mixed audience of UF students and the general public at the Reitz Union Ballroom this past Tuesday night. The debate was hosted by the the Accent Speakers Bureau and was moderated by Justin Sayfie, an attorney and government relations consultant based in Fort Lauderdale. Sayfie has been the editor of the Sayfie Review since 2002, which has been described as the “online bible for Florida political junkies” by the Tampa Bay Times. The debate was approximately an hour long and consisted of questions dealing with various issues. Some of these issues related to student debt, gun control and even immigration.

Just like the second debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, there was no handshake at the beginning of the debate. However, when the debate finished both candidates shook hands. Each candidate had the chance to talk a little about themselves so they could give the audience a clearer view of who they are. Smith focused more on his experience in the government and Perry focused on sharing his views as a father and local businessman himself as he owns a roofing company. The first topic, focused on education and an array of other questions dealing with education were asked as well. Both candidates were concerned about how students were going to pay their debt back and that they believe each student graduating from UF will have a job right out of graduation.

Even though, this debate didn’t escalate to a Clinton or Trump factor while debating, there were some moments that did get a little heated. The gun control topic is where the finger pointing and arguing got started. Perry did not exactly say that he thought having guns on campus were okay, but his statements lingered in that direction. On the other hand, Smith, clearly stated that having guns on campus is a terrible idea and if they were allowed on campus it would simply be inviting a tragedy. Smith then accused Perry that his policy on guns on campus were influenced by his connections to the NRA. Perry proceeded to say that suggesting something he said was based on the support of the NRA was factually wrong. The debate then addressed solar energy questions and even took some questions from students posting to Facebook. Before they left the campus, each candidate took the time to shake hands and speak with potential voters.

The debate was a perfect way for students and the general public to get better acquainted with their candidates.

Photo Credit: Alex Ciccarone