Free the Vote NC and Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) came together on Friday, Oct. 17 to co-host North Carolina’s first and only all-inclusive U.S. Senate candidate debate.
Unlike most of the debates held throughout the state during the campaigning period, which tend to only extend invitations to majority party leaders, this debate strived to include each person in the running for the senate seat.
“The main goal was to educate the students at UNCC. Many of them don’t know any of the candidates that were up there … people just vote for red or blue generally, and this was just to educate students that there are more choices out there. Just going by the major parties isn’t necessarily going to get you what you think it’s going to get you,” said Jared LeSage, UNC Charlotte president of YAL as well as the organization’s state chair.
Although all six candidates were extended an invite, only four ended up attending the debate: Libertarian candidate Sean Haugh, and unaffiliated write-ins, John Rhodes, Bary Gurney and David Waddell.
According to LeSage, Free the Vote NC, Charlotte TEA Party Activist Arm (CAUTION) and YAL reached out to the candidates months prior to the debate.
No-show Democrat Majority Leader Kay Hagan, reportedly didn’t respond to any of the organizations who invited her, while Republican Majority Leader Thom Tillis, who was also a no-show, only responded back to YAL and Free the Vote NC, stating that he would be unable to attend the debate due to having a pre-planned fundraiser the same day.
Moderated by Christian Hine, president of CAUTION, the debate was comprised of electronically submitted questions from the general public. Candidates had two minutes to answer each question before moving on.
Questions ranged from topics such as Ebola and ISIS, to campaign funding and the government’s place in regulation among citizens.
“Every candidate deserves the opportunity to have their positions heard and weighed against your personal values,” said Hine.
Each candidate seemed to bring something different to the table to offer up to potential voters.
Rhodes continuously stressed his involvement during his time serving with the North Carolina House of Representatives (2003-06). Rhodes was eventually primaried out of the House in 2006 for taking a stand against corruption that was taking place among his own party.
Waddell also brought interesting views to the debate as he took the stance of being a “self-employed small business owner with a family and three kids,” who would fight for the rights of those who couldn’t fight for themselves.
Rather than bringing interesting personal aspects to the debate, Haugh and Gurney both stressed their interesting viewpoints on certain political and worldly topics.
Haugh continuously brought every question back to his original statement, that, “We need to stop all direct warfare.”
Although that seemed to be his main focus, Haugh also shared that his two other high concerns are the militarization of modern day rebels and our national debt.
Gurney on the other hand, continued circling around the idea that government today is corrupt.
In his opening statement, Gurney says, “I’m unaffiliated, and I choose that because its just the way to be. I think the Republican and the Democratic parties have melded into almost the same actuals. The system is just not working anymore and we need to address it.”
To watch an unedited version of the debate, and hear from candidates other than the majority leaders, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pdUCO1slDQI