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Saturday, September 25, 2021

Santa Fe College's Student Government held a Gainesville City Commission candidate debate this election season, but UF's Student Government — the larger and better-funded of the two — did not.

"I don't mean anything against Santa Fe," said Lacey Schrey, a 22-year-old Chinese studies major, "but UF is supposed to be a forerunner in our state. Shouldn't we be a leader locally as well?"

Santa Fe College Student Government held a city commission candidate debate on Jan. 26 in the school's student union. The event was planned and paid for by the Student Government.

UF SG has invited candidates to come to speak at its senate meetings, but it has not held a debate or forum for the 11 at-large 1 and District 1 candidates.

The debate's sole purpose was to give students a chance to ask questions and get to know all the candidates who want to govern this city, said Gerard Williams, SFC Student Government president.

UF SG officials tried to plan something similar to the event, but they were unable to put one together in time, said Juan Rodriguez, UF SG vice president.

"This is something we definitely thought about doing, but we were in the middle of a lot of other issues," Rodriguez said.

In November, UF College Democrats hosted a forum for candidates affiliated with the Democratic party.

Williams said SFC started planning the debate before winter break, but it did not schedule the date and time until the beginning of January.

The debate cost $120, which was spent on two trays of Subway soft-baked cookies and water bottles.

Rodriguez said money to fund a debate was not an issue for UF SG.

If the city elections result in a runoff election, Rodriguez said SG will likely hold a debate with the candidates. However, he said he does not know when it would be.

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Maryena Azqueta, a 20-year-old psychology major, said unless students were already informed about the candidates and their platforms, watching a debate wouldn't urge her to vote.

"Unless I was absolutely sure what I was voting for, I wouldn't vote," Azqueta said.

Steven Nauman, a 25-year-old, second-year law student, said the debate would help him decide whom to vote for.

"If you want me to elect somebody, I need to know about them," Nauman said. "A debate would definitely help."

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