Columbia attendees react to gubernatorial, attorney general debates

Thursday, September 11, 2008 | 9:26 p.m. CDT; updated 10:02 a.m. CDT, Monday, September 15, 2008

COLUMBIA — Although audience members at Thursday's gubernatorial and attorney general debates at MU's School of Journalism followed the instructions to hold all applause to the end of the debate, they still had a lot to say about each candidate.

Governor debate

More debates

The Missouri Press Association on Friday will host a series of debates between and candidates for other statewide offices as part of its annual conference at Stoney Creek Inn. Here’s the schedule:
9:15 a.m.: Lieutenant governor
10:15 a.m.: Secretary of state
11:15 a.m.: State treasurer

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Sherwood Smith, a member of the Missouri State Council of Firefighters, said he attended the debate to support Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Nixon because of the candidate's past support of emergency and law enforcement officers.

"(Nixon) has always stood up for public safety and public safety officers, and we want to stand up for him," he said.

Mollie Landers, 19, is a member of the MU College Republicans and attended the event with a few of her friends who are also in the group. The College Republicans sent out an e-mail to all group members informing them of the debate and encouraging members to order tickets.

Landers said she has gone "back and forth" throughout the election but is more of a supporter of Republican gubernatorial candidate Kenny Hulshof.

Despite Landers' membership in College Republicans, she said she likes to "see both sides" of the election, although she typically has "more conservative views."

Landers said she was interested to hear the candidates for governor discuss their plans of higher education.

"It's something every student want to hear about," Landers said.

Caitlin Ellis, 21, the president of the MU College Democrats, said she not only agrees with Nixon's politics, but personally relates to him because "he went to MU, has children who go here, and he understands Missouri."

Although she was there to see Nixon, Ellis was also interested in what Libertarian candidate Andrew Finkenstadt and Constitution party candidate Greg Thompson had to say, as she "didn't know much about them."

She thought the debate "creates a more level playing field" for the alternative party members, who often aren't heard because of limited campaign funding.

Ellis described the event as a "healthy debate", which essentially followed Nixon's opening remark about "keeping it positive."

Brett Dinkins, 18, is also a member of the College Republicans, and he went to the debate with a few members to support Kenny Hulshof.

Dinkins said the candidates 90-second responses were "brief and broad," and he would like to hear their more in-depth views on certain issues.

In particular, he said he is concerned about the problems Missouri public schools are having preparing students adequately for college in math and science.

Dinkins said he is currently "struggling through college algebra" because of his high school education, and said he "may even have to take a remedial class."

Attorney general

Diane Booth, 62, said that she was satisfied with the attorney general candidate forum but would have liked to see more follow-up and interaction between Democratic candidate and state Sen. Chris Koster and Republican candidate and state Sen. Michael Gibbons.

"It seemed to hit the high points," she said. Booth said she takes issue with Koster, a former Republican who defeated two other Democrats in the primary election for attorney general.

"I have questions about his commitment to Democratic values," she said.

Jonathan Ratliff, 19, president of the MU College Republicans, said he believes Gibbons will return decency to the attorney general's office.

Ratliff, who worked for Gibbons in his senior year of high school, said he knows the senator will take the job seriously.

"I think that the office of attorney general has lost some of the respect that goes with that office," he said. "Gibbons is a reformer, he's known as a reformer, and he as a lot of experience."

Missourian reporters Sarah Scully, Hayley Tsukayama and Catherine Martin contributed to this report.

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