Jay Edwards, candidate for Ohio 94th District representative, will attend a town hall debate on campus Tuesday — but not without some scheduling conflicts.
The forum, held by OU Student Senate in Walter 235 from 7 to 9 p.m, will pit Edwards, a Republican, against Democratic contender Sarah Grace. But Edwards said he did not have prior knowledge of the debate’s date and time, saying that he never confirmed it with Student Senate. Despite miscommunication, Edwards is eager to interact with student constituents at his alma mater.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” Edwards said. “I think it’s great to enlighten college students about the problems facing them, and what I plan to do to solve them.”
Edwards said he had previously scheduled a campaign event for the night of the debate. Originally, he said, the town hall was supposed to be on Thursday. A Student Senate news release from two weeks ago listed Tuesday as the date of the event.
Earlier this month, the Edwards campaign turned down a request from Grace's campaign to debate before the start of early voting on Oct. 4. The Edwards campaign contacted Grace and said he would not be available to meet until Oct. 25, when the two are scheduled for a public forum at the Athens Public Library, according to a previous Post article.
Edwards did end up participating in a public forum in Nelsonville on Sept. 15.
Grace, who said she is looking forward to participating in the town hall, underscored the importance of candidates making themselves available to speak with constituents.
“Voters need to know where their candidates stand on issues and be able to ask them questions,” Grace said. “I have made it a priority to be available for forums, so people have the opportunity to know my positions before they vote.”
The debate is being cosponsored by The Campus Vote Project, a national organization that aims to help colleges and universities “institutionalize reforms that empower students with the information they need to register and vote,” according to their website.
After the group reached out to senate over the summer, Nick Felt, governmental affairs commissioner for Student Senate, submitted a specialized campus plan to the Campus Vote Project based on data from prior elections. Felt believes driving students to the polls is a primary issue because OU fell “just above” the national average of university students who voted in the previous election.
“Making sure that the Senate is doing enough to educate students, as well as register students to vote, is something that will also play a part in Senate’s future,” Felt said in an email. “Another huge component is voter registration. Senate plans to implement different ways for students to easily become registered, such as having registration forms in many highly accessed offices on campus.”
With a particularly heated presidential election captivating the attention of the nation, members of the senate hope to draw focus to the “down ticket” candidates — those with the potential to impact the political arena on a local level. The winner of this year’s district representative elections will replace Debbie Phillips, D-Albany, who is approaching her term limit of eight years.
The debate will be broken into two rounds, separated by a five minute break. During the first round, the candidates will debate on five pre-decided issues: the economy, the environment, healthcare, education and the community. The second round will consist of questions from the audience, all of which are pre-approved, and focused at specific candidates, according to a Student Senate press release.
“Students coming to this debate are encouraged to make their own decision on which candidate they believe will fix more issues,” Felt said in an email. “The election this November is not only a vote for the president, but also a vote for multiple state and federal offices that affect Ohioans’ lives.”