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Local Young Democrats and Republicans heatedly debated controversial social issues such as gay marriage but didn’t discuss long-term issues like alternative energy solutions.
ASUCI sponsored The Issues Debate between the Orange County Young Republicans and the Orange County Young Democrats in the Crystal Cove Auditorium on Oct. 29.
The debate teams featured three panelists from the OC Young Republicans and three from the OC Young Democrats, as well as an additional seat on each side reserved for a student representative from UC Irvine. Edwin Ohanian, president of the College Republicans and a fourth-year economics major, joined the Young Republicans while Bryon Riggs, a third-year English major, sat with the Young Democrats.
Moderated by Professor Carl Schwarz, a specialist in public law and judicial politics, the debate was originally planned to consist of four 30-minute segments. The first three segments were to include three questions each, some pre-arranged and some written by Schwarz himself; the fourth segment was an open platform, a question and answer session where the audience was encouraged to engage the panel. However, due to time constraints, only two sections of the debate were enacted.
The panelists covered several of the major propositions that appear on the California ballot, including several hot-topic issues. Proposition 4 and Proposition 8 were discussed extensively with each side presenting their party’s views on the issues. For the most part, the panelists followed the traditional belief systems characteristic of their respective parties. The Young Republicans declared a firm support for both Proposition 4 and 8, while the Young Democrats vigorously opposed both bills.
By the half-way point, the enthusiastic panelists quarreled in a less formal manner than the actual public political figures generally do. In response to the Young Republican’s stance on Proposition 8, panelist Alex Gorman of the Young Democrats said, “I would like my lesbian friends to marry the women they love, and I would like Republican senators to marry the men that they love.”
The debate itself consisted mostly of social issues: abortion, the relationship between church and state and gay marriage. However, many important issues remained untouched, such as the current economic crisis and alternative energy possibilities.
“We didn’t really get to go into a lot of what I wanted to talk about because we didn’t go into energy policy,” Riggs said.
The crowd of approximately 60 people was as enthusiastic as the panelists. However, there was no clear winner.
There were “mixed reviews,” said Ohanian after the debate, as he felt that the audience was bi-partisan as opposed to objective.
Riggs agreed with Ohanian on the results and outcomes of the debate.
“They stuck where they were and we kind of stuck where we were. Everyone is pretty much decided,” Riggs said.
However, some students left the debate more confused than before.
Yoli Martinez, a third-year English major, stated that as a Libertarian she has a difficult time reconciling her views with the Republican or Democratic platforms represented at the debate.
“I don’t agree with either completely, maybe if they just blended their views,” Martinez said.
Although this election has accentuated the differences between parties, leadership from both the Young Democrats and the College Republicans agreed on the importance of this year’s election for college students. When asked to name the most pressing issues for students, both sides agreed that the economic crisis is of great importance to college students. They each gave examples in the form of tax policy and education to support their claims.
At the end of the debate, panelists were allowed to make closing remarks, allowing Shawn Fago, president of the OC Young Republicans, to challenge the OC Young Democrats to a rematch. The OC Republicans have more than the undecided debate to avenge; last week the OC Young Democrats emerged victorious in a softball game against the OC Young Republicans.
Professor Schwartz called the debate the “ultimate of civil discourse,” and said, “the most redeeming thing I’ve heard all night is that these guys played softball together.”

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