The University of Miami will host the Republican primary debate for the first time in its history at the BankUnited Center (BUC) on March 10, just five days before the Florida primary.
UM “aggressively pursued” this opportunity, according to Rudy Fernandez, chief of staff to President Frenk and vice president for government and community relations.
“When CNN came calling, we engaged in a discussion with them,” Fernandez said. “We were lucky enough to convince [CNN] to host it here at the University of Miami.”
Although the BankUnited Center holds more than 8,000 seats, only about 2,000 will be used on the night of the debate. Of those 2,000, Fernandez said that about 10 percent were allotted to UM and the rest remained under CNN’s control.
“We had to divide the very few tickets that … we had among the various constituencies, first and foremost, the students,” he said.
About 60 tickets were available to students through a random lottery. The rest of the tickets were distributed among trustee board members, faculty and alumni.
President Frenk will also attend, but has not endorsed any candidate or party.
“He doesn’t necessarily support any one political inclination or philosophy,” Fernandez said.
While this is UM’s first time hosting a G.O.P. primary debate, the BUC has seen its fair share of political discourse. The university hosted a debate between Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama in 2012, an early-stage democratic primary debate in 2007 and a debate between John Kerry and former president George Bush in 2004.
Fernandez said the event presents a unique opportunity for UM.
“Obviously, the most important aspect is allowing the university community to experience not just the debate, but being at the center of the democratic process for a couple of days,” he said.
Fernandez also addressed the aggressive nature of past G.O.P. primary debates.