SG presidential candidates answer student questions

Thursday night conjures up many images for the average University of Miami student, but a presidential debate is apparently not one of them.

Roughly 50 students attended Thursday’s event, about 10 less than the vice presidential debate two nights earlier.

“It’s Thursday night,” said Johweyeh Lowenthal, a presidential candidate. “People are out in the Grove and South Beach, so it’s understandable.”

Claudia Medina, the head of the Elections Commission, acknowledged that the night of the week may have played a role in the attendance.

“I’m fairly pleased with the turnout,” she said. “I would like to see more students who aren’t directly affiliated with a ticket come out and try to get informed.”

Katy Sears, one of the candidates, felt differently.

“I was a little shocked that fewer people came to the presidential debate than the vice presidential one,” Sears said. “There’s not great PR for the event. I don’t see banners for it, I don’t know how they get the word out, but I don’t feel it works too well. I feel more needs to be done.”

Danny Carjaval, the third candidate, also noted the attendance and proposed moving the debate back to Wednesday night. He also said he would like to see the event more as a debate between the candidates, which would include candidates standing at podiums as opposed to sitting next to each other at a table.

Less than a quarter of those in attendance were not affiliated with the campaign, obvious by the T-shirts, while a few were members of the Election Commission.

After opening statements, Medina, who moderated the debate, asked each candidate why they stand out from their fellow student leaders.

Lowenthal (“Unity for a Better Community”), answered first and discussed his passion and his ability to get things done; Carjaval (“One Passion. One Goal. The U.”) emphasized the diversity of his ticket and his ambition in his answer; and Sears (“Do It For You”) highlighted her problem-solving skills and attention to details.

A slew of other questions dealt with why each candidate wants to run, their platforms and their leadership qualities, among other topics.

“I think it went very well,” Carvajal said. “I think the candidates spoke very well. I stumbled towards the end of my sentences, but I think overall the candidates really expressed their beliefs on their platforms, what they thought was feasible.”

After the debate, The Miami Hurricane spoke with all three of the candidates about their reactions:

“I liked the question about the one-year, 10-year [vision]. I thought that it worked well with my ticket and our platforms,” Carvajal said. He added that about ten of their goals could be realized in one year and that the Podcasting proposal is more a long-term long, fitting in with the 10-year.

Sears also weighed in on what she thought the highlight of the debate was.

“For me, it’s always talking about experience because I have the most,” she said.

Commenting on the overall debate, Sears said:

“I think it went pretty well. They asked tough questions that I wasn’t expecting, but it was a really great way to see how the candidates really felt about the issues, what they were thinking, what was behind their platform and they people they picked-there was a lot to it.”

Lowenthal said the experience was amazing and that he had fun.

“That is what direct democracy is,” he said. “That is how you get the word out to students, by really grilling the tickets and asking them where they are coming from and why they believe what they believe and what they’re going to do for the students and the community.”

During the debate, Lowenthal noted how well the three of them get along, saying they call it “the campaign of love.”

“We’ve been very friendly with each other at all the different events,” Carvajal said. “I think the fact that there has not been one election code violation written up shows a lot of class and a lot of character [for] all three candidates.”

Medina confirmed to The Hurricane that there have been no campaign violations. At the time of publication Sunday, Medina said there were still no violations.

Carvajal noted in a post-debate interview that during the 2004 election, when eight students ran, there were numerous violations.

“I think everyone is following the rules, everyone’s respecting each other’s spaces and everyone is not nit-picking,” he said.

Greg Linch may be contacted at