Presidential debate stirs tension

Candidates for student body president faced off over campus wide issues last Friday night while Florida A&M University held its annual presidential debate in Lee Hall.

Gallop Franklin, Kristopher Gibson and Dexter Rho used this debate to present their platforms, as well as raise pointed questions about each other’s character, judgment, and potential in an event that became one of the most spirited and combative events of the 2010 campaign season so far.

Each candidate was met with thunderous applause from their supporters as they walked across the stage. However, tension began to build throughout the night as candidates touched on a wide variety of issues including the best strategies for retention to the alleged misallocation of funds by incumbent Franklin.

As each candidate presented his platform, the mud slinging began. Rho transformed his first question into an opportunity to attack Franklin’s administration, stating that he had failed to fulfill his promises to the student body.

That set the backdrop for one of the sharpest exchanges of the evening when in response to a question from the moderator about financial responsibility Rho accused Franklin of allocating more than $5,000 in student funds to one of his associates.

It also put on display the vast differences between the candidates with only four days left until election day. While Franklin appeared calm under pressure, Rho’s raw energy evoked a strong reaction among the crowd and Gibson sought to return the focus to the issues.
The debate was effective at persuading at least one student to cast his vote.

“I think that Dexter Rho was the voice of the students body. He had the courage to ask the questions that the students have been looking for the answers to,” said Devin Iverson, 20, public relations student from Atlanta.

Presidential candidate Kristopher Gibson, 21, from Tallahassee illustrated his belief of focusing on the duties of the office rather than the individual that holds it.

“The electoral process people tend to get rowdy, but the students gets fed up and maybe forget that it’s not about the person but about the job,” said Gibson, a third-year political science student. “I think some of my points is to put respect back into office, if you can’t lead you can’t follow if the student body as a whole is complacent then will steer them in the right direction. No one was here to bash Gallop Franklin, the person, but hold the man that’s sits in office accountable.”

After the candidates presented their last efforts to garner votes, it was time for the students to get their questions answered first hand. A line quickly formed in the aisles of Lee Hall and potential voters began asking questions regarding retention, out of state recruitment, and the stimulus packages among other issues. Candidates had their fair share of questions, but current SGA president Franklin had the most.