The Arizona Desert Lamp

Special Election 2008: Debate Reaction

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 10 September 2008

Tonight marked the first (and, presumably, only) debate between the two candidates for the ASUA Senate seat vacancy, Andre Rubio and Dominick Plado. Background coverage on the two candidates can be read here. The debate was surprisingly interesting; however, by the end, the options presented were ultimately disappointing.

The debate broke down into a dichotomy that may sound very familiar: Andre Rubio cited his experience as a cabinet member under Tommy Bruce, while Dominick Plado emphasized his outsider status, and his ability to be bring a fresh perspective and change to ASUA. Experience v. Change. Hmm.

As the debate wore on, Plado’s sentiment against the status quo in ASUA increased to a fever pitch. He started by relating a nickname I’d personally never heard of AEUA — the Associated Elites of the UA, then detailing how he left after a month as a senate aide because he felt, “as though I didn’t mater.” Then, when asked about his qualifications, he segued from his work on RHA to a scathing denunciation of the Greek influence on ASUA, claiming that, “no offense, but all Senators. . . well, everyone, except for Gabby [Ziccarelli] is a member of a social Greek organization.” Almost immediately, one of the ASUA members exclaimed, “That’s not true!” A small back-and-forth went off, with the conclusion that Plado was wrong (Baker, for one, is not in Greek life), but the angry reaction is very telling.

He built on this to echo Rosie Reid-Correra’s own proposal of restructuring ASUA to have one representative from each college, rather than a free-for-all election for all the seats. In fact, at 10:54 this evening, Reid-Correa endorsed Plado on his Facebook group, saying that, “I support Dominick to take on what what used to be MY senate seat.” I can’t definitively comment whether or not this is a good idea (more on that forthcoming), but it is a proposal outside of the mainstream of “more safety and sustainability.”

Yet ultimately, I found that the outsider message fell flat. For one, he’s been heavily involved with RHA, an organization with many of the same issues as ASUA, only that is represents a smaller population, and brings less to the table, never mind its uselessness to the relatively high proportion of students living off-campus. By the end, Plado seemed to back away from his earlier fire, saying unequivocally that he would continue to try to be involved in ASUA, that ASUA is a “great organization,” and that he isn’t promising to make everything different, but is just, “trying to make ASUA ‘your’ student government.” Somehow, I feel like I’ve heard this before.

In comparison to Plado, Rubio exerted a sort of familiarity and coolness in the debate. He is ASUA through-and-through, and never let us forget the fact. He has also been involved with the New Start program, as well as the AEUA finishing school Freshman Class Council. Plado became a bit wishy-washy on how serious he was about shaking ASUA up, but Rubio stuck with “experience” — I recorded the word on half of his responses, and I probably missed a few of them. Nowhere, however, was this argument more obvious than in his closing statement– “Dominick has been out the last couple of weeks, getting signatures, figuring out what students need,” he said, “but I’ve been out there for the past year.” Rubio attempted to channel some of the “new perspective” energy of Plado, but I’m skeptical that, after working under Bruce for such a period of time, he would suddenly become a contrarian voice in the Senate.

Ultimately, the election leaves us with an unsatisfactory choice. Rubio’s candidacy offers a qualified manager, well-versed in the ins and outs of the ASUA system, but unlikely to offer anything outside of the trope that we’ve heard for the past two weeks. Plado offers some platitudes towards a genuinely alternative outlook, but ultimately is unresolved towards any sort of serious opposition and ultimately focuses on the same themes as everyone else.

Since this isn’t the Wildcat, I have no obligation to endorse. So I won’t.

——

A few random notes:

– With only one podium available at a far corner, the candidates had to alternately stand up and sit down to respond to questions, a set-up that proved to be fairly awkward. Meanwhile, the questioners sat at a long table in the center, facing away from the audience. In terms of presentation, it would have made much more sense to have the candidates seated at the table, and put the questioner in the far podium.

– Speaking of the questions, a solidly mediocre moderating job by President Tommy Bruce. A lot of generic questions (“What makes you qualified?”; “What does ‘your student government mean to you?”), and then the all-to-cliche stupid question — in this case, “What type of sandwich would you be, and why?” Rubio had the good sense to call this for what it is, answering that, “A BLT. . . it’s not relevant to my candidacy, but. . .”

Also, when it came to the audience-generated-questions round, Bruce seemed to let two fairly slanted questions go by: One, directly to Plado, asked, “Why do you feel that all members of ASUA are narrow minded?” (to be fair, he did say that, but this very much the “gotcha” game on the national level that got so much bad press), while another started off, “While national trends are important, the specific needs of the UA are most important.” This was a clear reference to Plado’s role as the UA’s representative to the national RHA conference. I can understand why these questions were offered (the crowd mostly consisted of ASUA members), but that doesn’t mean that the moderators can’t exercise a little discretion.

– I have nothing more to say about their platforms than what I said before. Plado’s are slightly preferable, if only because they are more likely to happen and will have a slight impact. Yet both focused on the sustainability canard, even as the UA is already cited as one of the most sustainable campuses in the country. Ultimately, both offer very little in the way of interesting policies.

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