Debate inspires Broward College students to read up, get involved

Joseph Magrina (middle) holds a sign for Rep. Matt Gaetz in the media spin room following Wednesday night's debate. Magrina served as a debate stand-in to help the television production team prepare for the debate. Photo: Katie Garwood

By Katie Garwood |

If weren’t for the final gubernatorial debate taking place on his campus at Broward College, Deyonn Daniels may not have been quite as informed on the race between Republican Ron DeSantis and Democrat Andrew Gillum.

Daniels, 21, has been reading up on the race in past weeks to prepare for the his role as a stand-in. Stand-ins held mock debates, serving as candidates, panelists and moderators to assist the television production team in preparing to shoot the debate. In return, the students were given tickets to watch the debate live.

And for those not acting as stand-ins, the debate’s presence was still felt throughout campus: watch parties were held around the college and in the weeks leading up to the debate, campus organizations helped students register to vote.

Before becoming a stand-in, Daniels said he wasn’t at all interested in politics, but now can say he knows what each party stands for and is beginning to form his own opinions.

Though he had yet to make up his mind on a candidate prior to the debate, he said he hoped watching from the audience would help him make his choice.

“They both bring very good views,” said Daniels, a computer science major. “Gillum stands on a very good healthcare platform and DeSantis talks about a prosperous economy he can provide … I also want to hear them talk about every single thing they have on their website but in a different way. We can always Google answers to things they’ve talked about before, but I want a different perspective into how they think individually.”

David Consuegra, a stand-in, was also undecided, but said he hoped watching the debate would sway him in one direction or the other. He was seeking answers from candidates about the environment and the state’s economy.

The environment of Florida brings a lot of economic prosperity to the state, but specifically tourism is our primary source of income and revenue,” said Consuegra, 22. “To me, what each candidate says to defend the environment and what they’re going to do to try to make the economy better – it’s important that there’s a plan for the next five, 10, 15 years and we can plan accordingly or at least reallocate the budget in a specific way.”

Joseph Magrina, 18, has already made up his mind and planned to vote for DeSantis. He said he’d been interested in politics “all my life,” adding that DeSantis aligns more with his conservative view points.

But debates give voters a chance to see candidates in person, how they react under pressure and what their body language is like. Though he supports DeSantis, Magrina said Gillum has an Obama-esque way of conducting himself.

Gillum reminds me of Barack Obama,” he said. “He’s well spoken, he knows what he’s talking about, he’s smooth he’s calm. And Ron DeSantis is more like John McCain, more rigid. He wasn’t as smooth and calm as Gillum.”

Wednesday’s debate, much like the campaign’s first debate broadcast on CNN, was filled with attacks from both sides. Daniels said he hoped this meeting between the candidates would be more tame.

They both had good view points, but they were fighting each other,” Daniels said. “I can watch a fight anywhere. I can watch a fight on UFC, I can fight with my own brother. I don’t want to see it in politics. I want to hear policies. They were bickering on stage a lot.”

But even with the debate taking place on campus, political knowledge among students on campus can still be hit or miss, Consuegra said. Midterm elections can be a difficult subject to interest students in, but as politics find their way into popular culture, students are starting to take notice.

“Some musical artists are starting to pick a party, and we listen to a lot of music,” Daniels said. “So when we see that on TV, and we see that on YouTube or Snapchat, I’m going to say “I like this artist, but why did he make that decision?’ And that sparks a question, that sparks curiosity. I think the curiosity is there, and people are going to do research.”

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