Updated 10/18/2012 10:52 AM
Skidmore students get up-close view of U.S. Senate debate
When Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Republican challenger Wendy Long debated face-to-face Wednesday night, they did so before a packed crowd; a crowd that included several hundred Skidmore College students. Matt Hunter reports.
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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. -- Wednesday night's debate at Skidmore College was New York voters' one chance to see U.S. Senate candidates Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Republican challenger Wendy Long on the same stage before next month's election. The meeting also gave Skidmore's student population an opportunity to see the civic process in action up close.
"Being able to see the people who make the laws in this country, having them express their views and being right in that same auditorium, it's just really a great opportunity," sophomore government major Dan Miller said. "I wouldn't miss it for the world."
"I'm pretty honored that they're here," said senior neuroscience major Julia Mazzarella, who watched from a campus auditorium. "I wish I could be in there watching but yeah, it's pretty great to be hosting them."
Of the 600 people inside the auditorium, roughly one-third were Skidmore students. Those who couldn't get tickets watched in dining halls and auditoriums around campus.
Many of the issues addressed by the two candidates are key to young voters.
"With the fracking issue, I think Wendy Long saying the health risks are a myth, I think that's just horrible," Miller said.
"I think the abortion issue is a big part of this election and being a girl, that's very important," said Madeline Frank, a senior neuroscience major.
Of all the issues discussed, one - jobs and the economy - seemed to be most essential to the young co-eds.
"It's kind of nerve-wracking," said senior government major Geoff Green, who attended the debate. "At the same time, I really don't want to live at home, I want to get out there and see what I can do with my life."
"As a senior in college, I'm graduating in the spring and I want to know there's going to be an improvement in the economy and I'm going to be able to find a job," Mazzarella said.
Before the debate, moderator Errol Lewis asked the audience, by raising their hands, to identify the candidate they support. It was decidedly a pro-Gillibrand crowd, mirroring the trend in recent polls. Even after the debate wrapped up, at least a few voters say they're heading into Election Day undecided.
"I think you definitely saw two very different viewpoints," Green said. "I'm definitely still on the fence."
In the most recent Quinnipiac College poll, Senator Gillibrand held a 37 point advantage over Ms. Long, who now has less than three weeks to attempt to make up ground.