College will not host primary debate

by Estephanie Aquino | 9/21/15 7:31pm

Though the College has a history of hosting primary debates for both the Democratic and Republican presidential hopefuls, this year students will need to travel to Manchester if they want to experience an in-person viewing.

The Republican primary debate will be held on Feb. 6 at St. Anselm College, just three days before New Hampshire hosts the first primary in the nation. The Democratic primary debate will also be held in Manchester on Dec. 19, 2015. St. Anselm previously served as a location for debates in the 2012 election cycle.

College spokesperson Diana Lawrence said that both the Democratic and Republican parties made their interest in southern New Hampshire clear from the beginning, but added that the College has a history of hosting presidential events — the College hosted a Democratic presidential debate in 2007 and the College also hosted a Republican presidential debate in 2011.

“We made a strong case for Dartmouth based on our experience and long history of hosting successful presidential candidate events,” Lawrence said.

Lawrence said the College will continue to welcome candidates in the upcoming months, although formal debates will not be held.

“Our priority is to provide access to candidates for our students and the community every four years,” Lawrence said. “[Democratic presidential candidate] Hillary Clinton campaigned at Dartmouth in July, and we look forward to welcoming more candidates in the coming months.”

Government professor Linda Fowler, who specializes in practical politics, said that she does not believe that the absence of debate at Dartmouth will have a negative impact on primary voter turnout.

“Candidates have started coming into the state so early that I don’t think it is that much of an issue to the turnout,” Fowler said.

Fowler, who facilitated forums and debates at Dartmouth in 1996, 2000 and 2004, said that she believes, to an extent, that the location and number of debates scheduled depend on resources and time.

“It’s all about where the news media want to host it, and this year there’s only going to be one [in New Hampshire] and it’s easier to host it in Manchester,” she said.

She added that Manchester has facilities that are suitable for hosting the candidates and audiences.

Fowler said that because Manchester is more accessible, the city was a better candidate for selection.

“Sometimes [the media] have been persuaded to do those [debates] at Dartmouth because Dartmouth is such a picturesque location, and the visuals are really nice leading up to the event and so forth,” she said.

She added that unless tensions rise in either party, there will not be a need to schedule additional debates.

“Hillary Clinton was so far ahead than everyone, that there was not a push for debates,” she said. “There wasn’t a perception that there was a serious contest, but [Democratic presidential candidate] Bernie Sanders has made the democratic primary of more interest, particularly in New Hampshire.”

She said that she doubts that there will be an additional debate, and if there is, it will not be held at Dartmouth.

Though debates will not be physically held in Hanover, College Republicans president Michelle Knesbach ’17 said that the Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and student organizations provide possibilities for students to be politically active throughout the 2016 primary and presidential elections.

“We aren’t having a debate here, but there will be endless opportunities for access to candidates,” Knesbach said.

Knesbach said that Republican candidates have already made visits to the Upper Valley area. She added that though candidate visits tend to be made on short notice, students should expect many more events in upcoming terms.

Knesbach also said that the College Republicans are working to align internships and meeting opportunities with Republican candidates, noting that Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) made a stop at Lou’s Restaurant to meet with the College Republicans.

Former vice president of College Democrats Charlotte Blatt ’18 added that College Democrats hosted its first general meeting Monday evening to discuss the election events schedule. Blatt added that College Democrats will co-sponsor a bipartisan voter registration drive with College Republicans.

“We want every eligible Dartmouth student to exercise their constitutional right to vote and to get involved with and be informed about politics,” Blatt said. “The student vote is incredibly important, and we hope all Dartmouth students take full advantage of our location in New Hampshire, the first-in-the-nation primary state, and engage with the political process.”

Blatt added that College Democrats will continue to keep students engaged with the political process by hosting issue advocacy dinners and debate watch parties.

Katherine Flessel ’18 expressed her discontent with the absence of sanctioned debates at the College.

“I feel like Dartmouth is an intellectual center for New Hampshire, and as a young person being able to participate in the election process for the first time I feel as if I would be better informed and much more engaged if either party held a debate on campus,” she said.