UC Merced saw its first debate between state-level candidates Thursday at a student-run event. The college's Political Science Students Association held the debate between Assembly District 21 hopefuls Adam Gray and Jack Mobley.
"Our mission is to develop cultural and political awareness amongst the students and the people of Merced," said Harshdeep Dhillon, student association president. "We're trying to create more political awareness on campus."
The questions were wide ranging, and candidates' responses outlined the two broad philosophies voters in the region have to choose from.
Republican Mobley answered most questions by appealing to two ideas: decrease regulation and lower taxes.
"Right now, businesses are leaving. They're taking the gold out of the Golden State, and they're taking it to Texas, Tennessee and Nevada," Mobley said. "This is California, people want to be here, but they have to be able to afford to be here."
Gray, a Democrat, called for investment in public projects to strengthen the economy, specifically high-speed rail and education.
"We have real problems here," Gray said. "We have high unemployment, we have a lack of infrastructure spending. But we have a shining beacon of hope, and that hope's right here in UC Merced."
About 120 students listened politely as both candidates expounded on their traditional talking points, answering about 20 questions with minute and a half response times.
Both candidates sounded off about Gov. Jerry Brown's tax hike proposal.
Mobley blasted the ballot proposition. "If we pass Prop. 30 it will be a tax increase that will drive more businesses, more wealth-producing jobs out of the state, shrink the economy and provide less money to UC Merced," he said.
"We need to lessen the onerous regulations. We need to lessen the taxes that are foisted upon our citizens. And we need to hold on. The economy will come back," Mobley said.
Gray attacked Mobley's plan. "It might provide tax relief on the upper end, but it doesn't provide tax relief for anyone in this room," he said.
After the debate many students stuck around to talk with the candidates one on one.
Paul Gonzalez, 20, a junior majoring in business management, said he was going to vote for Mobley based on his economic platform, although he was impressed by both candidates.
"I think both of them came out really well. They seemed to have a good grasp of their message. They stayed on point," he said.
Sean Duffy, 21, a senior political science major, said he was going to vote for Gray.
"Listening to both candidates helped me out," he said. "I've been a high-speed rail supporter, even though there's some debt that comes with it. I do believe it's going to be very good for our community and our state."
The debate had at least one student questioning his preferred candidate.
Jordan Colindres, 18, a freshman mechanical engineering major, said "I was leaning toward one side, but after this debate I have to rethink my vote. I was originally thinking Mobley, and I'm still leaning toward him, but Gray does bring up good key points."
Reporter Joshua Emerson Smith can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or firstname.lastname@example.org.