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USG presidential debate turns into discussion

Becca Marrie / Lantern photographer

Unopposed candidates Taylor Stepp and Josh Ahart did not have to fight for speaking time on Tuesday night during the Undergraduate Student Government presidential debate.
Stepp, a third-year in public affairs and current USG president, took the time that had been set aside for opposing candidates to debate to have an open discussion with the about 50 students who attended. Stepp outlined what he accomplished during his presidency and his future goals for USG before opening up the floor for questions.
“I realize that it was very important to run again for a second-term,” Stepp said. “I think USG has done a lot of good this year.”
Although Stepp did not have to debate with write-in candidate and second-year in political science Jacob Coate, nor did Coate attend the debate, members of Coate’s campaign were there to represent him when the floor was opened up for questions.
Caleb Johnson, a second-year in political science and English, is a manager on Coate’s campaign. Johnson said Coate was not able to make it to the debate due to other speaking engagements.
“We love everything (Stepp and Ahart) have to say, we just feel like we could do a little better,” Johnson said. “Jacob has a really big love for democracy, and an unopposed election isn’t helping a democracy.”
Cameron Phelps, a second-year in psychology and criminology, is the treasurer of Coate’s campaign and said Coate thought it would be rude to show up and debate Stepp without approval.
“We met with the judicial panel earlier this week to become part of the debate,” Phelps said. “But the judicial panel didn’t see it our way.”
The USG judicial panel interprets the USG constitution and oversees elections.
Stepp acknowledged Coate’s absence.
“I would love to have a conversation with him and debate if possible,” Stepp said.
The incumbent said he feels more confident in his campaign compared to last year and said reception to the campaign has been “fantastic.”
Ahart, a third-year in public affairs, is Stepp’s vice-presidential candidate and will replace current vice president Kevin Arndt if elected.
“I wouldn’t say it wasn’t a debate, it was more of a conversation though,” Ahart said. “I was more excited about being able to engage with students.”
Ahart said he is not worried about other campaigns.
“We’re only focused on ourselves,” he said.
Stepp said financial aid and affordability should be USG’s main focus, as well as a switch to digital textbooks, a university-approved landlord model and advanced campus safety initiatives.
“I think we have a really fantastic year ahead of us if Josh and I are elected,” Stepp said. “I think we’re about to take USG to the next level.”
USG voting opens Wednesday at noon and closes Friday at 11:59 p.m.

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