Over the past three campaign cycles, students in Dr. Bucky Dann’s Social Problems class at Southwestern Community College have questioned candidates vying for varying levels of state and local office.
On Sept. 9, Dr. Dann’s current students get to step on the national stage as they will guide the conversation in a debate featuring the two men contending for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives: Republican Madison Cawthorn and Democrat Moe Davis.
“I’m kind of mixed with emotions right now,” said Courtney Thomas, an SCC student who resides in Sylva. “I feel excited because I get to ask questions about topics I think are super-important right now. I’m also super-nervous about public speaking. But I’m mostly excited.”
SCC students spend the first few weeks of their class meetings researching and discussing issues of relevance in the race, and they develop their own questions on a variety of topics with the goal of illustrating the differences in the candidates’ points of view.
The congressional event will be the first of four debates hosted at Southwestern this fall. Following is a list of the other debates, dates and candidates who’ve been invited to appear:
- Jackson County Board of Commissioners (Sept. 24) – Democrats Susan Bogardus (Dist. 3) and Mark Jones (Dist. 4); and Republicans Tom Stribling (Dist. 3) and Mark Letson (Dist. 4).
- N.C. House of Representatives, Dist. 119 (Oct. 8) – Republican Mike Clampitt and Democrat Joe Sam Queen.
- N.C. Senate, District 50 (Oct. 22) – Republican Kevin Corbin and Democrat Victoria Fox.
Because the state remains in Phase 2 of Gov. Roy Cooper’s reopening plan, members of the public will not be able to physically attend the Sept. 9 debate that will be held on SCC’s Jackson Campus. Instead, SCC will provide live streaming video at https://livestream.com/southwesterncc/congress2020.
“From the time we started hosting these debates in 2014, our goal has been to provide an unbiased platform for candidates to express themselves to the public,” said Dr. Dann, a member of SCC’s faculty since 2006. “Every time we’ve gone through this process, our students have impressed me with how thoroughly they’ve researched the issues. Their questions generate thoughtful – if passionate – dialogue among the candidates, and I can already tell this year’s students will uphold that tradition.”
Considering the effect of COVID-19 on today’s political climate, student Donald Norton of Sylva said he’s looking forward to hearing how the candidates respond to questions posed by himself and his classmates.
“2020 has shown a lot of things about America and its underlying infrastructure, and there are a lot of weaknesses that got highlighted: How fragile the economy is sitting versus the unemployment rate,” Norton said. “(COVID) has played a pretty major impact on this year, so candidates need to find a way to step up to the problems that have arisen.”
For updates about SCC’s debates, check SCC’s website (www.southwesterncc.edu) and social media pages (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) regularly.