Town hall debates

Town Hall event brings state politicians to campus

To get students interested and involved in the upcoming election on November 4, the Political Engagement Project (PEP) is sponsoring an event to bring candidates to campus.

“The effort on the part of PEP to do this Town Hall Debate was to get students face-to-face with the representatives who speak for their interests at the closest level of government that matters, which is the state,” said Sandy Alspach, Professor of Communications and coordinator of the Town Hall event. “So we invited the incumbent Senator [Judy] Emmons and the challenger, who is [Fred] Sprague, and the incumbent Representative Phil Potvin and the challenger John Ruggles to come and have a town hall debate.”

For some background on each of the four candidates, Senator Judy Emmons assumed office in 2011. She belongs to the Republican Party and her platform revolves mainly around the issue of human trafficking. Her website is Her opponent, Fred Sprague, belongs to the Democratic Party and is primarily concerned with Michigan’s quality of education, economic development, and the state’s environment. More information about his life and political platform can be found at

Representative Phil Potvin of the Republican Party believes in eliminating Michigan’s business tax and downsizing the state’s government. His website can be found at Some of the issues his Democratic opponent, John Ruggles, is concerned with include job creation and education. More information on Ruggles can be found at

The plan was for each candidate to give a speech and have a chance to debate with their opponent, but changes had to be made to accommodate the candidates’ busy schedules. “We started inviting these folks in June,” said Alspach. “If they’ve got a better offer, a place where they think they can get to more constituents and make more of a difference, then our event might fall to second or third place [of their priorities].” Emmons pulled out due to other obligations and Alspach recently learned that Potvin is only able to attend for the first half hour of the event. The current plan is for Potvin to start off the evening with a five-minute speech. Ruggles will be given a chance to respond and give his own speech after Potvin leaves. Since Sprague’s opponent will be absent, he will be able to give his speech followed by a question/answer session facilitated by two student representatives. Following the debates, light refreshments will be served.

The PEP is in hopes that this event will encourage students to become involved and ask thoughtful questions of the candidates. Alspach said this is an excellent opportunity for students to ask questions on controversial social issues, such as abortion, same-sex marriage laws, and marijuana legalization, as well as issues more specific to the university and higher education in Michigan.

Students with questions for the candidates can submit them to one of the two student representatives for the event: Harrison Watt, Editor-in-Chief of the Torch, can be reached at and Andrew Kalinowski, President of the Student Government, can be contacted at

The Political Engagement Project aims to engage students in the political process. “We sponsor events all year long with guest speakers on critical issues [and] people in the political system and try to get students interested in politics,” said Alspach. Earlier in the semester, they launched a “TurboVote” project to educate students on first-time voting and help students register to vote. The last day to register for the November 4th election was October 6th.

The Town Hall Debates will take place on Monday, October 27th from 7-9 pm in the Business building room 111.