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UMFK to host second district congressional debate as part of a series of American Democracy Project events

October 1, 2004


The University of Maine at Fort Kent will be the host site for a series of three political debates that will begin on Monday, October 18, when the candidates running for Maine's Second District Congressional seat square off in one of only two scheduled exchanges featuring the three men who will appear on the November second ballot.

Incumbent Democrat Michael Michaud of East Millinocket, Republican challenger Brian Hamel of Presque Isle, and Independent candidate Carl Cooley, a member of the Socialist Equality Party from Jackson, will all participate in the 60-minute forum, beginning at 7:00 p.m. in the Fox Auditorium at UMFK.

The debate will mark the first of three consecutive evenings of pre-election events hosted by UMFK, through its partnership with the American Democracy Project.

On Tuesday evening, October 19, the candidates for Maine State Senate District 35 will participate in a similar forum, and on Wednesday evening, October 20, a final forum will be held between the candidates running in Maine House District 1.

The October 18 Second District Congressional debate at UMFK has been in the planning since late June, when the University first approached the Michaud and Hamel campaigns with a proposal to participate in a formal exchange on the St. John Valley campus. By mid-August the October 18 date had been selected and agreed upon by both campaigns.

The UMFK debate, which will be aired live on Channel X Radio and videotaped by the university for later broadcast on various cable access television stations in northern Maine, will come just three days after the only other scheduled forum between all three candidates. That debate, on Friday, October 15, will be aired on Maine PBS.

The Exchange will be a hybrid of the traditional moderator/panelist debate and the "town hall" meeting-style forum, which involves the audience more interactively.

Selected panelists, representing the UMFK community and critical areas of importance to northern Maine, will address questions from amongst an on-stage audience.

Following a welcome and candidate introductions by University President Richard Cost, Jason Parent, UMFK director of university relations and alumni affairs will moderate the forum ensuring the questions flow and candidates respond within their alloted time.

Panelists addressing questions to the candidates include four UMFK students, one representing each academic division on campus, Bradley Ritz, associate professor of business, representing UMFK's faculty, Nick Bayne, president of the Aroostook Partnerhip for Progress, Don Flannery, executive director of the Maine Potato Board, Ian Johnstone, a representative of the Maine Forest Products council, and Douglas Beaulieu, Aroostook County administrator.

Four alternates including Douglas Christiansen, news director for Channel X Radio, Don Levesque, publisher of the St. John Valley Times, Sarah Smith UMFK Student Senate president, and Burnette Bowker, president of the UMFK alumni association will ask a question if time permits.

The debate will include 90 second opening and closing remarks by each candidate and nine to twelve panelists questions that each will be alloted 90 seconds in which to respond, followed by a 30 second rebuttal time.

"Demand for tickets for this event is already high," said Parent. "Not only have we had a great deal of on-campus interest for this debate, we have been receiving calls from area high school social studies teachers interested in bringing entire classes to the event to use it as a learning experience, as well as from individuals from the central and southern parts of Aroostook County who want to drive up to attend the debate."

Interest in the debate is exactly what campus officials at UMFK were hoping to spark as the campus joins in the nation-wide American Democracy Project, which is designed to produce graduates who understand and are committed to engaging in meaningful actions as citizens in a democracy.

The project targets undergraduates enrolled at institutions that are members of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU).

The project grew out of a concern about decreasing rates of participation in the civic life of America in voting, in advocacy, in local grassroots associations, and in other forms of civic engagement that are necessary for the vitality of our democracy.

The project, which initially involved 144 member campuses of AASCU has grown to include nearly 200 schools, representing more than 1.3 million students.

Directed by AASCU, a project co-director for the American Democracy Project comes from The New York Times.

To accommodate as many people interested in the upcoming candidate's forum as possible, debate organizers changed the venue from a smaller facility on campus to the 400-seat Fox Auditorium.

Half of the seats available are being reserved for students, faculty, staff and alumni of UMFK. General public tickets for the event are free, but should be reserved in advance through the university relations office at UMFK, as only a limited number are available.

For more information on the Second District Congressional debate or for tickets, call (207) 834-7557 or visit UMFK's website at