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Student voters attend US Senate debate watch party ahead of primary election

A viewing of the final U.S. Senate debate for the open California seat is pictured. Many students said they appreciated the opportunity to become more informed on the policy stances and attitudes of candidates. (Nicolas Greamo/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By Amy Wong

Feb. 23, 2024 6:43 p.m.

Post updated Feb. 25 at 10:59 p.m.

UCLA students discussed candidates and political topics at a watch party of the final United States Senate debate for the open California seat Tuesday.

The Division of Campus Life and BruinsVote presented democracy workshops leading up to the March 5 presidential primary election, with Tuesday’s watch party at the Los Angeles Tennis Center Straus Clubhouse being a special edition of the series. During the U.S. Senate debate, attendees watched Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA), Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Steve Garvey and discussed their thoughts soon after.

Some attendees were excited to watch the debate. Catalina Jacinto, a first-year political science and public affairs student, said she was motivated to attend the watch party because she is now able to vote.

“I am a first-time voter. … This is my first primary election that I’m able to vote in, so I’m very excited,” Jacinto said. “I feel like I needed to do my due diligence and go watch the debate, so I can see firsthand what the candidates have to say and to see a live comparison of them.”

The candidates debated a variety of topics, including minimum wage, climate change and positions on foreign policy. Jacinto said she enjoyed the questions the moderators asked about these topics.

“I really liked and appreciated the questions that the moderators are asking, because I feel like they really touched on hot button topics that my generation of voters wanted to hear from our senators,” Jacinto said. “They asked questions about AI (artificial intelligence) and about the Israel and Palestine conflict. And I feel that is really relevant to voters my age, and that’s issues we care about.”

Members of BruinsVote helped organize the workshop and attended the watch party themselves. Kiley Larkin, a third-year environmental science and public affairs student and a member of BruinsVote, said she hoped the debate was entertaining and helpful for students to become more educated about civic engagement.

Maddisen Murrell, a third-year political science student and an ambassador for BruinsVote, said debates can be a reliable way to learn about policy instead of looking online.

“They’re put on the spot – they have to say it and stick with it,” Murrell said. “(It’s) a very smart and fast way to get policy information.”

Jacinto said seeing the candidates’ body language and hearing their responses helped her understand what the issues meant to them.

Some attendees thought certain candidates responded to moderator questions better than others.

Chaitanya Kishore, a first-year political science student, said he appreciated Lee’s inclusion of her personal experiences and that they added to her policy positions.

Once the hourlong debate ended, UCLA students discussed their thoughts on the candidates and their policy positions. Kishore said he found these discussions to be beneficial.

“I enjoy talking about these types of elections with other people, because I feel like I can learn from other people and see what other people are thinking, especially with the California Senate race,” Kishore said. “There hasn’t been an open election since the ‘90s, so I think it’s really important that we make a good choice and are informed.”

Murrell said she thought it was important that people, especially students, learn about democracy because of how it will affect them in the future.

“We are young, we are a large population. … It doesn’t take too much to learn about it,” Murrell said. “Take those steps to understand what’s going on and be informed and make conscientious decisions about what could affect us 10, 20, 50 years down the line.”

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Amy Wong
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