Mayoral hopefuls will meet in debate

The two candidates seeking the Republican nomination for Columbus mayor will meet in a debate that includes questions gathered from the community.

Incumbent Mayor Kristen Brown and challenger City Councilman Jim Lienhoop will debate at IUPUC in the Columbus Learning Center at 6 p.m. April 1.

IUPUC is sponsoring the event as an example of the university’s belief in civic engagement and democracy, said Marwan Wafa, IUPUC vice chancellor and dean.

Voting is the most important part of democracy, and voters need to have an educated position to do their part, Wafa said.

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“We are an institution of higher learning in the community, and we believe in the value of democracy and determining who should lead the community,” he said.

The debate also is an opportunity for IUPUC students to practice what they are learning in the classroom, Wafa said.

Questions will be formulated by IUPUC faculty and staff but will be directed to the candidates by three IUPUC students representing the university’s student government, debate and communications clubs, said Sandra Miles, IUPUC director of student affairs.

Most of the questions will be asked in a traditional debate format, with candidates receiving a question and being given a set amount of time to answer, followed by a rebuttal. The candidates will give short opening statements, followed by the regular debate for about an hour, and then five minutes in what’s being described as a flash round.

In the Debate in the Flash feature, Brown and Lienhoop will be asked a series of questions and may only answer “Yes” or “No,” Miles said.

IUPUC officials anticipate it may be hard to keep the two candidates to one-word answers, but they won’t be allowed to elaborate, she said.

Some of the questions used in the debate may come from a social-media callout seeking questions from the community, said Carol Branson, IUPUC director of communications and marketing.

The community may propose questions for the candidates using the hashtag #columbusdebate15. Using the hashtag, questions may be sent as a general post on someone’s Facebook, Twitter or Instagram accounts. However, Branson cautioned that IUPUC will only be able to collect questions that come from open accounts. Anyone with a private account would need to add IUPUC as an authorized recipient in order for the university to access the question on their social media accounts.

Questions may also be sent to one of IUPUC’s social media sites on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram by writing the question and using the hashtag.

IUPUC hopes to have as many as 30 questions prepared for the debate, but even staff and faculty who suggested questions won’t know which ones have been selected until the questions are asked the night of the debate, Miles said.

Questions will focus on general, overall city government issues, such as economic development and job creation, although Miles anticipates that education questions might be in the mix since the event is being held at a university, Miles said.

The Columbus Learning Center lecture hall seats 200 people, and IUPUC is exploring options regarding handling an overflow crowd. One possibility being considered is broadcasting the debate into another classroom area where more people could view the debate remotely, Miles said.

If you go

What: Debate between GOP mayoral hopefuls incumbent Mayor Kristen Brown and challenger City Councilman Jim Lienhoop

When: 6 p.m. April 1

Where: Columbus Learning Center lecture hall, 4555 Central Ave.

How much: Free

Hosted by: IUPUC

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Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.