Only 100 Tickets Allotted To Students For Democratic Debate At UNLV

This story was written by Brian Ahern, The Rebel Yell
While UNLV made history Thursday, holding Nevada's first presidential debate ever, many were noticeably disturbed by the lack of student tickets provided by event organizers.

Only 100 students received tickets after entering a lottery system to obtain them.

"I wish they would have had about 15 percent students," said Nevada Higher Education Chancellor Jim Rogers. "We complain that [students] don't know and then we don't let them know. They are the future of our country."

Presidential candidate Delaware Sen. Joe Biden echoed Rogers, saying UNLV students should have been at the top of the list for ticket distributors.

"I would have been very upset about this," Biden said. "This is your campus and you should have had first priority."

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean said a shortage in tickets was not only a problem for students.

"It's always important to have more students, but of course you had people from all over the country come," Dean said. "There were people coming from six states so it was tough getting tickets. We didn't even have 100 tickets with the DNC."

"Students should be lucky to get 100 tickets."

Meanwhile, students weren't the only ones feeling left out.

Throughout the debate, CNN moderator Wolf Blitzer repeatedly assured candidates and hecklers that everyone on campus would have a fair chance to speak.

"We're going to bring in everybody," Blitzer said. "Everyone's going to get time tonight; don't worry, we got a lot of time."

When that time ran out New York Sen. Hillary Clinton and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama had the most, with close to 18 minutes of talk time with 16 responses each. Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich and Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd had the least amount of speaking time, with both of them speaking close to seven minutes with seven responses each.

"I had a chance to participate a little bit more than I usually do," Kucinich said later. "I just wanted to make sure they knew I was there."

Bob Arum, boxing promoter and large contributor to the Nevada Democratic Party, could be heard shouting during the debate, asking CNN to allow all candidates equal time to speak.

The debate itself looked like a war zone among the candidates. Observing the heavy-handed political attacks on stage, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson likened them to what he saw as the policy of his opponents.

"It seems that John [Edwards] wants to start a class war. It seems that Barack wants to start a generational war. It seems that Senator Clinton, with all due respect on her plan on Iraq, doesn't end the war," Richardson said.

Obama and Former South Carolina Sen. John Edwards faced a barrage of heckles and boos from the rowdy Las Vegas audience when likening Clinton to Republican candidates and linking her to what they called a corrupt Washington system.

"This is the kind of thing I would expect from Mitt Romney or Rudy Giuliani," Obama said of Clinton's tax cut stance, struggling to make himself heard over the crowd's boisterous defense of Clinton.

Edwards faced an even harsher audience response when he asserted, "Senator Clinton defends the system, takes money from lobbyists, does all those things."

Biden said such assaults are not what the American people are looking for and actually hurt the party as a whole.

"The American people don't give a darn about any of this stuff that's going on up here," he said. "Every political campaign gets to this place. And I'm not criticizing any of the three people who are the ones who always get to talk all the time at these things."

Dean said the audience's unfavorable reactions to the attacks worked well to putsuch things to a stop and made his job easier as a representative of the Democratic Party.

"The best thing that happened was that when the attacks were going on among the candidates the audience sort of stepped in and made it clear that they didn't want to hear any more of it," Dean said. "One of my jobs was being the referee, but the audience did that for me and I was very pleased about that."

Katherine Fernelius contributed to this report.
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