Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Candidates John Crockford and Stewart A. Alexander of the Peace and Freedom Party, Don Grundmann of the American Independent Party and George Phillies of the Libertarian Party joined stand-ins for other minor and major party candidates at the forum hosted by the college's Sociology Department.
Local representatives of Democrats Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Dennis Kucinich and Republicans John McCain, Mike Huckabee, Rudy Giuliani and Ron Paul also participated in the debate.
Dozens of Fresno City College students and supporters of both third-party and mainstream candidates attended the more than two-hour forum.
California's presidential primary is Feb. 5.
"It was nice to see five different parties represented," said Gerry Bill, chairman of the Fresno City College Sociology Department.
Bill said he wanted to show students alternative views exist in addition to those expressed by mainstream candidates in television sound bites.
An array of opinions was heard on many topics that ranged across foreign policy, the economy, taxes, immigration and gay marriage.
Many of the participants in the forum and those in the audience were vocal in their opposition to the war in Iraq.
Many in the room were Paul supporters, who applauded Paul's local representative, Steve Wayte, and booed and hissed whenever the Republican candidate was criticized.
The third-party candidates spent much of the forum bashing the Democratic and Republican parties.
"We have something to say that is not being said by the two corporate parties," Alexander said.
Stuart Weil, a local representative for Giuliani, said he was impressed by the diversity of views on the panel.
"The fringe parties do have some great ideas," he said, but added that those ideas could never be implemented without the two major parties.
With some of the candidates and audience members wrangling over ideological differences, local Huckabee representative Peter McMullen said the debate reflected "a lot today of the polarization in America."
But Phillies, the Libertarian candidate, said voting for a third party is a vote for a cause.
Many abolitionists, who lobbied to free slaves in America, advanced their cause through a third party, he said.
"They didn't win any elections, but in the end they won," Phillies said.
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