By Rachael Wilson
Forty days of fasting came to an end as Jeremy Friedbaum, Independent candidate for governor, was finally allowed to join his opponents in a debate at Utah Valley State College on Wednesday, Oct. 18.
Friedbaum, now 50 pounds lighter out of protesting his exclusion from the gubernatorial debates, said it was appropriate that his first and last debate for governor be at the college where he was nominated teacher of the year. His goal of the day was to teach the room full of students and faculty about Utah’s issues.
“I am committed to restoring the principles of the Constitution. Utah needs to become a refuge of righteous laws where other people will come,” Friedbaum said.
Laughter, cheers and outcries erupted from the audience as the candidates, Republican Gov. Mike Leavitt, former Democratic Congressman Bill Orton, and Independent candidate Jeremy Friedbaum, answered questions submitted by UVSC students and faculty prior to the start of the debate.
Education quickly became the theme of the debate.
“One of the things that make America great is the choices it allows you. I want to give students direct control over educational funds. They can make the best choice for themselves,” Friedbaum said.
Both Leavitt and Orton agreed there should be no large tuition increase but did not support Friedbaum in the removal of state control.
Orton said more money should come from the state for financial aide and reiterated his belief that education is the most important issue of this campaign.
“Education has no commitment, it has not been the top priority. I will make it my number 1 priority,” Orton said.
Leavitt said he was encouraged by the educational advances that have been made throughout the state.
“I feel a sense of profound optimism for the state. Our state has great promise – our educational system is improving,” Leavitt said.
Other issues discussed at the debate were qualifications for appointments made to the Board of Regents, the current status of the state’s public education, support for applied technology centers and alcohol being sold at the 2002 Olympics.
Friedbaum offered new insight into the issue of sales tax as well. While Leavitt and Orton discussed the importance of sales tax for educational funding, Friedbaum said it should just be removed.
“Sales tax will come off if I am elected. There are poor students and families who buy groceries to save money. I will take the sales tax off to allow them to save more money,” Friedbaum said.
The candidates closed the debate with individual themes.
“I hope people will make their decision based on knowledge of the candidates and issues and who will serve the state best. We need a change in the state. We need to move forward in long term planning,” Orton said.
Leavitt said it has been a privilege to serve the people in the state and hopes to continue to do so.
“I have three goals as governor: to leave the place better than I found it, to plant seeds for future generations and to give it all I can,” Leavitt said.
Friedbaum stood by his call for constitutional reform and refocus.
“I am the only candidate against depriving the people of Utah their constitutional rights. I am committed to restoring the principles of the Constitution,” Friedbaum said.
As the debate concluded, Friedbaum pulled out bread and grape juice to break his fast.
“I didn’t know how long I would last. It has only been with the help of God that I’ve been able to get through this. Now, to prove my devotion to God, I will be an advocate for divine principles of our founding fathers,” Friedbaum said.
Jared Finch, student body president at UVSC, said Friedbaum was initially not invited to be in the debate but both Leavitt and Orton agreed to allow him to participate. Friedbaum was then put into the program.