DENVER – Progressives have seized the upcoming Republican presidential debate in Colorado as an opportunity to attack the party as being offensive.
The controversy stems from a lack of tickets being made available to the Oct. 28 event at the 11,000-person Coors Events Center on the University of Colorado campus in Boulder.
Of the 1,000 tickets being distributed by the Republican National Committee, only 100 have been made available to students. Students have requested that an additional 1,000 seats be made available.
“When I found out that most of the seats in the Coors Events Center will be empty, and that students had almost no chance of actually seeing the debate in person, I was offended,” said Spencer Carnes, a University of Colorado student who has been organizing a protest. “If politicians want to use my school as a backdrop, we expect them to let us be in the room to hear what they have to say.”
The ticket situation is not unprecedented. Only a fraction of the 20,562-person Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland was filled for the first Republican presidential debate. Only 300 attended the debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.
“These debates are designed for a television audience and the millions of people who will tune in,” said Fred Brown, an RNC spokesman. “We look forward to the attention an event of this scale will bring the university.”
CU Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano defended the university in a recent statement, pointing out that the decision-making is done by the RNC and CNBC, which is producing the debate. DiStefano added that the university was successful in increasing the student ticket allotment from 50 to 100.
The chancellor agreed it is inappropriate to fill the entire stadium, acknowledging that the event is designed for television. Still, he applauded students for engaging.
“Those who say that the 18- to 24-year-old demographic doesn’t care about politics or the future of our country are obviously not talking about CU-Boulder students,” DiStefano said.
A CNBC spokesperson declined to comment about the ticketing controversy.
Unlike the other Republican debates, the situation in Colorado is a bit more thorny given the youth factor. Republicans have long struggled to engage younger voters.
Amy Runyon-Harms, executive director of ProgressNow Colorado, suggested that the RNC’s decision is indicative of the party and its candidates.
“Using CU to boost the credibility of these candidates while excluding CU students from participation in this debate is simply wrong,” Runyon-Harms said. “If the GOP refuses to allow students to even attend a presidential debate on their own campus, what does that say about the candidates?”