Vice President Biden garners votes at UNC Asheville’s Justice Center

by: Jackie Starkey – News Editor – jstarkey@unca.edu

Joe Biden speaks at UNC Asheville on Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2012.

Vice President Joe Biden called for western North Carolina voters to take a democratic stand on education policies and job market growth in the upcoming 2012 general election at a UNC Asheville campaign event.

“If we win North Carolina, we win,” Biden said in his speech.

Biden brought the Democratic campaign to North Carolina on Oct. 2, the eve of the first presidential debate, stopping at UNCA’s Justice Center to rally the western part of the state.

North Carolina is one of nine swing states in the upcoming election, according to political tracking experts, making it a battleground for both political parties as they attempt to generate enough interest to win the state’s 15 electoral votes.

“It is not an exaggeration to suggest that the country faces the starkest choice for president in my memory,” Biden said.

Biden said the differences in the social policies of the two parties have never been greater, and if allowed to win, the Republican party’s platform would have a profound impact, especially in regard to women and minority groups.

“There is no American to whom this selection matters more, than to all you voters on the fence, “ Biden said.

Biden was joined in Asheville by fellow Democrats North Carolina Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton, who is running for governor in upcoming state election, and 11th Congressional District Representative Heath Shuler.

Together, the Democrats hoped to rally support for their party and turn North Carolina, a state with a long history of voting Republican, blue in the Nov. 6 presidential election.

During his visit to campus, the vice president focused on issues concerning young and first time voters, as well as the importance of strengthening our nation’s education system and highlighting Obama’s plans to make college education more affordable for our middle class.

“Children tend to become that which we expect of them. We expect a lot of them,” Biden said.

Cutting teachers in our primary and secondary education system needs to be halted, Biden said.

“For Romney and Ryan, public education acts literally as an after thought,” Biden said. “Romney and Ryan plan massive cuts to education, $4.9 million.”

Furthermore, Biden said the Republican Party planned to take away tax cuts for families with students away at school, making higher-level education harder on the middle class and increasing the debt of graduating seniors.

“Me, Michelle and Barack know none of us would be where we are today; none of us would be standing before any of you had it not been for loans,” Biden said.

Biden said though student loan debt has reached an all-time high, the Obama administration has plans to make current debt more manageable by introducing the Student Loan Forgiveness Act, which would make payments on students loans exceed no more than 10 percent of a person’s disposable income per year.

Additionally, Biden said Democrats have spent the last four years trying to prevent excessive debt among college students by increasing federal aid to those in need.

“We increased the number of students on college on Pell Grants from six million to nine million,” Biden said.

Biden said the Republican Party’s plans for cuts to education would further cripple the struggling public school system.

“The Romney/Ryan budget doesn’t do anything for education,” Biden said. “But it sure does a lot to it.”

While the vice president addressed the need for student registration and activism on behalf of college debt and education reform, UNCA interdisciplinary and religious studies student Megan Rabuck said she was interested in social issues such as immigration and the status of the job market.

“I think the most pressing issue for young people is jobs,” Rabuck said. “Employment is really big, especially in North Carolina.”

Biden urged the voters to hold the Republican Party responsible for job loss, the 2008 recession and the lack of solid financial plans coming out of the Republican platform.

“I’ll tell you how (the 2008 recession) happened. The last time these guys were in charge they put two wars on a credit card,” Biden said. “The result is they doubled the national debt. The result is we experienced the slowest national private sector job growth since WWII.”

Biden said the middle class faced an eight year decline following the last Republican presidency, and the tax cuts Republicans planned for millionaires will further hurt the average American household.

The Obama Administration, Biden said, has worked to increase tax cuts for the American middle class and promote job growth throughout the states.

Biden’s assertions are supported by September’s Bureau of Labor Statistics report, which cited the national unemployment rate has fallen from 8.1 percent to 7.8 percent since August, adding 114,000 new jobs to the private and public sectors.

“In all my time in public office, I have never seen a presidential candidate with such a profound misunderstanding of the American people,” Biden said.

Biden said the Obama administration will push forward with plans to strengthen and grow the middle class in North Carolina and beyond.

Biden’s visit brought a crowd so large, UNCA had to provide additional overflow space so event attendees could hear the vice president’s speech.

 Local Obama supporter Regina Mapp said the campaign visit marks an impact for voters of North Carolina, where issues like federal health insurance policies need to be addressed during the upcoming presidency.

“Working for the government, I see the need for helping the middle class and those who do not have health insurance coverage,” Mapp said.

Mapp said Obama’s plans for increased government aid could benefit western parts of the state where the middle class is suffering.

“Asheville itself has done a fantastic job of providing support for the homeless and the middle class,” Mapp said.

The visit of the vice president is a significant marker not only for western North Carolina, but for UNCA as a university.

“I think for our campus, this gives us a lot of national attention,” said Student Government Association President Ben Judge, who spoke to the crowd just prior to the vice president. “This is the first time a sitting vice president has come to our campus. Hopefully, it’s not the last time.”

Judge said the ability to host such a notable figure is a service to our student body, many of whom are first time voters.

“I think it’s a great opportunity that we are able to provide a forum for (the) discourse of ideas,” Judge said.

Judge said SGA and the UNCA system would be more than willing to host representatives for the Republican Party to further promote voter awareness of both the candidates and their policies.

 Sophomore health and wellness promotion student Lisa Riggsbee said despite being a Republican voter, the visit of the vice president was an important event for all UNCA students, regardless of political party affiliation.

“He’s a world leader in politics, regardless of what I think or what anyone else thinks,” Riggsbee said. “That’s a big deal for our campus and big deal for Asheville.”

Riggsbee said she feels Republicans are strongly outnumbered on UNCA’s campus, but Biden’s visit was an event for young voters of all political inclinations.

“I think it’s important to be educated on both sides,” Riggsbee said. “How do you know what you stand for if you don’t know what the other (party) stands for?”

Riggsbee, who is the daughter of a public school teacher and a small business owner, said the issues the vice president spoke on were timely and crucial to the voting climate of North Carolina.

Biden’s visit was followed by that of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney to the U.S. Cellular Center last Thursday, giving western North Carolina voters a taste of both parties.

Biden urged the state to cast their votes for President Obama, who pledges to keep the country moving forward.

“We are not going back,” Biden said. “America is neither dependant, nor in decline. It is never a good bet to bet against the American people.”

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