Those playing the roles of candidates really were Lee high school seniors and government students in Valerie Valentine's classes. They played President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, along with Republican candidates Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, Green Party candidates Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala, Constitution Party candidates Virgil Goode and Jim Clymer, and Libertarian candidates Gary Johnson and Wayne Root.
“I like for my students to know that there are more than two political parties in the country,” Ms. Valentine said before the debate began. She said her classes had recently counted 197 different political parties. Ms. Valentine, who has been teaching government at Lee for 12 years, said this is her third year to organize the mock debates at the school. The day included a mock election, in which all senior students were invited to cast their ballots for president.
The events are a part of the My Voice National Student Mock Election activities going on in high schools across the country, Ms. Valentine said. The My Voice National Student Mock Election makes it possible for students to engage directly in their communities by casting a vote in the national and state elections, along with taking part in polls and a civic project, according to their website.
A hush fell over the audience at the high school school's performing arts center as most of the candidates, with the exception of Taylor Tankersley, 17, who portrayed Mitt Romney, said they favored the legalization of marijuana in response to Eltife's question.
Eltife also questioned the candidates about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, popularly known as “Obama Care,” asking them if they repealed the act, how they would replace it.
Constitution Party candidate Virgil Goode, portrayed by Bryce Stewart, 18, said he believed that health care should be “left to the people to decide,” with no governmental interference.
President Obama, portrayed by 17-year-old Kourtni Brown, said she believed in not discriminating against the sick because of pre-existing conditions, while Johnson (Flanagan) said he believed in competition in health care insurance costs because only competition “produced affordability.”
Other questions posed to the candidates included energy independence for the United States, the Keystone XL pipeline and same-sex marriage.
Other students who portrayed candidates were Matt Sherrell, 17, who acted as Republican vice presidential hopeful Paul Ryan; Javier Ruiz, 17, who acted as Constitution Party vice presidential candidate Jim Clymer; Keyana Hall, 17, who acted as Democratic Vice Presidential candidate Joe Biden; and Ryan Haws, 18, who acted as Libertarian Vice Presidential candidate Jim Gray.