By Phillip Lentsch–

The University of Louisville Student Government Association kicked of Halloween weekend with an informal political forum in the Red Barn titled “Fancy Ville.” The concept was modeled after the famous Kentucky Fancy Farm Picnic held in August.

Candidates included Gill Holland (16th District Metro Council), Jim Gray (U.S. Senate), a surrogate for Rand Paul (U.S. Senate), Shenita Rickman (33rd State Senate District), David James (6th District) and Shane Ranschaert (14th District Metro Council).

They each had four minutes to speak, and took multiple questions from the students in attendance.

“I feel very strongly about working collaboratively with others in the state,” Gray said. “We’ve got to cooperate with each other. That’s the only way we can ensure a better future for our kids than what my generation and my parents’ generation had.”

One Gray question referred to the breaking news that the FBI would re-investigate the controversy into Hillary Clinton’s email scandal. Gray, a declared supporter of Clinton, was asked if he still stands behind her campaign.

“That’s breaking news and we’ll have to take some time to assess it,” Gray said.

A representative for Rand Paul also spoke on his behalf. He touched on Paul’s experience in the U.S. Senate as well as what he does around the state.

“Senator Paul does more for this state than his opponent. He represents us in Congress but also takes the time out of his schedule to do things like conduct pro-bono eye surgery operations for patients,” the spokesperson said.

Rickman left quite an echo at the forum as well, voicing her concerns for what District 33 and the rest of the West End of Louisville has faced. She spoke on the realities of poverty, crime and lack of representation for marginalized communities.

“I’m not like the rest of these Kentucky politicians,” Rickman said. “What I do have is experience in dealing with people. I have seen firsthand the struggles that families have to make ends meet, and anyone that knows me knows that I am about results. It’s time for change.”

Rickman was also asked about the current state of education in this country, particularly in the state of Kentucky.

“Our educational system is failing our children,” Rickman said. “So I believe in school choice. I believe that parents should be able to choose where their children go to school, and that they shouldn’t have to pay a house payment to send their kids to school or college.”

One issue circling the forum was partisanship, which James answered.

“There are very few issues in government that truly come down to D’s and R’s,” James said. “For me, the number one responsibility of government is the safety and well-being of its citizens, which is something that all people can agree on. That’s what I’m pushing for.”

Ranschaert has also set an interesting precedent for the 14th District, as he is running for office at 22-years-old.

“I want each and every one of you to believe that you can enact change in your communities,” Ranschaert said. “It starts at the local level.”

U of L students said they were pleased with the event, noting it was a great chance to gain a firsthand glimpse into state politics.

“This event provided a unique opportunity for students to engage with local leaders of all political backgrounds,” U of L junior Robert Gassman said. “It allowed us to be better informed for our decisions on Nov. 8.”

SGA Director of Governmental Affairs Ronica Hutchison said the forum went well. “This event is a testament to U of L students’ commitment to the democratic process we have in this country,” Hutchison said.

Photo by Phillip Lentsch / The Louisville Cardinal