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Oklahoma students moderate gubernatorial debate

October 12, 2018

FILE - This combination of file photos shows Oklahoma gubernatorial candidates from left, Democrat Drew Edmondson and Republican Kevin Stitt. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrtocki, File)

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — High school students in Oklahoma have organized and moderated a gubernatorial debate in hopes of getting other students interested in politics.

Democratic candidate Drew Edmondson and his Republican opponent Kevin Stitt answered students’ questions Thursday at Oklahoma City Community College. Three high school students moderated the panel and asked the candidates about health care, education, prison reform, medical cannabis and the economy.

The forum was run by a group called “From Now On,” which was recently launched by Democratic Rep. Jason Dunnington of Oklahoma City and Republican Sen. Adam Pugh of Edmond. The nonprofit organization aims to encourage young people to vote.

“When I heard Oklahoma is 47th in voting turnout, that is shocking to me,” said Madelyn Rops, a student at Edmond Memorial High School. “Hearing that only 11 percent of eligible voters from 18 to 24 actually come out and vote is just not good. That’s not how I think we should be as a state. For me personally, I want kids like me to know that our opinion does matter.”

Some debate attendees won’t be old enough to vote in next month’s general election, but organizers said the event still gave teens the opportunity to learn more about the political process.

“It gives students a chance to be more involved in the election and know more about it,” said Avery Rose, 17, a student at Edmond Memorial High School. “We see a lot of stuff on social media, but this really gives you a chance to listen.”

Edmondson is a former Oklahoma attorney general, House member, teacher and veteran. Stitt is a Tulsa businessman who founded Gateway Mortgage.

Libertarian Chris Powell is also running for governor.

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