Kansas' two leading gubernatorial candidates still have quite a sales job ahead of them if they want to win next month's election, students in a Lawrence High School political science class said.
"They didn't really talk about what they are going to do," 17-year-old Megan Hershiser said after listening to Tuesday night's debate between Republican Tim Shallenburger and Democrat Kathleen Sebelius. "It's dangerous to elect someone and not know what they are going to do."
"I don't think either one is what we'd like," said Liz Kincaid, the only one of the eight women who watched the debate who is 18 and eligible to vote. "Maybe if you blend the two of them, there would be enough there."
The students spent about 45 minutes discussing the two candidates and their views after watching the televised debate. The group watched from Kincaid's home over pizza and soft drinks.
The students, all seniors, were taking part in a project for Paul Stuewe's LHS advanced placement politics class.
None of the students was convinced Shallenburger and Sebelius would be able to lead the state through its budget crisis without raising taxes.
"The taxes are going to go up there's no way to get around it," Stephanie Wiesner said.
"Even though taxes are a big deal, you still have to look at all the issues," Kincaid said.
The students were surprised that the candidates resorted to attacks on each other.
"Shallenburger was such a jerk putting down Sebelius all the time," Wiesner said.
Yet most of the students agreed that Shallenburger had a stronger and smoother presence in the debate than Sebelius. They thought Sebelius' constant hand-waving was a sign of nervousness.
The students also were surprised that the lack of showing at the debate by people under the age of 25. Alessa McCoy noted that not one question was asked of the candidates by anyone in that age group, nor did it appear any were in the audience.
Thanks to the Kids Voting USA project in Lawrence, students in all grades in the public schools will have a chance to vote in their own election. This will be the 10th year for the project, designed to give students a better understanding of how the election process works.
In Lawrence, the Kids Voting USA is sponsored by the Journal-World in cooperation with Roger Hill Volunteer Center and Douglas County school districts.