Last night, the first Liberty Party presidential debate took place in District 13, featuring the six main presidential contenders:
- Governor Rosalie Descoteaux of District 14
- Governor Gale Hawthorne of District 15
- Senator Peeta Mellark of District 12
- Governor Amy Oaksmith of District 7
- Former Vice President Celine Oswald of District 13
- Vice President Dale Wilson of District 4
Qualification for entry into the presidential debate was a cutoff at seven percent, which all candidates reached.
The first question went to Oswald, who was asked, “What changes will you make this time around to ensure a win in the general election, and why should the voters in the Liberty Party be willing to give you a second chance at the nomination?” Oswald responded that she had won the popular vote last election and noted that her campaign was not a failure just because she lost in the House of Representatives. She also noted her vast experience in federal elections, which she says is unmatched by any other candidate.
Following this, Governor Hawthorne was asked, “In the past, you have made almost quixotic bids for the presidency and vice presidency. How do you plan to prove to the voters of Panem that you are not just a perennial candidate?” Hawthorne was noticeably irritated by the question, noting that his bids were not quixotic at all but rather grassroots campaigns that had succeeded in winning primaries against the odds. “In fact, not one analyst predicted either of my wins in the past presidential primaries and attempted to downplay my chances,” he claimed.
Senator Mellark was asked, “How do you plan to distinguish yourself from your wife, former President Katniss Everdeen?” Mellark responded that though the two are married, they differ in many ways, noting in particular their beliefs on social and domestic policies. He was pressed further about his relationship with the retiring Secretary-General of the Council of Nations by moderator Polaris Septrix, asking if he would use Everdeen’s star power on the campaign trail. “That’s a question better asked of my wife,” he said to laughter and applause. “Though I believe that there is no better surrogate on my behalf, that decision is ultimately up to her. I don’t know yet, so we will have to see, but she is coming back to Panem for the election, so take that as you will.”
Governor Descoteaux was questioned regarding the cultural differences between District 14 and the other districts of Panem. “Considering that District 14 lies an ocean away from the other fourteen districts of Panem, do you consider yourself able to make a true connection with all of Panem’s voters?” Descoteaux responded in the most memorable quote of the night, saying, “As a citizen of District 14, I find it deeply offensive that you think that we are complete strangers to Panem. We share our culture and our values with the rest of Panem- a distinct passion for freedom and liberty that all districts of Panem long for. We do have our differences from other districts, but what districts do not? District 3 is not District 9 which is not District 15. Each district has its own separate set of traits, and the fact that you consider us to be so variant from the nation is deeply offensive. We are citizens of Panem, and we will be treated as such.” Governor Descoteaux received a standing ovation for this response, which left Septrix speechless afterwards, before she simply responded, “I did not intend to disrespect your district, Governor,” to which Descoteaux responded, “And yet you did. Perhaps you should consider a real question.”
Vice President Wilson was the recipient of the next question. “After former Vice President Oswald’s loss last election at the hands of then-Secretary of the Interior Rick Canth, do you think voters are willing to elect a vice president?” Wilson stated, “I think that Vice President Oswald’s loss had less to do with the vice presidency than that of a lack of an ability to consolidate voters. There are very few people that can consolidate voters with their charisma like President Everdeen did, and Vice President Oswald simply could not consolidate the support of the voters or even that of the Liberty representatives in our House of Representatives. Yes, I do believe that the voters of Panem are ready to elect a vice president to the presidency, but I do not believe that Vice President Oswald is that vice president. I believe that I hold that ability, as shown through my last election which I won by a decent margin. Vice President Oswald wasn’t able to meet expectations, but I was.”
Oswald was granted the right to respond since she was mentioned. “What Vice President Wilson seems to not remember was that four years ago, I did consolidate the voters of Panem behind me. I finished first in the popular vote and in the electoral college. It is ludicrous to state that I am responsible for backroom dealings and a rigged election in the House of Representatives.” Wilson responded, “Two of those representatives accepted bribes. That is what our commission reported. You lost the election because forty-six Liberty representatives broke from supporting our party’s nominee for President Canth instead. Just accept the responsibility, Madam Vice President, and learn to do better.” Despite Oswald’s attempts to respond, Septrix moved on to question Governor Oaksmith.
Oaksmith was asked about her prior presidential run and how she planned to convince the voters to support her over an even larger and more competitive field of candidates. “Well, Polaris, I’d like to remind you that I drove Vice President Oswald into a runoff last time around. At the beginning of that election, I was branded an also-ran from my vice presidential run and ascended to the Liberty Party’s first national runoff primary election. Times have changed. Now, most voters have an idea of what I stand for, how I am a true fighter for liberty and a true representative of the citizens of Panem. I start off much better off than last time, that’s for sure, and I will win this nomination by building off of that along with my increasing amount of grassroots support.” Oswald responded in turn, stating that, “Governor Oaksmith, with all due respect, the voters rejected you for me fifty-seven percent to forty-three percent. That’s a fourteen point margin. I’m not exactly sure how you get to portray yourself as a winner when the voters rejected you so decisively.” Oaksmith shot back, saying, “To be fair, Vice President Oswald, I don’t understand how losing an election that was a shoe-in for you qualifies you to declare victory for yourself either, and yet here you are onstage with the rest of us, telling the voters to give you a second chance!” Septrix then cut off the battle, noting that civility is a necessity in these debates.
Upon the ending of the debate, focus groups were convened by The Panem Free Press. We found the following:
- Winner of the debate: Governor Amy Oaksmith (D7)
- Loser of the debate: Fmr. VP Celine Oswald (D13)
- Unexpected breakout(s) of the night: Governor Rosalie Descoteaux (D14) and Vice President Dale Wilson (D4)
ANALYSIS: For a debate that should have given a hometown advantage to Oswald, she took a real battering tonight. The former nominee and supposed frontrunner for the nomination will have to prove to voters that she is electable after losing the last election. Descoteaux had a real breakthrough tonight. Will it allow her to break into the top tier? Maybe, probably not. Will it get her a second look from voters? Absolutely. Wilson also had a good debate. His attacks against Oswald stuck and resonated, which could push him to the front after tonight’s attacks. Senator Mellark held his own, but it is clear that he will have to distinguish himself further from the presidency of his wife. Governor Hawthorne didn’t sink but didn’t rise either. His challenge is to rise above perennial candidate status- is this a possibility?