DENVER (KDVR) — The race to the finish line is well underway for candidates in political races across the state. On top of the ads you have seen for the past few months, you will start to see more candidates debating on various media formats.

Members of a key voting demographic say they felt left out of the debate discussions.
So with the help of their school, they took matters into their own hands.

‘Solutions Studio’ gives debate alternative

“It’s really more about a dialogue. There’s no audience. There’s just the students, the candidates and a moderator,” said John Masserini, dean of the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences at Metropolitan State University of Denver.

MSU Denver is doing things a little differently this election season by launching a debate alternative called “Solutions Studio.” The new forum format features a series of recorded discussions featuring a panel of MSU students who have an opportunity to interact with candidates one-on-one.

“Is it the drama in Washington D.C. being so much that nobody is listening to each other, no one is interacting with each other, nobody is finding the middle ground or the solution to the problem?” asked MSU student panelist Brian Bartholomew.

The goal is for students on the panel like Bartholomew to get to the bottom of where candidates stand on solutions. Like MSU’s student population, the panel is made of diverse students, each curious about their own set of concerns.

“I’m a deaf person. Yes, I know how to sign. I know how to talk. The reason why I’m heavily involved is because — everything I do — is the American (with) Disabilities Act. Without that act, I wouldn’t be able to break barriers down,” Bartholomew said.

Ganahl, O’Dea, Bennet to participate

Some of the panelists are from Indigenous groups, others are first-generation students or DACA recipients. While students do talk to candidates about hot topics like abortion and affordability, Bartholomew wants to know how lawmakers are going to enforce the ADA and make his life more accessible in the future.

“That’s why I’m on the panel to ask, OK, what are the politicians going to do for me? Because, down the road I am terrified,” Bartholomew said when speaking about the disparities people with disabilities face.

This is the university’s first year doing this but they are already looking ahead to doing this for the next political cycle.

Heidi Ganahl, Joe O’Dea and Michael Bennet are all on tap to take part in this. The forums are set to premiere starting next week on the university’s site.