UNF excited to host CNN's Florida presidential debate

Republican debate to be held Jan. 26, 5 days before Florida's primary

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Five days before Florida Republicans vote in the state's presidential preference primary, the eyes of the state and the nation will be on the final televised debate between the candidates that will take place at the University of North Florida.

Students, faculty, administrators and local political observers tell Channel 4 they are excited about the opportunity and expect good things to come from the national exposure.

"We're going to get international exposure and our students really get exposed to something unique," said Sharon Ashton, UNF spokeswoman.

"To get the honor to have something as big as this ... that'll be good for UNF and the city, said student Emily Wyn.

Political consultant Jason Roth said Florida has been a key player since the 2000 election, considered a must-carry state to win the White House.

"Florida is the largest battle ground state in the nation," Roth said.

University administrators say the debate is a great opportunity to get students involved in the political process.

"Regardless of their political affiliation, we hope that this excites them about taking part in the whole process," Ashton said.

"It gives us an opportunity to hear the candidates speak and maybe learn a little bit more about them," said UNF freshman Kristina Alexiou.

While the debate will take place in the Lazzara Performance Hall, the University Green is expected to be filled with CNN production trucks and tents and news vehicles to support coverage by coverage by stations and networks from across the state and nation.

While UNF is the venue for the Jan. 26 event, CNN and the Republican Party of Florida are putting on the event and will control tickets to attend the event.

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