Audio report by Julian Hernandez
Sen. Bill Nelson stopped by the University of Florida Wednesday to talk politics, education and his “barnstorming” campaign across Florida.
He was at the Reitz Union at 11 a.m. to speak in front of about 25 students and local officials. Gainesville Mayor Craig Lowe spoke, too, and encouraged students to vote.
Nelson’s son, Bill Nelson Jr., Grace Nelson, the senator’s wife, and Alachua County Democratic Party Chair Jon Reiskind also came to the event.
The Democrat senator said this election is especially critical for the country because voters are going to choose between a polarized government and a nonpartisan government that can provide a sense of equilibrium.
“We change policy by balance instead of bullets, and in some third-world countries, that’s how they change policy” he said. “Therefore, you have that opportunity right ahead of you, and it’s in about a week and five days.”
Nelson, who is up for re-election on the Nov. 6 ballot, said the United States is at a legislative gridlock because of what he termed “extremist politics” and spoke of the importance of nonpartisan agreement in government.
“What you’ve seen is people just don’t come together on critical things. Look, a year and a quarter ago, we almost went into default because the United States could not pay its bills because we had to raise an artificial statutory debt ceiling,” he said.
Lowe said Nelson has long had an interest in education and the environment and a history of service to the Gainesville area.
“Education is our seed corn,” Nelson said. “We can’t lessen our commitment and funding of education. It is what makes us have an educated populous that will keep us competitive in a global marketplace.”
Nelson said quality education fosters creativity and in order to achieve to maintain a competitive edge in terms of the global market he spoke of, the government has to participate in education by ways such as lowering the interest rate on student loans.
Nelson spoke highly of UF students and joked about how he might not be able to get through the university and into law school today.
“What a great privilege you have at an institution of this quality,” he said. “I’m proud of you understanding that education is important to life.”
Nelson said he and his family will be voting in Orlando this Sunday, after a long stint of travel or “barnstorming” across Florida, and he encouraged voters to do the same — to read through the entire ballot and pick the best representatives possible. Early voting will start Saturday and continue through Nov. 3.
“We think it’s a clear choice between mainstream American politics and the opposite, which is taking it to the extremes, and I don’t think that’s where the American people are,” Nelson said. “I know that’s not where the people of Florida are. And I’m certainly hoping, Lord willing and the people of our country willing, that that’s the direction we’re going in.”