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Local politicians weigh in on Biden-Palin debate
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Thursday’s highly anticipated vice presidential debate will not only pit a political newcomer against a longtime senator, but test what role gender plays in politics.

Tonight, all eyes will be on Gov. Sarah Palin, the first female vice presidential candidate since Geraldine Ferraro ran with Walter Mondale in 1984.

"This is probably the most anticipated debate I’ve ever witnessed," said Hall County Commissioner-elect Ashley Bell, who worked with John Edwards during his 2004 vice presidential campaign. "Some people are going to watch hoping that (Palin) messes up, and Republicans are going to watch hoping she shines and comes through as the natural hockey mom she claims to be."

Some think the debate puts Sen. Joe Biden in a hard position because he has to be tough on the issues without appearing condescending or sexist toward his female opponent.

Bell ran against incumbent district 4 Hall County Commissioner Deborah Mack earlier this year.

Bell said he thinks the best way to handle a debate, regardless of the gender of your opponent, is to establish personal respect.

"You have to have a great level of respect for your opponent either way," Bell said. "When I debated Deborah ... I always began every debate by saying how much I respected Deborah and what she represents and her as a person. I think if you start there, you can offer that personal respect and let everyone know that nothing you’re debating is personal."

Abb Hayes, the chairman of the Hall County Democrats said he doesn’t think gender should be considered a factor in tonight’s debate.

"The idea (Biden) has a fine line to walk is really offensive to females," Hayes said. "People want to see who’s prepared to lead the country. They want to see the candidates talk about their ideas."

Chris Masters, vice chairman of the Hall County Young Republicans, said he thinks the media often make things out to be more extreme than they really are.

"A lot of times what a person says may not be sexist or racist. It’s the media trying to sensationalize," Masters said.

But Bell said gender does come into play in some situations.

"Gutter politics translates into sexism sometimes," Bell said.

Bell said he is intrigued by Palin’s rise from small town mayor to vice presidential candidate, and thinks many will tune in tonight out of the energy she brings to the campaign.

"Her story is compelling," Bell said. "Just as Sen. Obama’s. It could only happen in this country."

Masters said he thinks the vice presidential debate has the potential to help or hurt the McCain campaign, but he is confident that Palin will do well.

"I’m hoping Sarah Palin will be herself," Masters said. "I want her to be the true conservative maverick she really is."

But Hayes said he thinks Biden will definitely have the upper hand tonight.

"I think people are interested mainly because they anticipate the train wreck that’s going to come when Sarah Palin’s engaged in a debate," Hayes said. "I think Sen. Biden has a tremendous amount of experience and I expect he’ll do great in the debate. I think it’ll clearly show who’s got the better vice presidential candidate."

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