Rozell: Candidates Set Example in 'Civil and Substantive' Gubernatorial Debate

By Buzz McClain

Mason's Mark Rozell (left) with NBC4's Aaron Gilchrist and Julie Carey, said the public could use more debates such as the one between Virginia gubernatorial candidates Ed Gillespie (R) and Ralph Northam (D). Pool photo.

Viewers across Virginia tuning in to Tuesday night’s televised debate between gubernatorial candidates Ralph Northam (D) and Ed Gillespie (R) heard a “civil and substantive” discussion of issues important to the commonwealth, said Mark Rozell, dean of the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University.

Rozell was one of three panelists on stage posing questions to the candidates in front of 425 audience members at the Capital One Bank Auditorium in McLean. The Schar School co-sponsored the hour-long debate with the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce. Chuck Todd, host of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” served as moderator.

Lt. Gov. Northam and business executive Gillespie answered questions on immigration, health care, education, future energy sources, tax policies, employment, race relations and confederate monuments.

“It was well done by both candidates,” said Rozell after the debate where he shared the panel with NBC4’s Julie Carey and Aaron Gilchrist. “It was very civil and substantive, and I think we need more of that in this era where politics has become so uncivil, where name-calling has become the norm.

“This sets an example for the way political campaigns should be conducted. My congratulations to both of them.”

A number of George Mason students were in the audience to hear where the candidates stood on issues that concern them. For student body president David Kanos, a government major from Nigeria, those would be issues affecting Mason itself.

“It’s important to be here because whoever becomes governor is going to be very integral to George Mason University in terms of funding and how we grow,” Kanos said.

Being in the audience, he said, was not only humbling but inspirational.

“One of us could see the people on the stage and say, ‘Hey, maybe someday I can be in that position.’ It’s a great experience to be here.”

And as for a Mason dean being on the stage with the candidates, Kanos was proud to be affiliated with the university.

“Seeing [Rozell] up there is proof that George Mason University is at the forefront of politics and things that go on here in Virginia,” he said.

Video highlights of the debate are available here.

Gubernatorial candidates Ed Gillespie (left) and Ralph Northam (center) with moderator Chuck Todd of NBC's "Meet the Press" at Tuesday night's debate. Pool photo.