Virginia Gubernatorial Candidates Face-Off in Debate Hosted by the Schar School

Photo courtesy of the Washington Post


George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government and the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce joined to present the second of three televised gubernatorial debates between Ed Gillespie (R) and incumbent Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017, at Capital One Bank in McLean, VA.

“Given the outsized power of Northern Virginia in statewide elections, this debate may be the most important forum of the campaign,” said Schar School Dean Mark J. Rozell. “It is the only time the candidates will face each other in the region, and they will be doing so before an audience of influential business community leaders while broadcast statewide.” 

Gillespie, the former chair of the Republican National Committee, an entrepreneur, and a lobbyist, proposes a 10 percent cut to the state income taxes and a ‘repeal and replace’ of Obamacare.

Photo courtesy of the Washington PostNortham, the incumbent Virginia lieutenant governor, is an Army veteran, a pediatric neurologist, and an assistant professor at Eastern Virginia Medical School. Northam proposes further pre-K educational grants and dealing with mental health services in Virginia. 

Current polls suggest the candidates are neck-and-neck in popularity, making this a critical debate, particularly among the Northern Virginia demographics. The candidates offered their solutions to the questions of Northern Virginians, who are often concerned with a different set of issues than others in the Commonwealth.

Chuck Todd, NBC’s political director and host of “Meet the Press,” moderated the debate. Todd kicked off the evening with a reminder that the audience could expect a spirited, yet civil, debate, as has been a Virginia tradition. 

Dean Rozell, who served on the panel along with NBC4’s Northern Virginia Bureau Chief Julie Carey and NBC4’s anchor Aaron Gilchrist, asked the candidates questions on hot-topic issues concerning voters in the Commonwealth and Northern Virginia.

The candidates focused their energies on political views and fiscal policies, avoiding personal attacks.

“I have seen every Virginia gubernatorial debate since 1989, and this was the most civil, professional, and substantive one of all. In an era of highly polarized politics where name-calling has become a norm, these two candidates showed how it really should be done. Neither candidate shifted the momentum of the race, but both articulated their views and differences on policy clearly,” said Rozell. 

A group of the Schar School’s dynamic student leaders filled Capital One’s auditorium, along with business leaders, community leaders, and Chamber of Commerce partners from the nonprofit and corporate sectors.

The Schar School sponsored the Virginia Lieutenant Governor forum in May of 2017, making this the second event in the gubernatorial election that the Schar School has sponsored to take a proactive role in developing Virginia State politics. 

“The Schar School will continue to be a sponsor of candidate debates and forums as well as our many conferences and symposia on key policy issues in Virginia, nationally, and internationally,” said Rozell.

More details of the events can be followed using #VAGovDebate on Twitter. 

The Virginia General elections will take place on Nov. 7, 2017.