Virginia Republican gubernatorial nominee Glenn Youngkin has agreed to participate in three debates with Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe, but rejected a debate played host to by the Virginia Bar Association, citing several concerns over the details.
Only one debate has been mutually agreed upon – Appalachian School of Law in Grundy on Sept. 16. Youngkin also accepted a debate by Hampton University, Liberty University and the Virginia Peninsula Chamber of Commerce in late August and is waiting to see whether McAuliffe accepts. The Youngkin campaign also agreed to have a third debate with McAuliffe in mid-October.
“Glenn Youngkin looks forward to debating career politician and Clinton crony Terry McAuliffe, and hearing him explain his poor performance as governor,” Youngkin spokesperson Macaulay Porter said in a statement. “We’re glad we were able to settle on a date with the Appalachian School of Law and the McAuliffe campaign, and we hope McAuliffe accepts the opportunity offered by Hampton University and Liberty University. We are in discussions with several entities to finalize a third debate in mid-October.”
McAuliffe agreed to partake in five debates, including a debate at the Virginia Bar Association, which would have been held July 24. Although the VBA has held a debate between Virginia gubernatorial candidates in every election since 1985, Youngkin’s campaign rejected the debate, citing issues with the debate topics and moderator Judy Woodruff, who is the anchor of PBS Newshour.
According to the Youngkin campaign, the VBA debate would not include a dedicated portion to economic issues and jobs. It also took issue with Woodruff’s donation to the Clinton Foundation more than 10 years ago. Porter said it would be a conflict of interest to McAuliffe, a Clinton Foundation member, to be questioned by Woodruff, who donated to the foundation.
The McAullife campaign and PBS Newshour Executive Producer Sara Just criticized Youngkin for breaking the tradition. Just said Woodruff’s donation was for the Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund, which was a bipartisan effort to provide relief for Haiti following earthquakes. She said Woodruff never donated to any politician or political party during her career.
In a statement, McAuliffe said Youngkin’s refusal to participate in the debate is an insult to Virginians and shows he is out of touch with the people of the commonwealth.
“Unfortunately, we already know the real truth about Glenn: we know he says Donald Trump ‘represents so much of why’ he’s running,” McAuliffe said. “We know he’s promised to ‘go on offense’ to ban abortion and defund Planned Parenthood. We know he has threatened funding for public schools. And we know that Glenn Youngkin will do anything to hide these views from Virginia voters because he has said so himself.”
Youngkin and McAuliffe have been at odds over how many debates should be held and the specifics of these debates for more than a month.
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