July 28, 2017

Batten Will Host UVA-Wise Gubernatorial Debate in October

Editor’s note: Batten’s Ray Scheppach and Andy Pennock (Professor of Public Policy and Assistant Professor of Public Policy, respectively) are assisting with the October Virginia gubernatorial debate, to be held at UVA-Wise. The Southwestern Technology Council is sponsoring the debate. Batten is the debate host.

The stories below are reprinted with permission from The Coalfield Progress and the Bristol Herald Courier.


From The Coalfield Progress 


Politicians have turned some interest on Wise County, with one gubernatorial candidate proposing millions in expansion for UVa-Wise and both candidates agreeing to a debate on the college’s campus in October.

Democrat Ralph Northam discussed a plan this week for rural Virginia overall that included significantly expanding the size and scope of educational offerings at the college.

“Expanding UVa-Wise would require a combination of public and private funding, and would cost our commonwealth an initial $15 million, with a possibility of scaling up funding over time,” Northam proposes in his plan.

“By concentrating on graduate-level and PhD programs and areas of high need and high growth like cybersecurity, unmanned aerial systems, energy, and computer engineering and programming, we will build on areas where UVa-Wise is already doing well and be focused on creating the jobs of tomorrow.”

The campaign of opponent Ed Gillespie has said the Republican also supports the college’s expansion. But when it comes to rural issues overall, Gillespie accused Northam of “missing every single meeting of the Center for Rural Virginia Board, making clear his disinterest for the issues and lack of seriousness for the office he seeks.”

In a statement July 18, Gillespie also said he had accepted invitations to 10 gubernatorial debates, including one at UVa-Wise to discuss issues facing rural Virginia, while Northam “has yet to accept the invitation to debate in Southwest Virginia.”

The next day, Northam’s campaign issued a release finalizing the candidate’s schedule, including the debate in Wise, noting that he previously had announced a commitment to three debates and seven joint appearances.

Meantime, UVa-Wise Chancellor Donna Henry said the college is pleased to partner with the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Policy to host the debate. Holding the event here, she said, “gives the rest of Virginia an opportunity to learn more about the College at Wise and our region as well. The University of Virginia is working with both campaigns on details, and we are excited to be a part of such an important event.”

In response to Northam’s proposal for college expansion, UVa-Wise spokesperson Kathy Still said in a prepared statement that the college is pleased to hear he is “looking to invest at least $15 million in ongoing operating funds to expand the enrollment of the campus.” They are eager to learn more about Northam’s proposal, “especially the private-public partnership aspect.”

The college “has always embraced its role in economic development. A central portion of our core mission is to prepare our students for jobs, especially high demand careers such as nursing, computer science, software engineering, environmental science and other STEM-related fields.”

The college is “a public liberal arts college and we believe a broad education is also part of our mission.”


From the Bristol Herald Courier


The University of Virginia’s College at Wise will host a televised gubernatorial debate in Southwest Virginia in October.

The Southwest Virginia Technology Council is sponsoring the event between Republican Ed Gillespie and Democrat Ralph Northam. No date has been set.

So far, it will be the third and last debate between the two gubernatorial hopefuls.

“To most contemporary institutional knowledge, this is the first statewide televised gubernatorial debate in the Central Appalachian coalfields in Virginia’s history,” said Wise County Circuit Court Clerk Jack Kennedy, a Democrat who represents the Southwest Virginia Technology Council. “Recollection does not exist of any general election gubernatorial debate west of Blacksburg.”

In 2013, the last gubernatorial debate was held on the campus of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. During that debate, Republican Ken Cuccinelli faced the eventual victor, Democrat Terry McAuliffe.

The technology council’s board of directors authorized the invitation to the two parties’ candidates prior to the primaries in the spring. Kennedy and Wise County Commonwealth’s Attorney Chuck Slemp, a Republican, issued the invitations.

The general election is Nov. 7.

The technology council opted to take a forward leadership approach to gain public policy engagement, according to Kennedy.

“We trust issues of rural economic development and advancing technology will be among the forefront of state policy questions to the candidates,” Kennedy said. “We respect each candidate. We hope for real relevance in addressing our future as they see it and believe it can be.”

Kennedy said UVa-Wise Chancellor Donna Henry agreed to host the event, which is being organized by the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Policy.

“UVa-Wise is a very important institution that needs statewide support for graduate programs,” Kennedy said. “I hope UVa and Virginia Tech will be more forthcoming in dogged determination to boost economic diversity.”

Northam and Gillespie met on July 22 for the first debate. The second will be held Sept. 19 in northern Virginia.

Both candidates have toured Southwest Virginia during the gubernatorial campaign. A Monmouth University poll recently put the two candidates in a dead heat.


Two other news stories about the debate are in the Roanoke Times and WCYB News 5.

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