GROUPS URGE CANDIDATE TO PARTICIPATE IN STATEWIDE BROADCAST
RICHMOND _ AARP Virginia and the League of Women Voters of Virginia today called upon gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli to face off against Terry McAuliffe in the People’s Debate, the statewide debate traditionally held each election season.
“All voters in Virginia deserve a chance to see the candidates who want to be their Governor debate,” said League of Women Voters President Anne Sterling, representing 14 local leagues in communities throughout Virginia.
Cuccinelli did not respond to a certified letter received by his campaign on July 12, 2013, according to the U.S. Postal Service return receipt. The letter gave Cuccinelli a July 19 deadline to respond to the debate invitation. The certified letter was sent in response to news reports quoting Cuccinelli campaign staff members indicating that the candidate does not intend to participate in the People’s Debate.
The groups offered to negotiate with both candidates the terms of the debate so they would be comfortable participating. The letter was signed by Sterling and AARP Virginia State President Bob Blancato, who represents more than 1 million AARP members in the Commonwealth.
“We want to ensure that the People’s Debate will take place, because most voters can’t attend a debate hosted by lawyers at a fancy resort, or a debate organized by a business group with a pricey entrance fee,” said AARP Virginia State Director Bill Kallio.
Cuccinelli faced McAuliffe on Saturday morning, July 20, during the Virginia Bar Association’s summer meeting at The Homestead Resort in Hot Springs, VA. The debate was free for lawyers and their guests attending the conference, but required a meeting attendee name badge. The least expensive registration rate for the conference was $155 for judges or lawyers employed by the government. Other lawyers had to pay $255. The debate was moderated by Judy Woodruff, senior correspondent and co-anchor of “PBS NewsHour, who also was the moderator for the 2009 People’s Debate sponsored by AARP and the League of Women Voters.
The candidates will face off again on September 25 in McLean in a debate hosted by the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by Capital One Bank at their headquarters. The debate is open to chamber members for a fee of $150. After September 4 the debate will be open to the public if there is room, at a cost of $250, with no discounts for students or senior citizens. The Chamber debate is moderated by Chuck Todd, political director and chief White House correspondent for NBC News and host of MSNBC’s “The Daily Rundown.”
“Why would a candidate agree to debates with hefty price tags that cater to lawyers and business executives while turning down a debate that can be seen in every home in the Commonwealth?” Kallio said.
The People’s Debate, held each election year on Columbus Day, has been a must-do campaign event for statewide candidates. Current Governor Bob McDonnell faced Senator Creigh Deeds at the People’s Debate in 2009, while current U.S. Senator Tim Kaine debated former Senator George Allen in 2012. The 2012 debate was seen by more than 200,000 voters across the Commonwealth, being carried live in every television market in Virginia as well as C-SPAN. It also was streamed live on the CNN and Washington Post websites and the websites of numerous Virginia-based news organizations.
McAuliffe, the Democrat in the race, promptly accepted the groups’ first invitation, which was issued May 20. Cuccinelli, who represents the Republicans in the contest, did not respond. On July 3 the Cuccinelli campaign told a reporter that the candidate does not plan to participate. Cuccinelli also was critical of the People’s Debate in remarks to the press on a July 8 campaign stop in Hampton Roads.
“If Mr. Cuccinelli doesn’t agree to participate in the People’s Debate, the majority of ordinary Virginians won’t have a chance to see the two candidates for Governor debate the issues that matter most to them,” Kallio said.
AARP Virginia and the League of Women Voters of Virginia have traditionally sponsored the People’s Debate for gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races. It is the only debate representing the issues of concern to ordinary citizens that is broadcast statewide. Other debates are sponsored by groups representing the business and legal community, while the People’s Debate tackles issues that are important to the average voter. Neither group endorses or contributes money to candidates, political parties or campaigns.
“We are hopeful that Mr. Cuccinelli will agree to face Mr. McAuliffe in the People’s Debate and give all Virginians a chance to see the candidates answer questions,” Sterling said. “There is still time to make this happen.”
Media partners for the People’s Debate are WTVR-TV (CBS) and WCVE-TV (Virginia Public Television). The media partners distribute the debate to broadcasters statewide in order to make the forum available to voters across Virginia.
The League of Women Voters of Virginia, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues and influences public policy through education and advocacy. Formed 93 years ago from the movement that secured the right to vote for women, LWV has continued working to maintain this right. Today we concentrate on voters rights, making sure every vote is counted and registering voters, high school and college students. The centerpiece of the League’s efforts remains to expand participation and give a voice to all Americans. . . We do these at all three levels of government, engaging in both broad educational efforts as well as advocacy. Our issues are grounded in our respected history of making democracy work for all citizens. LWV operates at national, state and local levels through more than 800 state and local Leagues, in all 50 states as well in DC, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Hong Kong. LWV does not endorse candidates for public office or make contributions to either political campaigns or candidates.
AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, with a membership of more than 37 million, that helps people turn their goals and dreams into real possibilities, strengthens communities and fights for the issues that matter most to families such as healthcare, employment and income security, retirement planning, affordable utilities and protection from financial abuse. We advocate for individuals in the marketplace by selecting products and services of high quality and value to carry the AARP name as well as help our members obtain discounts on a wide range of products, travel, and services. A trusted source for lifestyle tips, news and educational information, AARP produces AARP The Magazine, the world’s largest circulation magazine; AARP Bulletin; aarp.org; AARP TV & Radio; AARP Books; and AARP en Español, a Spanish-language website addressing the interests and needs of Hispanics. AARP does not endorse candidates for public office or make contributions to political campaigns or candidates. The AARP Foundation is an affiliated charity that provides security, protection, and empowerment to older persons in need with support from thousands of volunteers, donors, and sponsors. AARP has staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Learn more at aarp.org.