RICHMOND _ By avoiding the People’s Debate, gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli is ignoring half of all registered voters in Virginia, the two sponsoring organizations said today.
“Since women won the right to vote in 1920, our organization has been helping engage voters in elections,” said Anne Sterling, President of the League of Women Voters of Virginia. “Today, more than half of registered Virginia voters are women, and the League of Women Voters have been the proud sponsors of candidate forums for nearly 100 years.”
According to the Virginia Board of Elections, 54 percent of Virginia’s more than 5.2 million registered voters are female. More than 45 percent of Virginia voters are age 50 or older.
“While nearly half of registered voters are over age 50, older voters are also more likely to go to the polls on Election Day,” said AARP Virginia State Director Bill Kallio. “AARP has a proud history of nonpartisan voter engagement and the People’s Debate is an important part of every election cycle in Virginia.”
AARP, formed in 1958, has more than 1 million members in Virginia.
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 Democrats’ candidate, accepted the groups’ first invitation, which was issued May 20. Cuccinelli, who represents the Republicans in the Governor’s race, has not yet responded to the groups’ request. 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. Neither AARP nor the League of Women Voters has received information from the Cuccinelli campaign about the candidate’s decision to participate.
“To date, Mr. Cuccinelli has not informed us whether or not he intends to participate in The People’s Debate,” Sterling said.
Cuccinelli has not responded to a certified letter received by his campaign on July 12, 2013, despite a July 19 deadline. The groups offered to negotiate with both candidates the terms of the debate so they would be comfortable participating.
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.
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.