KUGLER: Valuing accountability

Mark Warner should accept the Batten School’s invitation to debate Ed Gillespie

As a current University student, I'm immensely proud to attend a university whose founder dedicated his life to public service and who believed so strongly that public servants should be accountable to those they represent.

So it is disappointing to learn that Mark Warner has decided that his responsibility to public accountability doesn't extend to debating his opponent, Ed Gillespie, this fall at the University. This is particularly disappointing given that Ed Gillespie has already accepted the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy’s invitation for a U.S. Senate debate to be held in Charlottesville this fall. Making matters worse, Mark Warner has refused all invitations for debates at other colleges across the state, including Virginia Tech, James Madison and George Mason.

Regardless of our political views, students are eager for opportunities to learn about our candidates’ respective policy positions. Where do they stand on how to get the economy to grow robustly, rather than continuing to drift downstream in the weakest economic recovery since World War II? What are their thoughts on how to tame the burden being transferred to our generation in the form of massive U.S. government debt? What do they believe to be the proper role and scope of government? Students can avail themselves of campaign policy papers on these subjects, but the American political tradition of campaign debates is one that provides opportunities for voters to take the measure of their candidates as they express and defend their own views directly.

One wonders why Senator Warner seems so intent upon avoiding debating and defending his record. As Warner seems to be proud of voting with President Obama 97 percent of the time, you’d think he’d be eager to stand before today’s students and future leaders to help us understand how his claims of independent thought for Virginia coincide with highly correlated adherence to the Obama party line. Warner may well suggest, after all, that the 3 percent deviation from President Obama’s policies were on the truly important votes over the last six years. But we shouldn’t have to guess about his explanations; more particularly, it doesn't seem unreasonable to expect our elected officials to explain their records to those to whom they are accountable. I hope other University students will join me in calling on Mark Warner to accept the debate against Ed Gillespie at our University in October.

Rebecca Kugler is a second-year student in the College and a former communications intern for the Gillespie campaign.

related stories