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Cockburn, Riggleman to debate at U.Va. later this month

Batten professors will moderate the debate between candidates, who are running in an increasingly-competitive district

The Cockburn-Riggleman debate will be hosted in Garrett Hall.
The Cockburn-Riggleman debate will be hosted in Garrett Hall.

Virginia Fifth Congressional District candidates, Republican nominee Denver Riggleman and Democratic nominee Leslie Cockburn, will debate Friday, Sept. 28 at 6:00 p.m. in Garrett Hall. Polls indicate the open VA-05 seat leans Republican and is one of the state’s most competitive races in the 2018 midterm elections.

The Center for Effective Lawmaking, University Democrats, College Republicans and the Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy will co-host the non-partisan debate. The candidates will receive questions from debate moderators, Batten Profs. Craig Volden and Gerald Warburg, as well as from audience members and those who submit questions in advanced through an online form

The Batten School has hosted election debates since 2010, most recently holding a debate for Republican senatorial candidates in March. Warburg said holding these forms for candidates is central to the mission of the University as a public institution.

“We feel it’s an obligation for us as a public institution to facilitate this type of dialogue and it is very much part of the Batten mission,” said Warburg. “This is an opportunity for voters including students to interact with the two people who could be representing them in an important race, in an important election.”

Rep. Tom Garrett (R), who announced he would not seek re-election in May, won the district by 17 points in 2016. Sabato’s Crystal Ball said the race leans Republican, and Real Clear Politics rates it a “toss up.”

“This is a competitive district,” Warburg said. “It was said to be gerrymandered rather heavily in 2010 for one party. The district has evolved. In fact, both parties have run competitive races in this district going back to 2006.”

Robert Andrews, College Republicans chairman and a fourth-year College student, helped lead the effort to host the candidates for a debate on Grounds. He said he thinks the debate will be a chance for students to learn more about the issues affecting the Fifth District and the candidates running.

“I think it’s going to be a great opportunity for students, particularly [those] who aren’t as knowledgeable about issues within the fifth district to gain insight into what’s going on here,” Andrews said. “Our real goal was to establish a chance for students and the citizens of Charlottesville and the Fifth District to see the dichotomy of ideas and platforms between the two candidates. We are glad and really excited to be able to facilitate that with our partners.”

Mary Alice Kukoski, University Democrats president and a third-year College student, coordinated with the Cockburn campaign to organize the debate. She said she hopes the candidates discuss issues important to students since the University plays a significant role in the Fifth District.

“It is one of the main urban areas and I think students provide an important voice as we are a large constituency,” said Kukoski. “I hope students really push forward some questions that are important to them regarding student loans, tuition and other salient issues as well.”

Andrews added he would like to see Riggleman and Cockburn debate topics pertinent to the University community.

“I think they should talk about certain issues that affect students so anything from campus safety, student debt, issues of rising tuition, things of that nature,” said Andrews.

Warburg said the candidates will likely discuss specific issues affecting the University community as well as those of concern to the rest of the district.

“Issues of student debt, student loans are of concern throughout this community — not just to students — so I would anticipate that those issues would be brought up by the audience and by the panel,” said Warburg. “I’d be shocked if health care, immigration and presidential power didn’t come up — they’re on everyone’s minds.”

Tickets were distributed Friday morning on a first-come-first-served basis. The debate will be livestreamed for those who do not receive tickets.

This story was updated to correct a miscommunication with regards to the method for ticket distribution.


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