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DISAC, University Democrats and College Republicans come together for Virginia governor’s debate watch party

Over 50 people gathered in Nau Hall to watch the debate between former Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe and Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin

<p>DISAC also hosted a watch party for the 2020 presidential election, and UDems and CRs have also worked together in the past to collectively host events.&nbsp;</p>

DISAC also hosted a watch party for the 2020 presidential election, and UDems and CRs have also worked together in the past to collectively host events. 

With a little over a month until Election Day, members of the Democracy Initiative's Student Advisory Council, University Democrats and College Republicans joined together to watch the final debate between Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin and Terry McAuliffe, former governor and Democratic nominee, in Nau Hall Tuesday. The debate was hosted by NBC News political director Chuck Todd. 

Prior to the debate Tuesday night, Youngkin was at the University Sept. 24, campaigning for the election while fans, parents and students tailgated for the football game against Wake Forest University. McAuliffe visited the University Aug. 25 to discuss the importance of requiring COVID-19 vaccines.

Sophie Heartney, second-year College student and a member of both DISAC and UDems, was in attendance and only had positive things to say about the watch party turnout.

“It was great to see so many students who decided to come out and watch,”  Heartney said. “Everyone was really engaged in the debate no matter what side of the political spectrum they were on.”

DISAC also hosted a watch party for the 2020 presidential election, and UDems and CRs have also worked together in the past to collectively host events. 

Heartney said she hopes that the watch party will “help inspire political dialogue from different groups on Grounds” as well as help students become “politically active and informed before the upcoming election.”

During the debate, the two gubernatorial candidates answered questions regarding vaccine mandates, planned parenthood, education and climate control, among others. 

The first question concerned what vaccine policies both candidates would implement if elected governor. McAuliffe believes vaccines should be mandatory and would require vaccines for all students, teachers and healthcare workers. While Youngkin said that he would recommend that residents of Virginia get vaccinated, he believes it should be up to the individual's choice and doesn’t want healthcare workers who oppose vaccinations to lose their jobs. 

“We need those health care workers,” Youngkin said. “We need people on the job. To make their life difficult, that's no way to go serve Virginians.” 

Youngkin, however, stumbled when asked about his stance on vaccines that have long been mandated in U.S. schools such as measles and mumps vaccines, saying that he did support mandating those because more data was available. 

After the first question was asked, there was an interruption from third-party candidate Princess Blanding in the live crowd at the debate. It was unclear to viewers streaming the debate what she was yelling about, but it elicited producers to go to the only commercial break during the hour. Blanding represents the Liberation Party but was not invited on stage for the debate. 

The two candidates also argued positions on abortion, with Youngkin accusing McAuliffe of wanting to be the “abortion governor.” McAuliffe, however, emphasized his dedication to securing women’s rights. 

“I want every woman in Virginia to listen to me closely,” McAuliffe said. “I was a brick wall to protect women’s rights.” 

On the topic of education, Youngkin believes that parents should be in charge of their children’s education, but McAuliffe disagreed, saying that parents should not be making their own decisions in telling schools what to teach. 

At one point, McAuliffe accused Youngkin multiple times of being a “wannabe Donald Trump,” eliciting a lot of murmurs from both sides of the lecture hall. This accusation has been used in multiple campaign videos attacking Youngkin after he was publicly endorsed by former President Donald Trump in May after receiving the GOP nomination. Trump lost Virginia in both the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections.

A representative from a Democracy Initiative-sponsored project One Small Step also attended the event and handed out fliers to encourage students, faculty and staff at the University to participate in the project. The initiative pairs Charlottesville community members across political lines with one another for a conversation about their lives, perspectives and hopes for the future with the goal of fostering a community with more open dialogue. 

Early voting is underway in Virginia. Polls will also be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Nov. 2. The deadline to register to vote in Virginia’s general election is Oct. 12.