West Virginia group pitches hosting of 2016 Presidential debate

West Virginia Commission
on Presidential Debates, Inc.
March 25, 2015
Contacts below
West Virginia group pitches hosting of 2016 Presidential debate

Hosting a 2016 Presidential or Vice Presidential debate in Charleston, W.Va., is the aspiration of a group of business, government and university leaders, who submitted the extensive application today to the nation’s Commission on Presidential Debates.

“I am grateful for the collaboration and efforts of so many who have come together in an effort to bring a major national event to West Virginia,” Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said. “Our partners represent a diverse group who are committed to working together to achieve a common goal. I look forward to working with the Commission and our partners to do all we can to bring this wonderful opportunity to the Mountain State.”

Joining forces in the unique proposal are West Virginia State University (WVSU) and West Virginia University (WVU), West Virginia’s only land-grant universities, as co-applicants to host the debate; in collaboration with the City of Charleston, the State of West Virginia, Steptoe and Johnson, PLLC Attorneys at Law, and the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences of West Virginia. The proposal garnered letters of support from West Virginia’s entire Congressional delegation as well as former Governor Gaston Caperton and others.

The debate would take place at the Clay Center in late September or October, 2016, and both universities would host pre-debate activities on their campuses throughout the year leading up to the debate itself.

“The support for this opportunity has been monumental and is a true example of how the public and private sectors can collaborate for the betterment of the city, state and region,” said WVSU President Brian O. Hemphill. “This is an exciting prospect for the State of West Virginia, and for our two land-grant institutions. WVSU and WVU have a strong history of working together to grow our state’s economy and create new opportunities for all West Virginians.”

“Hosting a presidential debate would be a one-of-a-kind educational experience and exercise in civic engagement for our students and for our communities,” said West Virginia University President E. Gordon Gee.   “What an honor it would be to engage students, faculty, youth and citizens from across the state in active participation in our nation’s political process.”

Logistical considerations are key in the application, as outlined by the Commission.  Some of the requirements include an air-conditioned debate hall that measures at least 17,000 square feet and workspace and lodging for approximately 3,000 journalists who would cover the debate.

“I cannot imagine a better way to show the nation what our city and our state have to offer,” said Charleston Mayor Danny Jones.  “The City of Charleston will do all we can to bring this tremendous economic opportunity and international exposure to show the world all that Charleston has to offer.”

“This is an awesome opportunity to showcase our state as a destination and a place of great facilities, hospitality and outdoor beauty,” said Amy Shuler Goodwin, West Virginia’s Deputy Secretary of Commerce and Commissioner of Tourism.  “While the actual debate would take place in Charleston, this would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for thousands of new visitors to discover West Virginia.”

“The Clay Center is honored to collaborate with lead applicants WVSU and WVU for the opportunity to host a 2016 Presidential Debate,” said Clay Center President Al Najjar.  “In addition to providing educational opportunities for the entire region, a national debate would be a source of pride for the City of Charleston and West Virginia, place the beauty and hospitality of West Virginia on a national stage, and have a positive economic impact on the Kanawha Valley.”

A 501(c) (3) organization, the West Virginia Commission on Presidential Debates, Inc., has been formed to manage all aspects of the debate including facilities, logistics and security.  The West Virginia Commission is chaired by Mike Stuart, a Charleston lawyer with the firm of Steptoe & Johnson PLLC and former Chairman of the West Virginia Republican Party.

“I am proud of the remarkable collaboration we have assembled for the benefit of these two tremendous universities and the State of West Virginia,” said Stuart.  “The result of months of work, our application to the Commission on Presidential Debates is an important first step to hosting an event that is the Super Bowl of politics.  The strength of this application is two great universities and a collaboration of tremendous partners.”

“The submission of our proposal is an important first step,” continued Stuart.  “Over the next six months until the ultimate announcement of host sites in October or November, we look forward to sharing our passion for West Virginia and our amazing story of collaboration and capability with the national Commission.”
John Bolt
Director of News Services, West Virginia University
LeAnn Cain
The Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences of West Virginia
(304) 561-3586
Amy Shuler Goodwin
Deputy Secretary of Commerce/Commissioner of Tourism
Kimberly Osborne
WVSU Vice President for University Relations & Operations
Mike Stuart
Steptoe & Johnson PLLC
Shayna S. Varner
Press Secretary
Office of Governor Earl Ray Tomblin
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