West Virginia Not Selected as Site for Presidential or Vice Presidential Debate

West Virginia Commission
on Presidential Debates, Inc.
Sept. 23, 2015

Contacts below
West Virginia Not Selected as Site for Presidential or Vice Presidential Debate

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The Commission on Presidential Debates today announced that Charleston would not be one of the sites selected to host a 2016 Presidential or Vice Presidential debate.

West Virginia was one of 16 applicants from around the country under consideration to host one of the debates.

“Although the Mountain State was not selected to host a presidential debate, the application process alone demonstrates that West Virginia can collaborate and compete on a national scale for business, industry and historic national events,” Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said. “I’d like to personally thank our state’s business, government and education partners for their time and hard work leading up to today’s announcement.”  

West Virginia State University (WVSU) and West Virginia University (WVU), the state’s only land-grant universities, joined forces 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.

“On behalf of the students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends of West Virginia State University, I wish to express our disappointment that Charleston was not selected as a host site for the 2016 debates,” said WVSU President Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D. “I offer my humblest gratitude to the incredible team of individuals who worked so diligently to ensure the lengthy application was fully completed to showcase the incredible strength and heart of the state of West Virginia and its people.  It is abundantly clear West Virginia has the means to perform strongly and competitively on a national level, and I remain optimistic about future opportunities to showcase West Virginia State University and the great state of West Virginia to the nation and world.”

“I am proud of the Mountaineer spirit of collaboration and determination that was exhibited in the application to host a debate,” said West Virginia University President E. Gordon Gee.  “We will nonetheless continue to use the upcoming election as an educational opportunity and look forward to our students learning and participating in the political process.”

A 501(c) (3) organization, the West Virginia Commission on Presidential Debates, Inc., was 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.

“As West Virginia’s capital city, Charleston has benefitted greatly from people who look for new opportunities to bring special events to our city and work hard to try to make great things happen,” said Charleston Mayor Danny Jones.  “I am very grateful to Mike Stuart who brought together leaders of West Virginia State University, West Virginia University and the Clay Center, Gov. Tomblin and several state, city and county agencies to explore what might be possible here.  Even though the Commission decided to hold the debates elsewhere, the vision Mike created and the teamwork we built through this process will help all of us in the future.”

“Although not selected, we represented West Virginia and these two universities well at the national level in this worthy effort,” said Mike Stuart. “Despite the disappointing news, it is far better to dare mighty things. This was a tremendous experience with a great team. Our victory celebration is not cancelled but simply delayed until 2020.”

Clay Center President & CEO Al Najjar said, “Tony Bennett once called the Clay Center ‘one of the jewels of the planet,’ and it has been an honor to have it considered as a site for such a prestigious event.  The Clay Center is an extraordinarily unique venue and a model for cultural institutions all over the world. We’re incredibly proud to have been part of this effort to showcase the best of West Virginia to our nation’s leaders.”

The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) was established in 1987 to ensure that debates, as a permanent part of every general election, provide the best possible information to viewers and listeners. Its primary purpose is to sponsor and produce debates for the United States presidential and vice presidential candidates and to undertake research and educational activities relating to the debates. The organization, which is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, 501(c)(3) corporation, sponsored all of the presidential debates in 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012.

For more information, visit www.debates.org.


Rod Blackstone
Deputy Mayor, City of Charleston
(304) 348-8174
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
(304) 558-2200
Becky Lofstead
University Relations, West Virginia University
(304) 293-6997
Kimberly Osborne
WVSU Vice President for University Relations & Operations
(304) 766-3363
Mike Stuart
Steptoe & Johnson PLLC
(304) 553-1084
Shayna S. Varner
Press Secretary
Office of Governor Earl Ray Tomblin
(304) 558-2000
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