Strong pitch being made for presidential debate in Charleston

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia made an impression recently on the group in charge of choosing sites for the 2016 presidential and vice presidential debates.

There was enthusiasm at a governor’s mansion reception the West Virginia Commission on Presidential Debates hosted when the national selection group made a site visit to Charleston.

“It was absolutely clear. It was palpable and you could feel the enthusiasm from everybody to West Virginia hosting one of these events,” state commission chair Mike Stuart said. “When you host one of these (debate) events in Chicago, New York or Los Angeles it’s a city event. But here in West Virginia I think they generally understand that if we are able to host one of these events it will truly be a statewide effort, a statewide event.”

West Virginia’s 200-page plus application, which was submitted in March, details a plan led by West Virginia University and West Virginia State University with key cooperation from state government, the City of Charleston and others. Stuart said the selection group has already commended the application.

“We’ve done everything we can, in effect the commission said, ‘you have turned out your best effort that you can turn out,'” Stuart said. “We may not be awarded a debate site but it’s not for a lack of doing a great job in terms of our effort.”

There are 16 sites going for four debates, three presidential debates and one for vice president. Stuart said the other sites are strong, like a list of Rhodes Scholars. The selection committee is visiting all 16 this summer. Stuart, WVU President Gordon Gee and WVSU President Brian Hemphill will have a follow-up meeting in Washington, D.C. soon. Stuart said the selections should be made the first week of October. If West Virginia is chosen, a debate could be held in late September or early October 2016 following a year of pre-debate events at both WVU and WVSU.

The debate would be held at the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences in downtown Charleston.

The Commission on Presidential Debates was created in 1987 to oversee debates for presidential and vice presidential candidates during every general election.