Tonight is the night, the one and probably only face-to-face gubernatorial debate between incumbent Republican Governor Jim Justice and Democratic challenger Kanawha County Commissioner Ben Salango.
The West Virginia Broadcasters Association, which represents radio and TV stations in the state, has organized the debate and AT&T is the sponsor.
Here are some points about the debate:
It starts at 7:00 p.m. and will air on many television and radio stations in West Virginia. Here is more information on how you can watch and listen to the debate.
WVBA executive director Michele Crist asked me to serve as moderator. I know of many broadcasters in the state who could do the job and I am honored to serve in that roll.
With that honor also comes responsibility. My job tonight will be to try to elicit specific responses from the candidates on a range of subjects so that you have a better idea of where they stand and who you prefer to serve as the state’s chief executive.
MetroNews reporter Brad McElhinny helped me with the questions, although I had the final say. I have about two dozen prepared questions covering a broad range of topics, but it will be hard to get to them all. The actual time for questions is only 48 minutes.
Brad and I, along with show producer Dan Lohmann of Pikewood Creative, are the only people who have copies of the questions.
Under the format, I will pose a question to a candidate who has 90-seconds to answer. His opponent then has 30-seconds for rebuttal. Then we alternate. The campaigns have agreed to give me the latitude to ask for clarification if I think it is necessary.
Justice and Salango will each have two-minutes to make closing statements.
I have been asked several times if I expect the same level of chaos as the Presidential debate. I do not. Like any live debate there will likely be some rough and tumble moments, but—knock on wood—it should not get out of control.
Nationally, our politics have become increasingly polarized and divisive, but it does not have to be that way. The late British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said, “I love argument, I love debate. I don’t expect anyone just to sit there and agree with me, that’s not their job.”
Debate and disagreement are healthy. The exchange of contrary ideas and principles exercises the muscles of our republic, keeping us toned and alert.
Let us set the bar high tonight—for Governor Justice, for Commissioner Salango and for myself—and then try to clear it.