LYNCHBURG, Va./HAMPTON, Va. (October 9, 2018) – Two Town Hall forums featuring Virginia U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D) and challenger Corey Stewart (R) took place at both Hampton University and Liberty University as part of a partnership between the two schools to inform and engage the Commonwealth of Virginia in this candidate race. Both Town Halls were sponsored by Hampton University’s Center for Public Policy and Liberty University’s Center for Law & Government.
The second, and most recent in the Senate Town Hall series occurred on Wednesday, October 3, 2018 in Hampton University’s Convocation Center, where the focus was on foreign policy and military. The moderators for this event were April Woodard, an award-winning journalist and professor for the Hampton University Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications, and WTKR news anchor Les Smith. Fifty Hampton University students also got the chance to pose questions to the candidates. Candidates discussed issues such as military healthcare, North Korea, military sexual assault, illegal immigrants and more. The forum was live streamed on Hamptonu.edu, Liberty’s Facebook page, C-SPAN and several other networks.
In speaking on immigration, Kaine said, “In my view, if somebody is fleeing persecution and we can vet them well enough to know that they’ll be safe here, the United States shouldn’t be heartless to people who are seeking refuge from countries that are under civil war or disaster.”
One Hampton University student asked Stewart about veteran unemployment. “We have to continue to improve our economy. There’s a tax cut that we’re only nine months into and already we have the lowest unemployment rate in the United States in 52 years. Our economy is booming,” Stewart said.
Hampton University students were highly involved in this Town Hall forum and even wrote and asked their own questions during the student panel portion of the evening. “Our students worked hard to research the issues and formulate insightful questions for the Senate Town Hall and I am extremely proud of their interaction with the Senate candidates,” said Dr. Kelly Harvey-Viney, director for the Hampton University Center for Public Policy.
*The first of the Town Hall Series was hosted at Liberty University*
The first of two U.S. Senate Town Hall forums occurred on Thursday, September 20, 2018 at Liberty University’s Center for Music and the Worship Arts in Lynchburg, VA. This Town Hall featured incumbent Sen. Tim Kaine (D) and challenger Corey Stewart (R) and was live streamed on Hamptonu.edu and Liberty’s Facebook page with the aid of the Virginia Association of Broadcasters and broadcasted on C-SPAN network.
The moderators for this event were Len Stevens, Executive Director of External Communications for Liberty University and a former WSET news anchor, and Mark Spain, a WSET news anchor. Each candidate was asked questions by Spain, and Stevens moderated questions from a panel of Liberty University students to the candidates. Each candidate was then allowed one minute to make a closing remark. The focus for this Town Hall was domestic issues and other topics including, Roe v. Wade, Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s sexual assault allegations, voter fraud and illegal immigration. Events like these are important as the U.S. heads into a crucial mid-term election on November 6, 2018.
Stewart’s message to voters was one of unity. “I’ve got very strong beliefs and I’m not afraid to express them, but I can also get things done. And what I see in Washington, I see two sides that are not willing to work together. I’m going up to Washington, not because I want to keep it the same as Senator Kaine does, but because I want to change it, because I want to rile things, and I want to get things accomplished,” Stewart said.
Kaine’s message was for a “Virginia that works for all. It’s about Virginia, solving Virginia problems and bringing Virginia solutions to the forefront. Fair wages, fair tax code, skills training, immigration reform, and it’s about the last two words in the Pledge of Allegiance, ‘for all.’”
*Collaboration between Hampton University and Liberty University*
Overall, both Town Halls were a great success and both universities worked well together during this collaboration. “The Town Hall meeting held on the campus of Hampton University was an overwhelming success,” said Hampton University President, Dr. William R. Harvey. “I want to thank Kelly Harvey-Viney and Paul Harris for their leadership in making this happen. I also want to thank all the members of the Hampton Team, along with Liberty University for their excellent work and partnership.”
Earlier this year, Hampton University and Liberty University met to discuss their mutual interest in looking for ways to work together to advance their shared goals of providing the best educational opportunities for their students and promoting the public good by offering a statewide platform for robust civic discourse. The two schools’ shared commitment to Jefferson’s idea that only a well-educated citizenry can preserve the promise of the American republic led them to offer to host these two debates during this important U.S. Senate election.
Corey Stewart spoke about the collaborative partnership between Hampton University and Liberty University to bring these Town Halls to fruition. “I think it shows cooperation between the two universities and I hope it continues. It worked out great because one was held in the western part of the state where I’ve got a stronger base and here (in Hampton Roads) Senator Kaine has a stronger base so it was fair,” said Stewart.
Senator Kaine appreciated the student panel aspect of the Town Halls. “My favorite part of this forum was that 15 minutes of student questions, these are kids who have got a lot on their mind, they have a lot of worries, concerns, and they’re altruistic, spirited people. This is a place where the interaction with the students will be front and center and that’s important,” said Sen. Kaine.
“I could not be more pleased with our partnership. This is something that started back in the spring and we decided that we really wanted to give a state-wide platform to the candidates and do it in a way that allowed them to talk about their views, and also have significant student engagement,” said Robert Hurt, a former U.S. Representative and director of Liberty’s Center for Law & Government.
“I think this should become a staple statewide campaign event. I think this format worked well to educate the members of the community about the issues. They got to see the candidates up close and personal and got some candid responses to some very complex questions,” said Attorney Paul C. Harris, senior vice president for Hampton University. “The vibe and comradery between the Liberty team and the Hampton team was absolutely extraordinary, so I think we are both committed to exploring opportunities to collaborate further in events like this and other areas as well.”
“The Senate Town Hall helped to lay an amazing foundation for the Hampton University/ Liberty University partnership and I look forward to the next round of political races in the future with our new partners,” added Harvey-Viney.