Incumbent Senator Mark Warner (D) and challenger Daniel Gade (R) debated police reforms, social justice, and COVID-19 at Norfolk State University on Saturday evening. The live-streamed event was the second debate between the two candidates. Warner touted his experience as a governor and senator, and cast himself as a middle-of-the-road Democrat. Gade portrayed himself as a free-thinker who nonetheless supports many traditional Republican values.
Near the beginning of the debate, moderators asked the candidates, “Do you believe there were good people on both sides of the riots in Charlottesville?”
“Allow me to speak clearly: I disavow racism,” Gade replied. “I disavow White supremacists. And if you’re out there, if you happen to be a White supremacist and you’re watching this right now, I don’t want your vote, I don’t want your money, and shame on you for your attitudes and disrespect.” Gade said President Trump “badly fumbled” the issue when he spoke about the 2017 “Unite the Right” riot. Gade also challenged Warner for appointing a “known segregationist” in 2002 to the 13th District bench.
Warner replied, “I’m proud of our administration’s record. We were the most diverse administration at that point in Virginia’s history.” When pressed by a moderator, Warner added, “The judge in question was part of an arrangement where there were a series of judges put forward by the Republicans and a series of judges put forward by the Democrats, and part of the judges that were put forward in that package was Richard Taylor who went on to serve with great distinction. And the fact is, that was only done in conjunction with that Republican controlled legislature.”
Moderators asked, “When do you think federal officials should move in to deal with unrest during a protest?”
Warner replied, “I think these decisions should be made as is law, as is legal and are procedures in this country: by the mayors and the governors.” Warner referred to his experience with chain-of-command as a governor. “The notion that you would send in, over the objections of the mayor or the governor is wrong. It has been used by this administration, I believe, in ways to escalate and not de-escalate violent situations.”
Gade said, “The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the land, and federal law supersedes state and local law in cases like this. We need to defend federal properties, to prevent lawbreakers from destroying or damaging federal properties, and we need to intervene to protect the civil rights of American citizens.”
By Saturday night, there were 2,300 comments on the Facebook video of the debate. Many commenters praised the moderators. Others discussed points related to individual questions, or supported their candidates. James Holland wrote, “Warner has done well. VOTE for him.”
Brandon Wandell said, “I voted for Mark Warner every time I saw his name on the ballot, but Gade is winning this debate. But with no publicly elected experience, Gade has no record at all.”
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