NORFOLK, Va. (WRIC) — U.S. Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia and his Republican challenger Daniel Gade discussed systemic racism, disavowed white supremacy and shared their views on the coronavirus pandemic in their second debate Saturday at Norfolk State University.

The debate was hosted by Norfolk State University, a historically Black university, with a focus on racial disparities and inequities in education and health care; the criminal justice system; and economic mobility. It was the first U.S. senatorial debate the university has hosted in its 85-year history.

Warner, a former Virginia governor seeking his third term in the Senate, and Gade, a professor at American University and a retired Army lieutenant colonel, also sparred over how to address police reform and racial disparities in education and in health care.

While Gade called the pandemic a disaster, he said that he would not support shutting down the economy if another wave of cases were to hit the country.

“It’s also a disaster to shut down the economy, to shut down our schools. And because what happens is, many of those jobs that we see Virginians doing on a day-to-day basis will go away and they’ll be gone forever,” Gade said. “And what we know about covid, what we know about this pandemic and any pandemic, is that it disproportionally affects communities of color. And that is a very serious problem.”

The Democratic senator explained that he wants to reopen schools and the country’s economy more, but urged a need to listen to the data.

“But if there’s one thing we’ve learned, to reopen the economy, to reopen our schools, we’ve got to follow the science,” Warner stressed.

Poll: Who won the debate?

Both Warner and Gade disavowed racism and white supremacy after being asked about President Trump’s decision not to during the presidential debate earlier in the week, with the senator urging his opponent to call out the president for his comments after the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville when he said there were good people on both sides.

“Well, I literally just said that senator,” Gade said after admitting that Trump “badly fumbled” his remarks during Tuesday’s presidential debate and after Charlottesville.

They also argued over how they would reform policing in the country, both saying that law enforcement officers need better training and agreeing that defunding police departments was not the path they want to follow. Warner and Gade said they feel departments need more funding.


ABC 8News Richmond: Your local election headquarters

More 2020 Election Coverage