Key moments from NSU’s VA Senate debate

Virginia Senate Debate

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Sen. Mark Warner (D) and challenger Dr. Daniel Gade (R) took part in their second debate in the race for Virginia senate on Saturday night.

The debate took place in the L. Douglas Wilder Performing Arts Center at Norfolk State University. The political debate was the first in NSU’s history, and focused on race and equality issues, including systemic racism, police reform, and the removal of confederate monuments from public spaces.

During their first debate, Warner and Gade were in separate spaces. The candidates shared the same stage at NSU, but were socially distanced. WAVY TV 10 partnered with NSU for the debate and 10 On Your Side took several precautions to keep the candidates and audience safe, including requiring spectators to wear face masks and ensuring that everyone was socially distanced.

Here’s a look at some of the key moments from Saturday’s debate.

Economic Shutdown

Presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden has said that if he is elected he will consider shutting down the country again if there is another spike in COVID-19 cases. Both candidates were asked if they would support such a shut down.

Gade said that he believes COVID-19 is a very serious disease, but shutting down the economy and schools again would be a disaster. He said if the economy shuts down, many jobs will be lost forever. He said he would have voted on a second COVID-19 relief package, which may have provided more funding for the Paycheck Protection Program and vaccine efforts.

Warner said he wants the economy to reopen, but believes Americans need to follow the science.

‘Very Fine People’

President Trump has been quoted as saying there were “very fine people on both sides” of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. The 2017 rally centered around the removal of a statue of confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. It devolved into a riot, resulting in violence and the death of protester Heather Heyer. Both candidates were asked if they believed there were “very fine people on both sides” of the Charlottesville riot.

Gade disavowed racism and white supremacy in all forms, including at the Charlottesville riot. Warner said that Trump was wrong when he said there were good people on both sides of the Charlottesville riot, and that Trump was wrong in a recent presidential debate when he did not disavow white supremacy.

Gade responded by pointing to Warner’s time as governor. He said Warner appointed a judge who was a known segregationist. Warner defended his administration as Virginia governor and said one of the first bills he signed into law dealt with racial profiling for law enforcement.

Qualified Immunity

On the topic of police reform, the candidates were asked about their stances on reforming qualified immunity for law enforcement. Qualified immunity protects government officials, including police officers, from being held personally liable for Constitutional violations while performing their civic duties.

Warner said he supports reforming qualified immunity because, as of right now, it can be used to shield inappropriate behaviors within law enforcement agencies. He said that there are police who have records of inappropriate and racist behaviors, and qualified immunity can be used to protect them. Even if an officer is let go, they can move to another jurisdiction for a job.

Gade said that he also supports reforming qualified immunity. He said qualified immunity was a court decision and politicians have failed to codify it into law. He said that the Virginia Police Benevolent Association knows his position on qualified immunity and endorse him anyway.

COVID-19 Vaccine

President Trump has publicly said that he believes a COVID-19 vaccine could become available by the end of the year. The candidates were asked if they support making COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for children who attend public schools.

Gade said he would not support mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for children attending public schools. He said the only mandatory vaccinations that should be considered should be for federal prisoners and the U.S. military.

Warner said he does not believe that the government can force children to be vaccinated for COVID-19 before attending public schools. He said there is a lot of misinformation surrounding vaccinations on social media. He said he worries that the misinformation online may make people afraid of vaccinations.

Mask ‘Tryanny’

In a recorded interview, Gade compared wearing face masks to “tyranny.” He was asked what he meant by that statement.

Gade said he “mangled” a philosophical point he was trying to make. He said he believes masks are a good idea, but he is concerned that a government that can make its people take small actions may be powerful enough to control its citizens in other ways.

WAVY-TV 10 Anchor Anita Blanton asked Gade if he believed the White House would be less effected by COVID-19 had the president and other officials worn masks in the Rose Garden during Trump’s Supreme Court nomination last week. Gade said that he wishes that White House officials wore masks at that time.

Washington Football Team

In July, the NFL announced that their Washington, D.C. football team would retire the name “Reskins” and their Indian head logo. The move came after years of criticism that the team name and logo are offensive to Native Americans. Warner was asked about his decision not to join a 2014 letter signed by Democratic senators calling for the renaming of the football team.

Warner said he thought the issue was going to be handled at a local level, but he realizes now that he should have weighed in on it earlier than he did. He said he believes his record shows fairness and he is proud of being bipartisan.

‘Nasty, Failing’ Public Schools

In a recorded interview, Gade called some American public schools “nasty” and “failing.” He was asked to define “nasty, failing public schools.”

Gade said that he was referring to the systemic failure of the government for black families who are trapped in “nasty” and “failing” schools without recourse. He said these schools often are in urban areas, have higher crime rates, and are underfunded. He said he supports educational choice.

Confederate Monuments

The debate surrounding the removal of confederate monuments from public spaces has heated up this year, including in cities like Portsmouth, Norfolk, and Richmond where people have defaced monuments during protests. The candidates were asked what they believe is the appropriate way to deal with the removal of confederate statues from communities.

Gade said he believes confederate statues should be moved to places where their historical context makes sense. He said that he understands why the public feels pain when they see these statues in public spaces.

Warner said he believes confederate monuments, stateus, and names should be moved from public spaces. He said the movement should be done by local and state governments and not by violence.


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