WISE, VIRGINIA (WJHL) – The major party candidates in Virginia’s race for governor revealed their plans for the commonwealth in Monday’s third and final debate at the University of Virginia College at Wise.
The closely watched race is between Republican Ed Gillespie and Democrat Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam.
A new poll released just hours before the debate, from Christopher Newport University, shows Northam ahead of Gillespie by seven percent.
Another poll out Monday night shows Gillespie trailing by five points.
Virginia is a swing state and this race has been catching national attention. The candidates know they have to convince undecided voters a month before election day.
“We want to see what these two gentlemen have in their hearts and minds to bring to Southwest Virginia,” St. Paul, Virginia resident, Lou Wallace said.
Wallace said her and her husband came out to hear more about what the candidates have to say. Her husband, Bill is leaning towards Gillespie.
Northam – leads Gillespie in statewide polls and in fundraising. But here in southwest Virginia – he knows Gillespie has the advantage.
The first debate topic was about education. The question was asked about the future of K-12 schools in coal country, with job loss and families moving away.
“We need to attract to hard to staff schools and I’ve put forward a plan to do that including student loan forgiveness for those teachers we do need to increase teacher compensation here in the commonwealth,” Gillespie said in response to that question.
“Coal is very important to the economy of Southwest Virginia, I understand that. The demands for steam related coal are not what they use to be the demands very metallurgical coal is actually very good,” Northam said.
Economic development was also brought up multiple times during the debate.
Both candidates pledged to expand broadband in southwest Virginia and they pledged support for the host of the debate, UVA Wise.
“Make sure we double the enrollment, I have a strategic goal to double the enrollment, that we have graduate programs here, that we have cybersecurity degrees that we confer here,” Gillespie said.
“With this comes the ability to have research and development, with that comes grant opportunities, with that comes business opportunities,” Northam said.
The candidates also answered questions on the opioid crisis, funding highway, sanctuary cities and more.
They leave southwest Virginia with a month to go, in a race that will continue to be watched around the country.
The deadline to register is a week from Monday. Election day is Nov. 7.
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