Youngkin campaign said negotiations fell through after the VBA refused to address several concerns

RICHMOND-Since 1985, every election for governor has started at the same spot: The Virginia Bar Association’s Summer Meeting. That tradition ends this year, as Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin refused to take part in the debate. 

Youngkin’s campaign made the announcement Monday, saying negotiations with the VBA fell through. 

“Unfortunately, the VBA refused to dedicate a portion of the debate to a discussion on Virginia’s economy and jobs, which proved to be an insurmountable barrier in our negotiations,” said Youngkin spokesperson Macaulay Porter. 

Also, Porter said the campaign had a problem with the person chosen to be VBA’s moderator. In 2010, PBS NewsHour anchor Judy Woodruff gave a $250 donation to the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, set up after the Haiti earthquake earlier that year. It came to light in 2015, as Politico reported on all donations given by media members to the Clinton Foundation in prior years. They provided a list, including Woodruff’s contribution. 

The issue, according to a statement by Youngkin’s campaign, is that McAuliffe has a long history with the Clintons. 

“It would also be a conflict of interest to have former Clinton Foundation board member Terry McAuliffe being questioned by a Clinton Foundation donor,” Porter said. 

Some of Woodruff’s co-workers asked why a political campaign attacked her for donating to a relief effort. 

“Judy’s donation to the Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund was in response to [a] bipartisan call by [former] prezs Clinton and George W. Bush in 2010 for relief for Haiti following [a] devastating earthquake,” NewsHour executive producer Sara Just tweeted. “Seeing it thru any other lens is completely misleading.” 

So When Will Debates Happen? 

Youngkin’s opponent, Democrat Terry McAuliffe, said the Republican didn’t surprise him with the rejection. 

“Glenn Youngkin has spent his campaign embracing Donald Trump and trying to hide his true views from Virginia voters, so it’s no surprise he does not have the courage to face me at this debate and answer questions just as every Republican and Democratic nominee for governor has done since 1985,” McAuliffe said in a statement. “His refusal to participate in this debate is an insult to Virginians and shows that Glenn knows just how out of step he is with the people of the Commonwealth.”

So with the change, when will the two candidates debate? Both campaigns agreed to a debate Sept. 16 at the Appalachian School of Law in Grundy. After that? It’s still in question. Both groups agreed to more debates, but in different areas. 

Youngkin’s campaign agreed to one in late August, organized by Hampton University, Liberty University and the Virginia Peninsula Chamber of Commerce. That one doesn’t have an exact date. They also want to hold one in mid-October, but no date or location has been set. 

McAuliffe meanwhile accepted an invite by George Mason University on Sept. 28 and one in Richmond on Oct. 12.

Brian Carlton is Dogwood’s managing editor. You can reach him at brian@vadogwood.com.