Kentucky Elected Officials, Others Endorse EKU's Bid to Host 2012 Presidential Debate

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Eastern Kentucky University’s bid to host a 2012 Presidential Debate on its Richmond campus has drawn broad bi-partisan support from numerous federal, state and local officials, as well as many prominent business and community leaders,.

The package that accompanied the University’s bid proposal includes strong letters of support from U.S. Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, as well as Sixth District Congressman Ben Chandler; State Sen. David Williams, President of the Kentucky Senate; and State Rep. Greg Stumbo, Speaker of the Kentucky House of Representatives, among others.

EKU is one of 12 colleges and universities nationwide competing to host four debates in 2012 – three presidential debates and one vice presidential debate. It is expected that the Commission on Presidential Debates, delegates from which visited the campus in May, will announce its selections by November 2011.

The University’s 2,012-seat Center for the Arts, set to open in September 2011, would serve as the debate hall. Many other adjacent campus facilities, such as the Business and Technology Center, Perkins Building and Alumni Coliseum, would serve auxiliary purposes.

A Presidential or Vice Presidential debate is “our showcase of American democracy for the world,” said McConnell, the U.S. Senate Republican leader. “It is critical that the host location provides a venue capable of delivering a first class experience for viewers and participants alike. I’m confident that selecting Eastern Kentucky University will be the first step to ensuring a very successful event.”

Paul, also a Republican, said EKU’s Center for the Arts “will more than meet the exacting standards for an event that is sure to be the focus of national – and world – attention in 2012. I am certain that EKU, under the leadership of President Doug Whitlock, would bring a very talented team of staff members together to execute the event.”

Chandler, a Democrat whose district encompasses Richmond, called Eastern Kentucky University “one of the best-kept secrets in the Commonwealth of Kentucky and in the nation. I can think of no better way to encourage and inspire the student body to become local, state and national leaders than by giving them a chance to witness one of the most cherished events in American politics. EKU’s facilities can rival those of much larger institutions, especially its brand new Center for the Arts, which would serve as an ideal venue for a Presidential debate.”

Williams, a Republican from Burkesville, said he is “familiar with the leadership and capacity of Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond and Madison County. I can without reservation say that the ability and infrastructure exist to support a successful event of this magnitude.”

A Democrat from Prestonsburg, Stumbo said: “Kentucky is in America’s heartland (and) Richmond in many respects typifies small-town America. I have no reservations about the ability of Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond and Madison County to meet (the needs of a Presidential debate) in an exemplary fashion.”

The University’s bid proposal also featured letters of support from Second District Congressman Brett Guthrie; Pearse Lyons, President of Alltech; Dave Adkisson, President and CEO of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce; Richmond Mayor Jim Barnes; Berea Mayor Steve Connelly; Madison County Judge-Executive Kent Clark; Kim Griffo, Executive Director of the International Town and Gown Association; Ted Abernathy, Executive Director of the Southern Growth Policies Board; and many others.

EKU officials and many of the letter writers cite numerous strengths that they believe make the campus and the Richmond-Berea-Lexington area ideally suited to host a Presidential debate, which typically attracts approximately 5,000 guests, including approximately 3,000 media personnel to the community and area, some staying for as long as a week. Those strengths include:

·         an easily accessible location, served by interstate highways in all directions and the Blue Grass Airport.

·         an experienced leadership team bolstered by several individuals who played key roles in logistics, security and telecommunications during the Vice Presidential Debate held in Danville in 2000, including Debbie Hoskins, currently Executive Director of the EKU Center for the Arts, who was serving at the time as Director of Programs at the Norton Center, site of that debate.

·         more than 10,000 area hotel and motel rooms.

·         infrastructure to meet security requirements.

·         security personnel in Richmond and Lexington who have worked previous local events involving national and international figures requiring tight security.

·         the availability of shuttle services to and from the airport and to and from lodging locations.

·         adjacent emergency facilities such as Kentucky State Police, local fire and EMS stations, and Pattie A. Clay Regional Medical Center.

·         close working relationships with Richmond, Berea, Madison County and Lexington/Fayette County officials.

The other colleges and universities vying to host a debate next year are: Belmont University, Nashville, Tenn.; Centre College, Danville, Ky.; Dominican University of California, San Rafael, Calif.; Hofstra University, Hempstead, N.Y.; Indiana University, Bloomington, Ind.; Lynn University, Boca Raton, Fla.; Saint Mary’s College of California, Moraga, Calif.; The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, Pomona, N.J.; University of Denver, Denver, Colo.; Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, N.C.; and Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, Mo.

Eastern Kentucky University is a comprehensive university serving approximately 16,500 students on its Richmond campus, at its educational centers in Corbin, Danville, Manchester, Somerset and Lancaster, and throughout Kentucky.

Published on July 05, 2011