Several federal and state elected officials have joined together to support Eastern Kentucky University’s bid to host a debate during next year’s presidential campaign. A package sent by university officials to the Commission on Presidential Debates includes strong letters of support from Democratic and Republican leaders, namely U.S. Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, state Sen. President David Williams and state House Speaker Greg Stumbo.
EKU President Doug Whitlock says the bipartisan backing illustrates the broad support for the university, which is prepared to host the debate.
“Our campus has excellent spaces for the candidates and the campaign teams. So we think our facilities for a presidential debate are really second to none,” he says.
In 2000, the commission chose Centre College in Danville, Ky. as the site to host the vice presidential debate between then-candidate Dick Cheney and Sen. Joe Lieberman, giving the historic campus a national profile. It remains the smallest institution to host a presidential election debate.
Earlier this year, a three-member delegation from the commission visited EKU’s Richmond, Ky. campus and toured several facilities that could potentially host the event. There are 11 other colleges and universities competing to host one of the four debates in 2012 election, including Centre.
However, Whitlock is confident EKU will be selected, adding the campus is ideally located to host the national forum and reiterating their facilities are equipped to handle what he calls the “Super Bowl of American politics.”
“I think our application and our capacity to do this equals or exceeds that of any of the other applicants. All other things being equal, the commission does like to take these things to some new locations. So we think that certainly enhances our chances,” he says. “We need to keep our name before the commission and certainly this bi-partisan political support we’ve had is a part of that.”
The commission will makes its selections by November 2011.