by Brandon Jarvis

According to a statement from the campaign for Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin, he will not be participating in the first scheduled general election debate that was set to be held later this month by the Virginia Bar Association (VBA). The event was canceled after Youngkin’s announcement Monday.

“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.

Every Republican and Democratic gubernatorial nominee has participated in this debate since 1985.

In the policy outline that VBA sent to both campaigns earlier this year, VBA described themselves as “a nonpartisan organization,” and said they do not “endorse, support or oppose political candidates. The VBA debates are not intended to in any way promote or advance one candidate over another.”

Additionally, Republicans have been pushing back against the event’s moderator in recent election cycles, Judy Woodruff. Woodruff once donated $250 to the Clinton Foundation’s Haiti relief efforts and due to McAuliffe’s relationship with the Clinton’s, Republicans used this as a reason to discredit the VBA debate.

“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.

Woodruff won a Peabody Award for Journalist Integrity this year.

McAuliffe announced last month that he accepted invitations to participate in five general election debates. Youngkin said soon after that he plans to only participate in three debates.

Youngkin’s campaign clarified Monday and said he will be participating in a debate hosted by Hampton University, Liberty University, and the Virginia Peninsula Chamber of Commerce in late August; one hosted by the Appalachian School of Law in Grundy on Sept. 16, and a to-be-determined host and location in mid-October.

“Pathetic that Glenn Youngkin doesn’t have the courage to meet me on stage at the VBA debate next week,” McAuliffe tweeted Monday. “After a rough month for his campaign, he’s more desperate than ever to hide his right-wing views because he knows how out of step they are with VA. Can’t hide forever Glenn!”

After news that Youngkin would not be participating in the event, VBA released a statement saying they are removing the event from their schedule. “While we had productive conversations with the campaigns, we were not able to get commitments for a debate that included all of the major candidates,” VBA said in the statement. “The debate has always been one of the highlights of the summer meeting, and the VBA has been grateful to be part of the political conversation in Virginia for more than 30 years. We are disappointed that a statewide debate will not be a part of this year’s program.”

Besides the VBA debate, McAuliffe agreed to debates in the Hampton Roads hosted by Norfolk State University, in Southwest Virginia at the Appalachian School of Law during fall, in Northern Virginia with the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce, NBC4/Telemundo 44 and the Schar School of Public Policy and Government at George Mason University on September 29, and in Richmond hosted by the AARP Virginia and WTVR on October 12.

It is unclear what events the Independent candidate Princess Blanding was invited to, or will attend.

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