Virginia gubernatorial candidates Terry McAuliffe and Ken Cuccinelli brought their campaigns to VCU on Thursday.
About 40 students and faculty gathered in former governor Douglass Wilder’s political science classroom to hear what the candidates had to say. The candidates spoke back-to-back for about an hour each. Cuccinelli focused on higher education reform and sexual assault.
“Fundamentally, I want every Virginian to go as far as they can go with their education … I have a four point education plan: economic growth, employability, affordability and accountability,” said Cuccinelli, a republican.
Cuccinelli also told the group the story of how a college friend was sexually assaulted and his plans to crack down on the issue. His agenda includes a proposal to ban those with incriminating evidence of sexual assault against them from attending any public college in the state.
Before speaking to the class, McAuliffe visited with students and supporters on the Compass. He also spoke briefly with VCU president Michael Rao.
His speech touched on more topics than that of his Republican counterpart, including Medicaid expansion, business and education. He said he hopes to make some serious changes to the way students in Virginia are taught.
“I want a total reform of SOL’s. (Standard of Learning tests) They do not work. They teach memorization, not knowledge,” McAuliffe said.
He also challenged Cuccinelli’s stance on women’s and gay rights, stating with a reputation of inequality, Virginia would have a very hard time attracting new business to the state.
One issue both candidates agreed on was their disapproval of the recently approved plan for the state to take over a failing school.
After each candidate spoke, students asked questions that ranged from student debt to Cuccinelli’s involvement in the Star Scientific gift scandal, which has plagued governor Bob McDonnell’s last year in office.
“I know people who are not currently attending Virginia public universities because they are fearful of the student debt that they will take on… What actions would you take on this issue?” asked Jurriaan Van Den Hurk, a student in Wilder’s class.
“That is serious problem when you start off as a young adult … What we want to make available are pathways that are more affordable than what we have today,” Cuccinelli said. Wilder said he plans on making an endorsement at some point, but not until one of the candidates shows him a little bit more of what they are about.
“I’ve just got to look at things and see what’s going on,” he said. “But I will say something.”
According to an August poll by Quinnipiac University, McAuliffe leads Cuccinelli by 6-percentage-points with about two months until election day.