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Gov. Justice, Salango set to square off in only debate before Election Day

Published: Oct. 12, 2020 at 5:17 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, W.Va (WDTV) - Exactly three weeks before Election Day, for the first and only time, West Virginia Republican Governor Jim Justice will debate his 2020 challenger, Democrat Kanawha County Commissioner Ben Salango.

Hoppy Kercheval from West Virginia MetroNews will be in the middle of it all as the moderator.

“With only one debate, anything goes,” Kercheval said.

The debate will cover a range of issues, including the coronavirus and the economy. But Kercheval said every reasonable topic is on the table.

“I don’t anticipate any curveballs,” Kercheval said. “I don’t think it’s fair to come up with something completely out of the blue. But also, I’m still trying to figure out is there a question or a couple of questions that might be slightly different from the average news of the day. But it is open to a whole range of topics.”

A MetroNews West Virginia Poll released last week shows Justice with a 19-point lead (53-34) over Salango heading into the debate. Other polls show the race is slightly closer.

It’s the first debate this year for the incumbent governor who opted against taking the stage during the primary citing his work responding to the pandemic.

Salango’s campaign agreed to five debates, while this is the only invitation the Justice team accepted. “I think they understand that they needed to do a debate, that they weren’t going to agree to more than one debate,” Kercheval said. “You know how it goes with these campaigns. If you’re the incumbent, if you’re the favorite, you agree to the minimum. If you’re the challenger, you push for more.”

Kercheval, Salango and Justice will be seven feet apart in the studio to allow for social distancing. They’ll also be tested for coronavirus before the debate where they’ll make their case to voters across West Virginia 21 days before the polls open on Election Day.

“I’m just hoping that things go well,” Kercheval said. “I hope that people will watch on WDTV and across the state and listen and maybe help them decide if they’re undecided about this race.”

Due to the NFL rescheduling the Titans-Bills game to Tuesday night, the debate will air on Clarksburg’s CW. It all gets underway at 7 p-m. Then we’ll have a full recap on Fox 10 at 10 and 5 News at 11.

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