Ashton Marra Published

Could Charleston Host a Presidential Debate?

Clay Center

A coalition of West Virginia groups is working to bring a presidential or vice presidential debate to the state’s capital city. 

The West Virginia Commission on Presidential Debates has spent the past six months putting together an application hundreds of pages in length detailing why Charleston is the perfect place for a 2016 debate.


The commission is made up of representatives from West Virginia University, West Virginia State University, the governor’s office, the City of Charleston and the law firm Steptoe and Johnson.

They propose holding either one of three presidential or the vice presidential debate at the Clay Center in the fall of 2016. 

Usually held on a college campus, the commission’s chair Mike Stuart, an attorney with Steptoe and Johnson in Charleston and a former West Virginia GOP State Chairman, said Wednesday Charleston offers all of the things the federal commission is looking for. 

"This city was really built for an event like this." -Mike Stuart, Chair of The West Virginia Commission on Presidential Debates

According to their website, the federal Commission on Presidential Debates requires:

  • A 17,000 square foot debate hall.
  • A large parking area close to the debate hall for 40 television remote trucks, trailers and/or satellite trucks.
  • A media filing center, located either in the same facility as the debate hall or extremely close to the debate hall that is a minimum of 20,000 square feet.  
  • Nearby hotels that can provide 3,000 rooms for the event.
  • Good air and ground transportation networks.
  • The host’s guarantee of complete city services, including public safety personnel.

With the dozens of hotels located in the metro area, the ease of access to Yeagar Airport and the location of the National Guard who would could coordinate security with national, state and local police agencies, Stuart said Charleston is an ideal location.
In return, he predicted the Kanawha Valley could see an economic impact of $12-18 million, with an larger $50 million economic impact for the state as a whole. 

The 2012 Presidential debates were held in Hampstead, New York, Boca Raton, Florida and Denver, Colorado. The Vice Presidential debate was held in Danville, Kentucky.

Stuart says the list of 14 to 20 applicants will be released by the federal presidential debate commission next week with final four locations chosen by November.