Law Dean Reflects on Role as Gubernatorial Debate Moderator

Lexington, VA Tuesday, July 28, 2009


Rodney A. Smolla

Virginia Gubernatorial Debate
Listen as Dean Smolla explains how he prepared to moderate the first debate in the closely watched Virginia governor's race and shares his impressions of the event.
On Saturday, July 25, Washington and Lee Law Dean Rodney A. Smolla served as moderator of the first debate between Creigh Deeds and Bob McDonnell for the closely watched Virginia governor's race.

Smolla notes the experience was unlike any other in his professional career as a legal scholar or practitioner, and that he strived to maintain complete neutrality throughout the process of preparing for and moderating the debate, refusing any interview requests before or after the event.

"You don't interview the umpire before the baseball game, and I think you don't interview the umpire after the baseball game either," says Smolla. "But I do enjoy talking about the process and my perceptions of how I and the candidates approached the debate."

As one of only two gubernatorial races following a presidential election year, the Virginia race has garnered increasing national attention as an early referendum on voter satisfaction with the Obama presidency. The election pits Deeds, a state Senator from Bath County, against McDonnell, a former attorney general and state legislator from Virginia Beach. In 2005, the two ran against each other for attorney general. McDonnell prevailed in that contest by 360 votes after a recount.

The debate was broadcast live on the website VirginiaTalks.com. Visitors to the site can sign-up to receive notification when the archived broadcast becomes available.


Dean Smolla, left, poses a question to the candidates. (Photo by Bob Brown/Richmond Times-Dispatch)

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