NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The second debate in the race for Virginia Senate took place Saturday night with incumbent Sen. Mark Warner (D) and challenger Dr. Daniel Gade (R) at Norfolk State University.

The political debate focused on race and equality issues — including systemic racism, police reform, and the removal of confederate monuments from public spaces.

Here’s a look at some of the questions asked by students and debate partners, and the candidate responses.

Defunding the Police

Bruce Sams, president of the Old Dominion Bar Association, asked both candidates if they were in favor of defunding the police departments given the current unrest involving social injustice.

Gade responded by saying that police need more funding for training, equipment, and ways for reporting and protecting the most vulnerable among us. Gade said that defunding the police was an “evil idea.”

Warner does not support defunding the police. He stated that law enforcement needs additional funding for added training to avoid using chokehold methods and other activities as a first resort.

Housing and Evictions

In a recent August 2020 report by the Aspen Institute, data show that 30 to 40 million Americans are at risk of eviction due to the coronavirus pandemic. Prior to that, 47.5% of those Americans were already “rent-burdened.” Zakia Anderson, Norfolk State University graduate student, asked both Warner and Gade what measures they plan to take for Black and Latinx communities experiencing housing hardships and evictions.

Warner says that he agrees with the moratoriums on evictions, but after removing it, having back rent due is not fair to renters. He recently supported legislation that puts up to $120 billion dollars of additional assistance for renters and landlords.

Gade responded by saying that a payment protection plan extension and continuous unemployment relief would have helped those millions of Americans experiencing hardships.

College Loans Debt

Jeremiah Obryant, Norfolk State University student, asked both candidates how they plan to help the student loan crisis projected to reach $2 trillion dollars by 2022 in addition to financial literacy education and resources.

Gade said that students should refinance their high-interest loans while the opportunity is present. He also said that families and students experiencing excessive student loan debt should be able to file similar to the “normal” bankruptcy process allowing them to restructure their debt. Gade also said universities should bear a certain amount of risk for the students and be co-signers for the loans.

Warner responded by saying students should refinance their loans and investment should be on higher education. He supports legislation that adds $38 billion to additional relief.

Funding HBCUs

Symone Thomas, Norfolk State University student, asked Warner and Gade what their plan is to reserve and aid Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) in the near future.

Gade said that as a principal and college professor, he understands the value of education and how important it is for HBCUs and the vital role they play in the community. He agrees with securing permanent funding for HBCUs.

Warner responded by saying that success comes out of HBCUs and he currently supports funding for the colleges and universities. He said that student debt is a primary concern and issue.

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