University to Host Pennsylvania GOP Senate Primary Debate


Courtesy of Villanova University

The debate will be held in the new Performing Arts Center on campus.

Sarah Sweeney, Co-News Editor

On Monday Feb. 21, the University will host the first state-wide televised debate among Pennsylvania’s GOP candidates for U.S. Senate at the John and Joan Mullen Center for Performing Arts. 

The 2022 United States Senate election in Pennsylvania will be held on Nov. 8, 2022, as a part of the national midterm elections, which will also include electing senators from other states and members of the U.S. House of Representatives. The Senate election in Pennsylvania is much anticipated, as many expect it to determine whether Democrats or Republicans will win control of the Senate for 2023. 

Following incumbent Republican Senator Pat Toomey’s announcement he would not seek office for another term, several candidates have emerged to seek the Republican Party nomination. These candidates include Kathy Barnette, a political commentator on Fox News, Jeff Bartos, a real estate developer, David McCormick, former U.S. Under Secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs, Mehmet Oz, cardiothoracic surgeon and host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” Carla Sands, former U.S. Ambassador to Denmark, and Everett Stern, a private intelligence agency owner.

The Republican party primary will be held on May 17, 2022 and will determine the Republican nominee.

Ahead of the primary, Republican candidates are seeking to distinguish themselves upon important policy issues amidst a highly competitive field, an opportunity the debate will facilitate. These policy issues will be grouped into seven key topic groups: the filibuster, foreign policy, the economy, energy and infrastructure, constitutional processes, legislative priorities and governance and strategy. 

The debate is sponsored by Broad and Liberty, described by its CEO and President Terry Tracy as “a Philadelphia-based news and editorial outlet dedicated to freedom of thought and civil discourse,” the PA Chamber of Business and Industry, the Keystone Free Enterprise Fund and GOP SuperPAC LV Strong.

Roughly half of the debate tickets were distributed by Villanova to members of the University community. This was done so via reaching specifically reaching out to several student groups, as well as advertising via Wildcat Newswire and Campus Currents. The remaining ticket balance is being made available to debate sponsors. While all tickets reserved for the University community have already been distributed, the University hopes to make more available if the sponsors don’t use all of theirs.

The University is working to seek questions from students about the general policy topics with the hopes that one or two will be selected to pose to the candidates during the debate. The University will also sponsor a meet and greet immediately after the debate to allow attending students the opportunity to meet and speak with the candidates. 

Chris Kovolski, Assistant Vice President for Government Relations and External Affairs at the University, explained the importance of the debate.

“The more you know about something, the better able you are to take that knowledge and turn it into action,” Kovolski said. “While elections and political issues and ballot measures may be something that happen outside of the classroom, they are something that affect us all in our daily lives. Every election is important, even if you aren’t as aware of who’s running and what the issues are. Every person elected to office is making decisions and advancing priorities that have effects on our day-to-day lives, whether that’s what we do here as students or employees on campus, all the way up to laws made in Washington that affect us on a broader level.

“The people who will be here for the debate all represent one broad side of an issue, but each of them will have a slightly different approach to how to solve the issue. Being tuned into that and understanding how that person will represent Pennsylvania and cast a vote in the Senate over the next six years is really worth people’s time and attention. Here, we have an opportunity to get to know first-hand the person who could be the next Senator for Pennsylvania. That kind of access and opportunity doesn’t happen that often. I’m hopeful our students will come out and take advantage of it.”

Other organizations on campus have also expressed their excitement for the event. 

“I think this event is a great opportunity for our students to see an important part of our political process in person, and I know many students are excited about this event,” said Steven McGuire, Director of the University’s Matthew J. Ryan Center. “They’ll get a different perspective on the debate than they would on TV, a few of their questions might be posed to the participants, and they’ll have a chance to meet some of the candidates afterward.

“The Matthew J. Ryan Center is delighted to support an event that encourages our students to become politically knowledgeable and engaged citizens. It shows that preparing our students to participate in self-government is part of the holistic education we offer here at Villanova.”