Friday, August 18, 2000

Debate to put state on stage

VP nominees face off in Ky.

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer


        LOS ANGELES — Kentucky will be a major focus of the fall campaign by acting as host of the only scheduled vice presidential debate in this year's election.

        Tiny Centre College in Danville, Ky., a Boyle County city about 30 minutes south of Lexington, will play host at the Oct. 5 debate between Republican Dick Cheney and Democrat Joe Lieberman at 1,500-seat Newlin Hall, part of the college's Norton Center for the Arts.

Sign of Kentucky's role

               Kentucky officials are thrilled about playing host at the event and eager to talk about it to anyone willing to listen. A group from Centre staffed a debate information booth this week in Los Angeles and two weeks earlier in Philadelphia.

        During the roll-call vote at Wednesday night's Demo cratic convention session, Kentucky delegation chairman Bill Londrigan mentioned the debate before a national TV audience.

        The debate is not only an honor for Kentucky but also a sign of the role that the state — carried by the last nine winning presidential candidates — will play in this year's campaign, said Nick Allard, director of the Gore/Lieberman campaign in Kentucky.

        “The only vice presidential debate is going to occur in the state of Kentucky,” Mr. Allard said Thursday. “That's another indication of how important Kentucky is to us in this campaign and how serious we are going to be taking it.”

        Founded in 1819, Centre is a private school with 1,022 students. Deep in history — 17 buildings on campus are listed on the National Register of Historic Places — its alumni include former Vice President Adlai Stevenson and Hard Rock Cafe founder Isaac Tigrett.

        Centre was chosen by the Commission on Presidential Debates from more than 100 organizations, cities, universities and others that applied, said Clarence Wyatt, a Centre history professor and special assistant to college President John Rousch.

Small-town setting

               “We got it because we were able to meet the logistical requirements,” Mr. Wyatt said. “We have the right venue and the other guidelines and our pitch of a small-town setting, of widespread community involvement, was something that really worked in our favor.

        “It made us distinctive among other sites,” he said.

        The debate will also enhance the image of Kentucky, Mr. Wyatt said.

        “Most people who have never traveled to Kentucky have one of two images about Kentucky,” he said. “Either we are thoroughbred horses or hillbillies. And we're wanting to show the nation that Kentucky has a diverse culture, that we are on the advanced edge of a lot of industries, that we're a center for the arts and that there is more to Kentucky than most people think.”


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