Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin were set to meet Tuesday evening for the second and final debate in Virginia's closely watched gubernatorial election.
Five weeks from Election Day and with early voting already underway, recent polls suggest a tight race between McAuliffe, who is seeking a second term after his first ended in 2018, and Youngkin, a former business executive and political newcomer.
Democrats made huge gains in Virginia while former President Donald Trump was in office, taking full control of state government, but Republicans are more energized and optimistic about their chances this fall than they have been in years. The contest, one of only two regularly scheduled governor's races this year, is also drawing national attention as a possible indicator of voter sentiment heading into next year's midterms.
After much back and forth this summer, Youngkin and McAuliffe agreed to only two debates. The first, held Sept. 16 in southwest Virginia, was devoid of big surprises or viral moments and largely focused on the candidates' sharply divergent positions on abortion and COVID-19.
Tuesday's hourlong debate, hosted by the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce, was being held at a community college campus in Alexandria.
NBC News political director Chuck Todd was to moderate the debate, with NBC4 Northern Virginia Bureau Chief Julie Carey and Telemundo 44 reporter Alberto Pimienta posing questions, the organizers said. The program was going to be broadcast live on NBC4 and other NBC affiliates across the state.
Princess Blanding, an activist and educator making a long-shot third-party bid, was not invited to participate.
Also on the ballot this fall are races for attorney general and lieutenant governor, plus all 100 seats in the House of Delegates.
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