Knollwood Assoc., Towson U. to host candidate debate for state legislature

Towson University is hosting a debate this week in conjunction with the Knollwood Association between candidates vying to represent Towson in the state legislature.

The debate, in the Minnegan Room of the Johnny Unitas Stadium at 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 28, will feature two sets of candidates. Democrat Robbie Leonard, a candidate for District 42’s state Senate seat, will debate Republican Chris West, currently a state delegate; and incumbent Democratic state Del. Steve Lafferty will debate Republican challenger Steve McIntire.

The candidates will appear on the ballot in the Nov. 6 midterm elections. The winners of each race will represent the district that includes Towson University and Towson’s Knollwood neighborhood.

David Riley, president of the Knollwood Association, said he approached Towson University because he wanted to host a debate in which students and neighbors could hear civil discussion of local issues.

“As a citizen, I just want to do what I can to return civility to the political process,” Riley said.

The event is open to both students and the community, and is being advertised to both groups on social media and through academic departments.

Riley said he and other organizers decided to invite local candidates to represent Towson in order to discuss local concerns.

“We wanted to do it at a very local level, because there’s just so many things changing in Towson,” Riley said. “It’s moving into a more urban environment. I wanted to create something where we can concentrate on the issues of the greater Towson community.”

Chris Jensen, director of civic engagement and social responsibility at Towson University, said the debate will help engage students in learning about the local politicians that affect them.

“For students on our campus for four to six years … the decisions these candidates make can affect their lives when it comes to financial aid, roads, rent and housing laws,” Jensen said.

Though Jensen declined to share specific questions, he said topics to be discussed at the debate include the gubernatorial race, education and gerrymandering.

The debate will feature a panel of four questioners: attorney Neil Dubovsky, of Knollwood; Luis Sierra, Towson University’s assistant director for civic engagement; and the heads of the university’s student Democratic and Republican clubs, Josh Lash and Matthew Pipkin, respectively.

Reporters Pamela Wood of The Baltimore Sun and Bryan Sears of the Daily Record will moderate the debate, Riley said.

Jensen said the debate is part of a broader Towson University initiative called TU Votes, which seeks to encourage students to participate in the political process. As part of that, a voter registration table will be available at the debate, he said.

The debate is also meant to bring the university and the surrounding community closer together, both Riley and Jensen said.

“We want to be a good neighbor to the community,” Jensen said. “Having an opportunity to partner with the Knollwood Association shows a collaboration, a partnership and a nonpartisanship that I think we can model, not only for Baltimore County but for Maryland and across the country.”

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