CINCINNATI (AP) — An Ohio college cited rising security worries and costs Tuesday as it withdrew as host of the first presidential general election debate, which will move to New York’s Hofstra University.
The shift means the first debate will be in the home state of the two major parties’ presumptive nominees, Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Wright State University President David Hopkins said the Dayton-area school has a large, open campus and questions about the ability to protect the campus and suburban community during the Sept. 26 debate led to a decision that had “weighed heavily” on him. Recent days have seen the mass killings in Nice, France, and police shootings and other violence in this nation and elsewhere.
“Over the last few weeks, we have had a growing concern about what it would take to guarantee the safety and security … of those on and around our campus,” Hopkins said. He called the expense to do so “daunting.”
The school had earlier said it was spending $5 million to $6 million to put on the debate. Hopkins said the costs with added security could have gotten up to $8 million.
Wright State has some 18,000 students.
The Commission on Presidential Debates announced quickly that Hofstra University would take over. The Long Island-based school had agreed last year to serve as an alternate site. Hofstra hosted a debate in 2012.
A message for comment was left Tuesday at Hofstra, where a spokeswoman said recently that hosting debates brings strong global exposure for schools.
Hopkins had called landing the debate for its Nutter Center “a huge win” when the commission announced its choices last year. Ohio politicians also hailed it as underscoring the importance of the swing state in the presidential race.
“It’s the responsible thing to do,” Michael Bridges, chairman of the Ohio school’s board of trustees, said in a statement about Wright State University withdrawing as a debate location. He said the community has been “overwhelmingly supportive” of hosting the debate, but safety and security took precedence.
The other presidential debates are scheduled to be Washington University in St. Louis on Oct. 9 followed by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, on Oct. 19. A vice presidential debate will be held at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia, on Oct. 4.
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