The setting of tonight’s debate: Daniel J. Curran Place. The debate begins at 7 p.m. THOMAS GNAU/STAFF

The stage is set: UD ready for first gubernatorial debate tonight

After years of discussions and weeks of work, now it comes down to just a few hours: The University of Dayton will host the first 2018 Ohio gubernatorial debate tonight at Daniel J. Curran Place.

Eric Spina, UD president, sounded a confident note this morning, saying the university community is ready.

“For many years, we have been letting folks know that we would love to host an important debate in the state election cycle,” Spina said. “Earlier this year, we engaged with the Ohio Debate Commission. I think one of outshoots of that conversation is that we were approached to host this debate.”

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UD is an educational institution with a particular focus on “civil discourse” and “dialogue across differences,” the president said.

Said Spina: “This is a natural for us.”

Students will be in the audience, working as volunteers and working as part of the production and media teams. About 100 students will be involved in one way or another.

Just last week, Curran Place, the debate site, was host to a national convention for U.S. Air Force logistics professionals, Life Cycle Industry Days.

“We wish we had had six months” to prepare, Spina said. “We had a couple of weeks. We’ve had a lot of people working.”

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In making the case for UD as a debate host, Spina said the argument to the Debate Commission began with the university’s nearly 11,000 students — students like Anna Rose Redgate, a UD junior and a Vote Everywhere ambassador for the Andrew Goodman Foundation, a non-partisan organization focused on registering voters and strengthening civic engagement.

Redgate said a watch party is planned for the Kennedy Union tonight where students can watch the debate.

“Overall, Vote Everywhere is really looking to get students civilly engaged,” she said. “Any way we can do that, we primarily focus on registration. That’s our main goal for the mid-term elections.”

Asked if the gubernatorial debate will be a precursor to a possible bid to host a presidential debate one day, Spina said: “For us, this isn’t about fame and glory. This is about important discourse, something our students can actually get involved with.”

The governor’s race between Republican Mike DeWine and Democrat Richard Cordray is a dead-heat in the polls, one of the closest in the nation and expected to be one of the most expensive.

You can watch the debate live at 7 p.m. tonight on WHIO-TV Channel 7. You can also stream it on DaytonDailyNews.com  and WHIO.com.

Listen to the debate live on AM 1290 and News 95.7 WHIO. You can also stream the audio at WHIO.com.

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