FARMVILLE, Va. — Sen. Tim Kaine and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence faced off at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia on Wednesday night in a contentious debate devoted mostly to foreign policy and economic issues. For Longwood students, it was a night to put their university on the map (even if Pence mistakenly referred to it as Norwood). But they were also listening as first-time voters, many of whom are still unsure of who they’ll be casting a ballot for in November.
Charles Opoku-Amoako, a junior at Longwood University studying business, planned to vote for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. But he wishes his candidate’s platform had received tougher scrutiny.
“It didn’t do much to sway my vote, but it did put more question marks for both sides,” Opoku-Amoako said. “I’m planning to vote for Clinton, but I wanted to hear more about her emails to challenge my vote to see if I’m voting for the right person.”
Kay Lee, a Longwood senior, has yet to decide who she’s voting for this November. And the debate diddn’t help, she said.
“It’s hard to formulate an opinion based on the debate because they both focused on slandering each other instead of voicing their own plans,” Lee said.
She watched the debate with a group of other Longwood students, and said she and her peers cared especially deeply about reproductive rights.
“Women my age care a lot about abortion,” Lee said. “The consensus in the room was that people want to be able to control their own bodies, and Kaine’s comments really spoke to that and got a positive reaction.”
Taylor Hogg, a senior at Longwood, was also especially touched by Kaine’s comments.
“I think Kaine’s voice really came through,” Hogg said. “Kaine said he has faith in American women, that we can make our own decisions about our bodies, and I really appreciated that. I personally feel abortion shouldn’t be controlled by the government.”
Chris Cromwell does not attend Longwood–he’s a junior at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University. He traveled to Longwood to be on the site of a debate between two candidates he doesn’t plan on voting for. Cromwell is planning to vote for Gary Johnson, and said the debate reassured him that he’s supporting the best candidate.
He found both sides frustrating on foreign policy because “both Pence and Kaine supported going into foreign wars, which is something I’m not okay with unless America is under attack.”
He also wished the drug war had come up during the debate, because he believes it is an integral part of entrenching some Americans in poverty and the criminal justice system.
“I have no idea what either side thinks about the drug war,” Cromwell says. “They never talk about it, but it’s a priority for Johnson.”
Cromwell said many of his peers are tired of the two-party system and its candidates.