Local Republicans gathered at their Victory Headquarters on Richmond Road to watch Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton square off.
Some attendees said the event provided the first chance to see the candidates share a stage but also an opportunity for political education, as about 20 people sat in a rough semi-circle around a flat screen TV turned to Fox News as Ronald Regan and Abraham Lincoln looked on from photos used to decorate the building's interior.
"We need a mental revolution," said Gregory DeBlase, a local Republican Party volunteer. He added that younger generations don't understand challenges that face the county, and erroneously choose to support what he considers socialist ideas and politicians as a solution.
The house's atmosphere was quiet and attentive as the audience watched the debate. At most, muttered responses cut through the back-and-forth between the candidates on screen.
"That's an attack," a woman said to her daughter when Clinton responded one of Trump's remarks.
When the debate turned to questions of race and gender, several audience members groaned and began discussing the belief some of them hold that Clinton, like President Barack Obama before her, has a loyal voting block thanks to her status as a minority in society. Some people see that Clinton is a woman running for president and decide to vote for her based on that, regardless of her history or understanding of policy, one man said.
People need to do their own research to become politically informed, said Lori Goldstein, chairwoman of the Williamsburg Republican Committee. She added that it's important to explore what both sides of an issue say, what's reported in media and newspapers, and consider other sources and perspectives before reaching a conclusion.
Trump's background as a businessman made him desirable by some debate watchers.
"I like Trump. I've always liked Trump," said Paula Sumrall, first vice president of Historic Triangle Republican Women.
Sumrall also found value in his outsider status, which makes her consider him a fresh new way to address the county's challenges, especially the economic issues she said plague some American cities. Still, economic solutions didn't factor into Monday's debate enough for Sumrall, who said Clinton's ideas lacked definitive answers to questions such as the cost of programs.
The liberal ideas of Clinton and other Democrats have a track record of repeated failure, and inadequate history education in schools is in part responsible for the popularity of these ideas, according to Sumrall, who is also a retired teacher.
Reach Jacobs by phone at 757-298-6007.