by KENNY MCDONELL
Sitting Republican Congressman Rob Wittman of Westmoreland County and Democratic challenger Vangie Williams of King George are set to battle it out in a 1st District congressional debate to be held at University of Mary Washington. The debate is set for Oct. 22 at 7 p.m. in the Digital Auditorium. Political science professor Dr. Stephen Farnsworth will serve as moderator.
The debate is intended to give UMW students and community members the opportunity to see and interact with the candidates first hand. Students will be able to write down questions they would like the candidates to answer on a card before the debate starts. If their question is picked, Farnsworth will read the question to the candidates.
Farnsworth said that there will be a variety of topics covered at the debate, ranging from local, to national, to international topics. Farnsworth also said in an interview that “debates are a great time for the candidates to stand in contrast. Voters will get a sense of how informed they are and their stances. There is really no substitute for this.” Farnsworth also expects President Trump’s name to come up some in the debate, since his name has dominated the news for both parties.
Farnsworth said he expects for there to be a larger turnout at this debate than in previous years. “A lot of people seem to be really interested in politics this year,” he said.
This is the first debate between Vangie Williams and Rob Wittman. There will be a second debate between them in the Hampton Roads area. UMW has hosted the 1st District Congressional debates for several years now. Farnsworth has moderated the majority of them. According to him, the debate will begin with a two minute opening statement from each candidate. The order will be determined by a coin toss prior to the debate.
There will also be a two minute closing statement, in reverse order of the opening statements. For each question, the candidate who receives the question will have two minutes to answer, where the other candidate will have one minute to respond. After this, the first candidate who received the question, will have thirty seconds for rebuttal if they wish.
As stated on the “Vangie Williams for Congress” website, Williams is a working mother of six with professional experience totaling 30 years. She currently works at a major company that does government contracting. She says that her experience working for a government contracting company will allow her to “hit the ground running” if she gets elected. She stands for stricter gun laws, women’s body autonomy, and amnesty and citizenship to illegal immigrants. She also is an outspoken supporter of active duty military, veterans, and military families. She is a proponent of tax breaks for military families, and reforming the VA to ensure better healthcare for veterans. She says that since she is a woman of color, she would represent the first district extremely well. She also said at the District Democratic primary that the impeachment of Donald Trump is “necessary.”
Rob Wittman was elected to represent the first district back in 2007. He was re-elected for his fifth term in 2016 and is running against Williams for his sixth term. Per Wittman’s “for congress” website, Wittman has over 20 years of experience working in different levels of government. Wittman is also a well-known advocate for service men and women. Wittman has a Ph.D. in Public Policy and Administration from Virginia Commonwealth University. Wittman wants to continue working on his goals of upholding the constitution, preventing government overreach, reforming healthcare, working on Virginia’s infrastructure, and growing Virginia’s economy.
The Richmond Times Dispatch stated that Williams faces an “uphill battle” trying take Wittman’s seat, who has an advantage as the incumbent. Williams is also disadvantaged in terms of funding. According to a recent report released by ballotpedia, Wittman has an excess of million dollars in campaign funds, while Williams had just under $30,000.
Wittman said in an interview with the Richmond Times Dispatch that he looks forward to a “fair, civil discussion” between the two in Dodd Auditorium in October.