The University of Mary Washington will host a public political debate between candidates for Virginia’s First Congressional District Monday, Sept. 21, at 7 p.m.
Incumbent Rep. Rob Wittman (R) will face off against opponent Qasim Rashid (D) live via Zoom, with public viewing accessible through YouTube. Viewers may submit questions for consideration for inclusion in the debate using an online form until 11 a.m. on the day of the event.
“It’s going to be as close to a normal Mary Washington debate as possible,” said moderator Stephen Farnsworth, a UMW professor of political science and director of the University’s Center for Leadership and Media Studies.
The event is hosted by the University’s College Republicans, Young Democrats, and Legislative Action Committee of the Student Government Association. It’s co-sponsored by the Fredericksburg Regional Chamber of Commerce, The Free Lance-Star and the Fredericksburg chapter of the League of Women Voters.
News Director Ted Schubel of WFVA Radio and Editorial Page Editor Barbara Hollingsworth of The Free Lance-Star will ask questions of the candidates during the hourlong event.
Wittman has represented Virginia’s First congressional district, which includes much of the Fredericksburg area and runs through the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula, since winning a special election in 2007. Before that he represented the 99th district in the Virginia House of Delegates, and served during the 1980s and 1990s on the town council and as mayor of Montross. Wittman, who co-chairs the House Rural Broadband Caucus and holds spots on the Republican Study Committee, the House Armed Services Committee and the Committee on Natural Resources, also worked for two decades with the Virginia Department of Health.
Rashid, a human rights lawyer and book author, also works as a consultant, helping businesses and non-profits improve corporate strategy. His political efforts target such issues as the promotion of interfaith dialogue, domestic and sexual violence against women, prison chaplaincy and children’s education. Rashid lost his bid last year for a state Senate seat in the 28th District to incumbent Sen. Richard Stuart, after defeating Laura Ann Sellers in the Democratic primary. Rashid comes to next week’s debate after winning out over opponent Vangie Williams in the June Democratic primary for Virginia’s First Congressional District.
Occurring on the eve of National Voter Registration Day, a celebration of democracy that encourages participation in the political process, the UMW debate shines a spotlight on local elections.
“There’s relatively little coverage of congressional elections in this environment where the [national] news is overwhelming,” Farnsworth told The Free Lance-Star. “This debate is an important and unusual opportunity for candidates to speak to the voters themselves in advance of the election.”
UMW Student Government Association President Kyree Ford agreed. He hopes, he said, that his fellow Mary Washington students – and all with an interest in the future of the country, especially the Fredericksburg area – will log on to watch the event on YouTube.
“Mary Washington is offering us an invaluable experience by holding a public debate so you can hear the people that will directly represent you,” he said. “I urge you to tune in and submit questions so you cannot only be a voter but an informed voter.”
Submit questions, which must be received by 11 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 21, via an online form at umw.edu/sept2020debatequestions.
Watch the live debate on YouTube at umw.edu/sept2020debate.