BY CAMILLE TURNER
Candidates for the 88th District of the Virginia House of Delegates will participate in a debate held at the University of Mary Washington.
The debate will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 18 in Lee Hall room 411. It is free and open to the public.
The debate will feature Republican Mark Cole, who has represented the 88th District in the Virginia House of Delegates since 2001, and Democratic candidate Kathleen O’Halloran, who has held several civil service jobs in Virginia.
The 88th District includes areas of Stafford, Spotsylvania and Fauquier counties, the town of Remington and part of the city of Fredericksburg.
Cole also serves as Spotsylvania County’s deputy county administrator.
“It has been an honor to serve the people of the 88th District. I do my best to represent their views and hope that they will continue to give me the chance to represent them,” Cole said.
Stephen Farnsworth, professor of political science and international affairs and director of the Center for Leadership and Media Studies at UMW, will moderate the debate. He moderated a number of debates in the past, including two congressional, two senatorial, two mayoral and several House of Delegates debates.
“I think that both campaigns are likely to focus on the key issues that drive Virginia politics. In this area especially, expect a lot of talk about transportation and economic development,” said Farnsworth.
Chelyen Davis, state government and politics reporter for the Free Lance-Star, and Ted Schubel, “Town Talk” radio host, will assist Farnsworth in questioning the candidates.
Ben Hermerding, a junior political science major and president of the Young Democrats, said he and members of the club will be attending the debate.
“I hope that people can learn a lot about the candidates, both Republican and Democrat,” said Hermerding.
After opening statements, candidates will have two minutes to answer each question addressed to them, followed by a one minute response from the other candidate and a 30 second rebuttal if the questioned candidate wishes.
Applause following a candidate’s response is forbidden and the time taken by applause or verbal demonstrations take will be deducted from the candidate’s time to answer questions or from their closing statement.
Audience members will have the opportunity to submit questions before the debate begins.
Hermerding said that he is especially interested in hearing what Cole has to say about being both a Spotsylvania County official and a delegate.
“How can he say he represents Spotsylvania County if he says that he doesn’t want there to be a conflict of interest?” asked Hermerding.
The debate is co-sponsored by the Legislation Action Committee (LAC) of UMW’s Student Government Association. It is also sponsored by the UMW chapter of Pi Sigma Alpha, the national political science honor society, the university’s Center for Leadership and Media Studies and the Free Lance-Star.
Pi Sigma Alpha will help collect questions and time the candidates.
“It is very important that students attend this event,” said Shirley Martey, senior political science major and president of Pi Sigma Alpha. “It is always important that they know who their representatives are and the views of their representatives.”
Joe Dolan, sophomore political science and economics major and LAC chair, was responsible for reaching out to the candidates and inviting them to the debate.
Dolan believes that it is important for students to get involved with politics because certain issues, such as education and debt, directly affect the youth.
“We have a unique say, so it’s very important that people go out and vote so that we have a say in politics,” said Dolan.
According to Dolan, in order to help UMW students register to vote, SGA invested in a new program called Turbovote. It can be accessed at umw.turbovote.org and will be linked to Eaglenet in the upcoming weeks.
Molly Smith, a junior international affairs major and president of the new club, Democracy Matters, said people complain about the broken political system without learning how it works.
“The only way to make change is to understand the current state of affairs and then propose positive alternatives that will benefit everyone,” said Smith.
Smith said she is hopeful students will attend the debate.
“It’s refreshing to know that there are people around that also care about these issues and are willing to work to see some change,” said Smith.
The voter registration deadline for the Virginia general election is Oct. 15. Voting will take place on Nov. 5 from 6 a.m. until 7 p.m.
O’Halloran was unable to be reached for comment by the time of printing.