By RUTH DALRYMPLE
Last Thursday, Nov. 4, 2011, the University of Mary Washington hosted Democratic Sen. Edd Houck and Bryce Reeves, his Republican challenger, in their only debate of the election season.
The Legislative Action Committee (LAC) and Pi Sigma Alpha, the political science scholastic honor society, sponsored the event. The event was moderated by Rosalyn Cooperman, an associate professor of political science at UMW. The event’s panelists were Dick Hammerstorm, the news editor at the Free Lance-Star, and Ted Schubel, the news director of the radio channel 1230 WFVA-AM.
The event was held in Monroe Hall’s lecture hall and was quickly filled to capacity. Some spectators chose to stand outside the doorways in order to hear the debate.
Houck focused most of the evening on his ability to work across party lines and the experience he has gained as a seven-term state legislator.
“For me, the key word is bipartisanship,” he said.
He also worked to paint Reeves as a conservative extremist who was completely invested in party line.
Reeves’ main approach for the evening was to showcase his dedication to the creation of jobs in Virginia and his record of public service. He made several references to his service in the Army Rangers and his years as a police officer in Prince William County.
One of the issues the candidates differed in was their respective stance on abortion. Reeves stated he was anti-abortion, but seemed to have difficulty linking that stance with his desire for reduced government stating.
“I’m not sure how you can integrate government intrusion and pro-life, I just know that pro-life is the way I stand,” he said.
He also mentioned that he was a small business owner when answering the question about his stance on abortion, saying, “If you’ve ever tried to build a building, anything, try to get permits and try to float a loan, you’ll find out just how much the government has control over your pocketbook.”
Houck was in favor of abortion rights, stating, “I have no problem accepting the fact that I trust women to make decisions about their health without government intrusions.”
At one point, the debate almost broke into a shouting match when Houck accused Reeves of running an inaccurate advertisement depicting Houck as an extremist. Reeves responded by pointing out that his campaign didn’t put out the advertisement, but the Republican Party did.
The candidates also differed on uranium mining and an increase to the gas tax. Houck didn’t support uranium mining but Reeves said he would if the process was clean. Houck also supported raising the gas tax to help support road maintenance, but Reeves did not. Both candidates did pledge to make higher education more affordable.
Several times throughout the debate, Cooperman asked both men’s supporters to refrain from making rude comments.
William Spaulding, president of the LAC, commented, “We have a pretty large group of politically engaged students at UMW, and I think if there would have been more of them in attendance the other members of the audience would not have been compelled to act so radical.”
Junior Laura Gomez said, “The debate sounded like a really exciting event and I would have really loved to have gone. Maybe next time they could publicize it a little more.”
The Bullet attempted to reach moderator Cooperman for her opinion on how the debate went, but she had not responded to our inquiries at the time of publication.
Reeves claimed victory Wednesday morning according to the Free Lance-Star, though his lead over Houck was within one percent of the total votes, allowing for the possibility of a recall.
The Free Lance-Star reported that as of 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Reeves was 200 votes ahead of Houck.