By KATEE SPENCER
On Monday, Oct. 6 at 7:30 p.m., the University of Mary Washington will host the First Congressional District Debate between incumbent Republican Representative Rob Wittman, Democrat Norm Mosher and Independent Green Party candidate Gail Parker in George Washington Hall’s Dodd Auditorium.
The First District is made up of over 15 different counties and includes parts of Stafford County, Spotsylvania County and the city of Fredericksburg.
The debate will be moderated by Stephen Farnsworth, professor of political science and director of the Center for Leadership and Media Studies. Panelists include Chelyen Davis, assistant editorial page editor at The Free Lance-Star, and Ted Schubel, news director for local radio station B101.5.
The debate is co-sponsored by student organizations The Blue & Gray Press, UMW Young Democrats and the UMW College Republicans. Additional sponsors include the Center for Leadership and Media Studies, The Free Lance-Star and the Fredericksburg Area Chamber of Commerce.
“I think the debate is a really good idea. I would not go searching for this kind of information, but it’s easier when [the candidates are] going against each other,” senior biology major Rachel Feola said. “Things come out that you wouldn’t necessarily know otherwise.”
Mosher, a former member of the United States Navy and longtime Virginia resident, is particularly passionate about education issues and the rising cost of higher education.
“Student loan debt stands at $1.2 trillion, second only to mortgage debt in the US. This crushing student loan debt is shackling our economy and dashing the dreams of young people,” Mosher said.
In terms of a plan to decrease these financial burdens, Mosher said he is already working on a solution.
“I have asked a well-known economist to analyze my plan to start a lifetime bond – one that will limit student loan repayments to one percent of income,” Mosher said. More importantly, I look to provide relief for current debtors, and I have a plan to fix the financial burdens on students and their parents.”
Mosher also holds a strong stance on the issue of sexual assault on campuses, a highly pervasive topic among Virginia universities.
Mosher advocates for improving response times and policies regarding sexual assault and working with universities to better the way they handle reports, as well as decreasing offenses.
“The issue of sexual harassment and assault is not limited to female students on college campuses. Bullying and sexual assault take place against many students and especially affect the LGBT community. I will work to address sexual assault on campus for all students,” Mosher said.
With a significant portion of Mosher’s platform revolving around student issues such as affordability, sexual assault, the environment and marijuana legalization, a college campus provides an ideal environment to address his plans for change.
“Speaking with students is always refreshing. They are the future of our country, and I am positive that the energy and intelligence that emanates from the UMW students and faculty that I have had the privilege of meeting during this campaign is what we need to move this nation forward,” Mosher said. “I am certain that a debate at UMW will be exhilarating, fair and insightful.”
Mosher’s opponent, incumbent Rob Wittman, has emphasized strong stances on issues such as healthcare and the economy during his campaigns.
“I support creating an environment for growth to get folks back to work and to encourage our job creators,” Wittman states on his campaign website. “Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and create over 70 percent of the new jobs in this country every year. We need to cut the bureaucratic red-tape that stifles growth and innovation.”
In addition to small business growth and supporting efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Wittman lists immigration reform and preventing government overreach among his top issues.
Gail Parker, from the Independent Green Party, has run twice before against Wittman, basing her platform on the desire for increased railways throughout the state.
“This campaign is about positive solutions, fiscally conservative government, addressing our need for passenger rail service in Virginia, and high-speed Rail nationwide,” Parker states on her website. “We need more candidates on the ballot to advocate for rail and for common sense fiscally conservative government.”
Ben Hermerding, president of the UMW Young Democrats, is thrilled to have the opportunity to showcase democracy in action.
“We’re very excited UMW is able to be hosting a debate for America’s First Congressional District. It is important that everyone, especially students, can listen to and be engaged in the political dialogue,” Hermerding said.
Hermerding is also looking forward to Mosher’s platform and how it will hopefully hit a note with students.
“I think that Norm Mosher’s message will resonate well with students, as well as the community at large, and this debate will show the stark difference between the two candidates,” Hermerding said.
The intent of the debate is to facilitate open discussion and transparency, as well as help students and the community evaluate where they want their vote to go.
“It’s a great way to see both sides of a situation and see where the candidates stand on issues,” senior psychology major Katherine Miller said.
Nicole Tardif, chairman of the UMW College Republicans, echoed Hermerding’s sentiments about the importance of public debate.
“I, along with the entire UMW College Republicans, am very excited for the opportunity to host a debate between the First District Congressional hopefuls this year,” Tardif said. “It will provide a great experience for UMW students and the greater Fredericksburg community.”
A common hope among debate sponsors is that hearing the candidates will encourage students to vote come Election Day.
“Hopefully it will also provide more of an incentive to participate in the civic responsibility of voting in this year’s midterm elections,” Tardif said.
The event is free and open to the public.
The Blue & Gray Press reached out to Rep. Rob Wittman and Gail Parker for comment before publishing. Both were unavailable.