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House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor is scheduled to speak at a Fredericksburg Regional Chamber of Commerce breakfast this Monday.
But the chamber didn't invite his opponent, Democrat Wayne Powell, and the Powell campaign says it's unfair.
In an emailed letter to chamber director Susan Spears, Powell campaign strategist Dave Saunders said he is "shocked" that the chamber is giving Cantor a forum without also inviting Powell.
"For the Fredericksburg Chamber to promote Cantor without inviting his opponent is not only shameful, but un-Virginian," Saunders wrote. "In case the scheduler didn't look at a calendar, the Chamber is giving Cantor unfair exposure at the height of campaign season."
Saunders said he had contacted the chamber about the Cantor event. According to Saunders, he was told that Cantor's talk was not a political event, and that the chamber had been trying to schedule an event with Cantor since redistricting and this was the first time Cantor was available.
"Cantor finally finds the time 56 days before the election, and this is not 'a political event' for him?" Saunders wrote. "All we can say is whoever put this pep rally together for Cantor is totally ignorant of the ethics of 'non-partisan' electoral politics."
The chamber's announcement of Cantor's appearance says that he will "discuss the economy, jobs and other legislative topics of interest to members of the Fredericksburg Region's business community."
Spears said that the chamber invited Cantor to speak after last year's congressional redistricting put most of Spotsylvania County in the 7th District, which Cantor represents.
Before that, she said, Cantor's district didn't overlap much with the chamber's area.
"We immediately started soliciting his office to get him to come talk to our chamber membership, so we could start developing a relationship with him," Spears said. "This was the first available date that we could arrange."
Spears said that she disagrees with Saunders that this is a political event.
"This wasn't anything about politics, this was about policy from one of our sitting elected officials," Spears said. "Policy-makers make policy all year round. That doesn't change just because it's a campaign season, there are not dates to that. The active work of government has to occur throughout the year."
She said Powell is welcome to attend the event.
Monday's event is not a debate, Spears said. But she said the Fredericksburg Chamber is partnering with the Virginia Chamber to host a debate between Cantor and Powell.
Originally scheduled for Sept. 28, that debate has now been moved to Oct. 1, and will be held at Carmax in Richmond.
Chelyen Davis: 540/368-5028