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1st District candidates take part in first of two debates
Republican incumbent Rob Wittman speaks during the 90-minute debate.
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Date published: 10/10/2012
NEWPORT NEWS--How Congress should handle the federal debt, budget cuts and health care reform dominated the first of two debates in the 1st Congressional District race.
The 90-minute debate Tuesday night between incumbent Rob Wittman, a Republican, and challengers Democrat Adam Cook and independent Gail Parker was held at Christopher Newport University. The Daily Press, CNU and the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association sponsored the event.
Wittman, who is from Montross, is seeking his third full term in Congress, where he said he has focused on building relationships and working in a bipartisan fashion to find compromises.
Cook, an attorney and Air Force reservist from Fredericksburg, is making his first bid for office, and said he thinks Congress is broken and needs new blood.
Parker, who lives outside the district, has run for the seat and other offices before, focusing her platform on increased rail access. State law doesn't require House candidates to live in the districts for which they run.
The 1st District runs from the Newport News area up to Fauquier, covering all of the Northern Neck, Caroline, Stafford and Fredericksburg.
Cook tried to tie Wittman to vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan's budget proposals that would cut popular safety-net programs, and criticized Wittman for voting for last year's debt ceiling deal. Cook said he opposes the deal, because while it prevented a debt default, Congress attached a package of deep spending cuts--called "sequestration" cuts--that would cause the loss of thousands of federal contracting jobs in Virginia.
Those cuts would hurt the 1st District, which has a huge military and defense presence, Cook said, but he also took issue with Congress' initial reluctance to raise the debt ceiling at all.
"We need some new members in the House," Cook said, adding that incumbents "who authorized all of this spending, who authorized these tax cuts are going to go back to their district and say it's not my fault, it's somebody else's fault, send me back."
Wittman has said in the past he wants Congress to find a way to avert the sequestration cuts. He took issue with Cook's accusation that it was irresponsible not to raise the debt ceiling but also irresponsible to vote for sequestration. "There is no 'maybe' button there in Washington when you go to vote."