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UMW to host online debates in Fredericksburg-area House races
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UMW to host online debates in Fredericksburg-area House races


With the November election approaching, the University of Mary Washington has scheduled debates in two Fredericksburg-area House of Delegates races.

A debate in the 28th District race between incumbent Democrat Josh Cole and Republican challenger Tara Durant will be held at 7 p.m. next Wednesday, Sept. 22. The district covers Fredericksburg and parts of Stafford County.

A debate in the 88th House of Delegates race between Republican Phillip Scott, Democrat Kecia Evans and Libertarian Timothy Lewis is scheduled Oct. 26. The candidates are vying for the seat held by Republican Del. Mark Cole, who is not running for reelection.

The 88th District covers part of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania, Stafford and Fauquier counties.

The debates, like most other things during the pandemic, will not be held in the traditional live setting. Instead, the events will be held on Zoom and can also be watched on YouTube.

“While COVID has forced us to debate online this fall, we can look forward to vigorous discussions about the path forward for Virginia,” said moderator Stephen Farnsworth, professor of political science at the University of Mary Washington and director of the University’s Center for Leadership and Media Studies.

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Durant, a Stafford resident and elementary school teacher, is making her first run for public office. She has served on board of the Fredericksburg Area Service League, the PTO and the United Way’s citizen review panel.

Durant gained attention in June 2020 when she called 911 to complain that Black Lives Matter protesters were blocking traffic in Fredericksburg. The dispatcher initially responded that there was nothing she could do, but later told her police officers were in the area in case of any illegal activity. Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson featured the call on his television show, bringing national attention to Fredericksburg.

The experience drove Durant to run for the House of Delegates. She touts the economy, education and transportation as key issues on her campaign website.

Cole, who was elected two years ago, is an associate pastor at Stafford’s Union Bell Baptist Church and chairman of the House of Clergy for the Union of Charismatic Orthodox Churches. Cole also is the former president of the Stafford County NAACP and a member of the Greater Fredericksburg Area Interfaith Council.

According to his campaign website, Cole’s focus is on working families, affordable education and health care, and local businesses.

Next week’s debate will be hosted by UMW’s Republicans, Young Democrats and Student Government Association. Co-sponsors include the Fredericksburg Regional Chamber of Commerce, The Free Lance–Star and the League of Women Voters of the Fredericksburg Area.

FLS Editorial Page Editor Barbara Hollingsworth and WFVA Radio News Director Ted Schubel will ask questions of the candidates during the hourlong debate. Farnsworth will pose questions from the public, which can be submitted via an online form at Questions must be received by 11 a.m. Sept. 22.

Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436

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