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Wittman, Rashid will meet in a virtual debate Sept. 21

Wittman, Rashid will meet in a virtual debate Sept. 21


A virtual debate between Republican 1st District Rep. Rob Wittman and Democratic challenger Qasim Rashid will take place Monday, Sept. 21, at 7 p.m.

The hourlong, online question-and-answer session will be hosted and organized by the University of Mary Washington. Because of concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic, the candidates and debate panelists will participate remotely.

To view the debate online, visit

It will be the second debate for the two candidates. The two met in person Aug. 20 at a criminal justice forum hosted by the Rappahannock Regional Criminal Justice Academy in Spotsylvania County.

The 1st District, which includes much of the Fredericksburg area and stretches through the Northern Neck to the Hampton Roads area, has been represented by Wittman since 2008.

Stephen Farnsworth, director of the UMW Center for Leadership and Media Studies, said the 1st District has long been a safe district for Republicans, but he believes the changing electorate in Virginia could make it and other GOP-leaning districts more competitive.

“That means more attention for the 1st District than in previous election cycles,” he said. “I think the big question for every candidate running for office in 2020 is how you can be heard over what is being said in Washington.”

Farnsworth said President Donald Trump dominates the news cycle daily, which possibly results in less focus on important local elections and those candidates running for office.

“That’s why these debates are so important, because there’s relatively little coverage of congressional elections in this environment where the [national] news is overwhelming,” said Farnsworth. “This debate is an important and unusual opportunity for candidates to speak to the voters themselves in advance of the election.”

Farnsworth said moderators “plan to ask questions about a range of policy issues.” The public can submit questions online at any time up to 11 a.m. the day of the debate at

Farnsworth will moderate the debate and offer questions from the public. Ted Schubel, WFVA radio news director, and Barbara Hollingsworth, editorial page editor of the Free Lance-Star, will also ask questions.

“It’s going to be as close to a normal Mary Washington debate as possible,” Farnsworth said.

The event is co-sponsored by The Free Lance–Star, the Fredericksburg Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Fredericksburg chapter of the League of Women Voters, the UMW Student Government Association, the UMW College Republicans, and the UMW Young Democrats.

James Scott Baron: 540/374-5438

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I spent 23 years in the Navy in media relations and as a reporter. Prior to coming to The Free Lance-Star in 2019, I volunteered with a local non-profit that helps formerly incarcerated people transition back into society. I'm also an avid motorcyclist.

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