Congressional hopefuls debate

Published 1:06 pm Thursday, April 28, 2016

By Carson Reeher

Special to The Farmville Herald

As the nation heats up with political anticipation of the hotly contested November presidential race, Virginia’s Fifth District Republican congressional candidates assembled for a public debate on Tuesday.

The four candidates, state Sen. Tom Garrett, Jim McKelvey, Michael Del Rosso and Joe Whited, each answered 12 questions ranging from foreign policy to domestic issues in Hampden-Sydney’s Crawley Forum.

Rucker Snead, the director of the Wilson Center for Public Policy, at HS-C served as the moderator. The candidates each had 1 1/2 minutes to answer the questions posed.

The candidates’ platforms overlapped with many of the topics discussed, such as with foreign policy issues, proposed budget improvements, amendment repeals and legislative issues pertaining to transgender bathrooms.

Tanner Beck, the chairman of H-SC’s College Republicans Club, said, “I thought they all did great. I certainly think there was no clear loser, but I couldn’t say who a clear winner would be. I’m very pleased with the outcome.”

Federal budget cuts were important to each of the candidates’ platforms. Rosso said, “You can balance out the budget in year one because about half of the budget is unconstitutional.”

Rosso is a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and lives in Charlottesville.

Whited agreed that the budget goes against states rights. He said, “When we can have a real debate about what we’re spending money on … then we get power back to the state.” The candidate most recently held a position as the principal intelligence advisor to Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Representative Mac Thornberry.

Both McKelvey and Garrett agreed that budget cuts were crucial to their plans. “Cut everything except for the military budget,” McKelvey said.

McKelvey, a business owner based out of Bedford, said that America should have a military, “so strong that nobody dare touch it.”

Garrett, of Buckingham, who represents the 22nd Senate District, agreed. “We need to be a credible friend to our allies.” 

The candidates responded to the controversial question of support for gender regulations on restrooms. “This is ridiculous,” Rosso said. “I do not support any legislation.” The other candidates agreed.

Garrett said, “I know what marriage means and I know what a boy’s room is.”

All candidates said that they didn’t believe in raising the minimum wage to closer to $15. Rosso said, “It’s unconstitutional for the government to set such minimum wages. None of this should be happening at the federal level. Prevailing wages should go where the market demands.”  Garrett said, “When the government attempts to pick winners and losers, everybody loses.”

In closing, Ross emphasized that the economy was his priority. Whited said all his work is for the rural communities. Garrett closed by saying he is “imminently predictable,” having been named “the most conservative delegate.” McKelvey said, “Tell me something can’t get done and I’m going to tell you to get out of my way because I’ve been getting it done for 40 years.”

The debate was sponsored by the H-SC College Republicans Club, the Prince Edward County Republican Committee, the Cumberland County Republican Committee and the Buckingham County Republicans.

“I was very pleased with the way the debate went. The candidates stayed focused on the questions and their positions as opposed to attacking each other, so it was a very civil conversation,” said Snead.

The incumbent U.S. Rep. Robert Hurt will be retiring at the end of his term in December. The four candidates are currently competing for the republican seat for this November’s election, which will be determined at an upcoming convention.