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First of four General Assembly debates at UMW begins on Thursday

The University of Mary Washington will host four debates in the coming weeks between candidates running this November for Fredericksburg-area seats in the Senate of Virginia and the Commonwealth’s House of Delegates.

The first, the 28th District Senate Debate, will take place on Thursday, Sept. 5, inside University Hall at UMW’s Stafford Campus, 121 University Boulevard.

Two area House race debates will follow. The 28th District House Debate on Wednesday, Sept. 18, and the 88th District House Debate on Friday, Sept. 20, will take place on UMW’s Fredericksburg campus in Lee Hall, Room 411. On Tuesday, Oct. 29, the 17th District Senate Debate will be held in Monroe Hall, Room 346, also on the Fredericksburg Campus.

All four debates will begin at 7 p.m.

In the debate next week, incumbent Sen. Richard Stuart, a Republican, will square off against Democrat Qasim Rashid, as they contend for the Virginia Senate seat in District 28, which covers parts of Spotsylvania, Stafford, Prince William, Westmoreland and King George counties.

Stuart, a lawyer who grew up in Virginia’s Northern Neck, is a military veteran who worked as Westmoreland County Commonwealth’s Attorney. He chairs the Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee, vice-chairs the Courts of Justice Committee, and serves on the Finance, Commerce and Labor and Rules committees. Rashid, a human rights lawyer and the author of multiple books, has worked to promote interfaith dialogue. He is vying to become the first Muslim American elected to the Virginia State Senate.

On Sept. 18, Democrat Joshua Cole will debate Republican Paul Milde, as the two compete for the District 28 seat in the House of Delegates.


Joshua Cole serves on Stafford County Public Schools Superintendent’s Equity, Diversity and Opportunity Committee, the Greater Fredericksburg Area Interfaith Council and as president of the Stafford County NAACP. He is an assistant pastor at Union Bell Baptist Church in Stafford. A businessman, Milde served 12 years on the Stafford County Board of Supervisors, representing the Aquia District. He chaired the Fredericksburg Area Metropolitan Planning Organization and served on the board of the Virginia Railway Express. The district includes parts of Stafford County and the city of Fredericksburg.

On Sept. 20, incumbent Del. Mark Cole, a Republican, will debate Democrat Jess Foster, as the two vie for the seat in the Virginia House of Delegates’ District 88, which includes sections of Spotsylvania, Stafford and Fauquier counties and part of the city of Fredericksburg.

A Spotsylvania deputy county administrator, Del. Mark Cole is seeking his 10th two-year term representing the district. He is a member of the House committees on Finance and Education, Small Business Commission and Rappahannock River Basin Commission, and he is chairman of the Privileges and Elections Committee. Foster is an attorney who co-owns the Foster McCollam law firm in Manassas, specializing in representing juveniles and domestic abuse survivors. She serves on the board of the Prince William County Bar Association.

In the fourth debate, on Oct. 29, Republican incumbent Sen. Bryce Reeves will share the podium with Democrat Amy Laufer in the race for the District 17 seat in the Virginia Senate.

A military veteran and insurance company owner, Reeves is co-chair of the Military and Veterans Caucus, serves on the Secure Commonwealth Panel and is the Senate representative on the Virginia Military Advisory Council to the Governor. Laufer is a former middle-school teacher and Peace Corps volunteer who served seven years on the Charlottesville City School Board. She launched Virginia’s List, an organization that supports Democratic women running for state office.

District 17 includes Fredericksburg, all of Orange County, and parts of Spotsylvania, Culpeper, Albemarle and Louisa counties, and stretches to the suburbs of Charlottesville.

Stephen Farnsworth, professor of political science and director of the Center for Leadership and Media Studies, will serve as moderator and a panelist at each debate. The other panelists will be Ted Schubel, news director of News Talk 1230/WFVA and WBQB radio, and Editorial Page Editor Barbara Hollingsworth of The Free Lance-Star. Written questions from the audience can be submitted in person shortly before the start of each debate.

The debates are co-sponsored by UMW’s College Republicans, Young Democrats and the Legislative Action Committee of the Student Government Association, as well as The Free Lance–Star, the Fredericksburg Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Fredericksburg Area League of Women Voters.

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