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UMW to host public debates for House of Delegates seats

From UMW:

The University of Mary Washington will host a public political debate between candidates for Virginia’s 28th District House of Delegates seat on Wednesday, Sept. 22, at 7 p.m.

UMW will host two public political debates, beginning next week, via Zoom.
UMW will host two public political debates, beginning next week, via YouTube.

Incumbent Del. Joshua Cole (D) will face off against opponent Tara Durant (R) live via Zoom, with public viewing accessible through YouTube. Viewers may submit questions for consideration for inclusion in the debate using an online form until 11 a.m. on the day of the event. The 28th district covers Fredericksburg and parts of Stafford County.

UMW will host a second House of Delegates debate, for the 88th District seat, on Tuesday, Oct. 26, with Democrat Kecia Evans, Republican Phillip Scott and Libertarian Timothy Lewis. The 88th district covers part of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania, Stafford and Fauquier counties.

“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, UMW professor of political science and director of the University’s Center for Leadership and Media Studies.

Del. Joshua Cole
Del. Joshua Cole

The events are being hosted by Mary Washington’s College Republicans, Young Democrats and Student Government Association (SGA). “Such debates make an investment in student participation and increase excitement for civic engagement,” said UMW SGA President Brianna Reaves. “Including students in this process is crucial to the grassroots activism we see on campus.”

The debates are co-sponsored by the Fredericksburg Regional Chamber of Commerce, The Free Lance-Star and the League of Women Voters of the Fredericksburg Area. News Director Ted Schubel of WFVA Radio and Editorial Page Editor Barbara Hollingsworth of The Free Lance-Star will ask questions of the candidates during the hourlong debate.

Elected to represent Virginia’s 28th District in 2019, Cole has been appointed to serve on the State Commission on Youth, Autism Advisory Council, and the Rappahannock River Basin and Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial commissions. He was elected in 2020 as one of Virginia’s five Democratic National Committee representatives.Former president of the Stafford County NAACP, Cole is a member of the Greater Fredericksburg Area Interfaith Council, associate pastor at Stafford’s Union Bell Baptist Church and chairman of the House of Clergy for the Union of Charismatic Orthodox Churches.

Tara Durant
Tara Durant

Tara Durant is an elementary school teacher, mother, Marine wife and breast cancer survivor, making her first run for public office. She has served on the boards of the Fredericksburg Area Service League and the PTO, as well as the Citizens Review Panel with United Way. Durant also has volunteered with Habitat for Humanity and been a supporter of local sports teams and St. Mary’s Church in Fredericksburg.

Occurring less than a week before National Voter Registration Day, a celebration of democracy that encourages participation in the political process, the first of two 2021 UMW debates shines a spotlight on local elections.

“One of my favorite traditions at Mary Washington is our ability to host candidate debates for area elected offices,” Farnsworth said, “and the willingness every year of those candidates to join us to discuss the future of our region.”

Submit questions, which must be received by 11 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 22, via an online form at

Watch the live debate on YouTube at

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