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Freitas, Spanberger poles apart in debate assessments
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Freitas, Spanberger poles apart in debate assessments


In the 24 hours after the rivals’ only televised debate, spokesmen for Central Virginia’s dueling congressional candidates characterized their faceoff in strikingly divergent terms.

U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-7th, and state Del. Nick Freitas, R-Culpeper, each claimed victory in the candidate forum hosted Tuesday evening by the Richmond-area Chamber of Commerce and VPM, Virginia’s home for Public Media. The forum, the only face-to-face debate between them, included rebuttals.

Carried on television and radio, the 7th Congressional District event was moderated by Robert Costa, PBS’ “Washington Week” moderator and managing editor, who is also a national political reporter for The Washington Post.

“Congresswoman Spanberger failed to defend her radical record of supporting trillions in tax increases on Americans, sending billions to a terrorist regime in Iran, and abandoning our law enforcement while Nick Freitas stood up for Central Virginia families and small businesses by advocating for keeping taxes low, safely reopening our economy and supporting our local law enforcement officers,” Freitas’ campaign manager, Joe Desilets, told the Culpeper Star-Exponent late Wednesday afternoon in response to a query.

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Spanberger’s campaign manager, Bettina Weiss, said voters “saw the stark difference between a candidate who cares about the people of Central Virginia and a candidate who cares only about advancing his political career and serving the interests of his mega-donors.”

A former CIA officer and U.S. postal inspector, Spanberger was elected in the 2018 midterm elections, ousting GOP incumbent Dave Brat. She is the first Democrat to win the 7th’s Central Virginia seat in 50 years.

Freitas, a libertarian-leaning Iraq War combat veteran and former Green Beret backed by President Donald Trump and U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, won a third term in the Virginia House of Delegates last November in a write-in campaign. A month later, he announced he was running for Spanberger’s seat.

“Abigail Spanberger was the only candidate on the stage tonight who demonstrated a proven record of protecting Virginians with pre-existing conditions, providing assistance to Virginia small businesses, working across the aisle, and pushing back against the influence of special interests in our politics,” Weiss said in a statement Tuesday night soon after the debate ended. “... In contrast, Delegate Freitas keeps pushing himself deeper into the extremes, as we saw on full display tonight, and we’re confident voters will reject his record of voting against the healthcare of Virginians and his rhetoric of division.”

People who missed Tuesday night’s debate can watch anytime via VPM’s YouTube, Facebook or Twitter accounts.

VPM’s website is Find more of its content on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube at @myVPM.

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Clint Schemmer, a journalist since 1980, has worked at papers in California, North Carolina and Virginia. He’s been a bureau chief, editorial-page editor, copy desk chief and local news editor. Now a staff writer at the Culpeper Star-Exponent.

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