Tuesday, 21 August 2012 15:05

Cantor faces Powell in Sept. 28 debate

Written by  Jim Nolan | Richmond Times Dispatch

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-7th, will debate Democratic challenger Wayne Powell on Friday, Sept. 28.

Cantor, who declined to debate Democratic challenger Rick Waugh in 2010, has not debated a Democrat in a general election since 2002, when he squared off with former Georgia congressman and "Dukes of Hazzard" star Ben L. "Cooter" Jones.

The candidates will "address issues important to the business community with a direct focus on jobs and the path to economic recovery," said a news release from the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, which is sponsoring the debate.

"We thought the chamber invitation was something we'd like to do — a straightforward group, running a fair debate, and we'll look forward to it," said Cantor campaign spokesman Ray Allen.

Powell, 61, a former Army colonel and lawyer from Chesterfield County in his first run for political office, said: "I am pleasantly surprised and very pleased with the sponsor. I get to lay out my thoughts on jobs and the economy and, at the same time, show how Cantor talks fiscal conservatism while his actions tell a completely different story."

The 7th District covers much of the Richmond region and extends west to Orange and Louisa counties. Cantor has represented the district since 2001.

Despite the district's political makeup and Cantor's fundraising and incumbency advantage, Powell has launched a spirited campaign, populating yards with mock "For Sale" real estate signs that bear Cantor's name.

The signs, and a series of bare-knuckled rhetorical attacks on national cable and radio shows, are the brainchild of well-known Democratic strategist Dave "Mudcat" Saunders, who is advising the Powell campaign.

Saunders suggested that Cantor agreed to the debate as a "defensive move. … He's more than aware that nine out of 10 voters think Congress is worthless, and he runs it."

But Allen said Powell and his campaign are "greatly underestimating" the people of Virginia and the 7th District.

"The people in central Virginia are fair-minded and good, decent people," he said.

"They know Eric Cantor. They like Eric Cantor. Eric Cantor is respected, and I don't think they're going to respond positively to this kind of relentless, vulgar, negative campaigning," he added. "We look forward to talking about the issues instead of these distractions."

Link to original article from Richmond Times Dispatch

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