Thirteen of the 14 local candidates for House of Delegates seats were on hand Oct. 15 for a Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce political forum that featured stark divisions on the issues of Medicaid expansion, transportation and the state's overall economy.
Democratic candidates, all of whom are facing incumbent Republican delegates, were eager to pitch their platforms and assail their opponents' records.
Kathleen Murphy, who's challenging conservative Del. Barbara Comstock in the 34th District, was quick to highlight Comstock's vote against this year's transportation funding bill.
“I would've supported the bipartisan transportation bill … ,” Murphy said. “I don't understand how you can ignore the real desperate needs that we have that have been ignored by the state for way too long.”
Comstock didn't directly respond to Murphy's remarks on the transportation legislation, HB 2313, but the Republican leveled a shot of her own, pointing to the fact Murphy's campaign website doesn't feature any specific jobs or economy section.
Comstock also called attention to a law she championed that eliminated mandatory project labor agreements for the Silver Line project, something that significantly reduced the cost of the multi-billion dollar infrastructure initiative.
Transportation splits continued between Republican Del. David Ramadan and Democratic challenger John Bell.
Like Murphy with Comstock, Bell knocked Ramadan for his opposition vote to the transportation bill. The Democrat has made Ramadan's hostility to the taxes included in the historic transit bill a central focus in his campaign.
Ramadan defended his record and said “political cheap shots” aren't going to win elections.
“John knows well why I voted against the transportation tax increase. John knows well that I have secured money for my district for transportation,” Ramadan said.
Of the Republican delegates on the stage, Ramadan and Comstock were the only two who voted against HB 2313, while Tom Rust (R-86th), Jim LeMunyon (R-67th), Tag Greason (R-32nd) and Randy Minchew (R-10th) voted in favor.
Minchew, of Leesburg, was also targeted by his Democratic challenger, political newcomer Monte Johnson.
While not within the guidelines of the event, Johnson posed a direct question to Minchew, asking whether he supports Ken Cuccinelli's education plan.
“Del. Minchew has aligned himself with Ken Cuccinelli. He's donated to his campaign,” Johnson said. “ … Ken Cuccinelli's education plan would cut over $20 million from education from Loudoun County alone ...”
Minchew, who has been endorsed by the Virginia Education Association, stayed within the rules and responded to questions posed by moderator Mindy Carlin and not his challenger.
Rounding out the forum's participants were Democrats Hung Nguyen, who's challenging LeMunyon, and Mary Daniel, whose squaring off against Republican Dave LaRock in the 33rd District, and Liz Miller, candidate in the 32nd District.
LaRock was the only candidate who did not attend. He failed to complete a chamber-drawn questionnaire that was a prerequisite for attendance.
LaRock bested veteran Del. Joe May in a June primary for the House's 33rd District.
The forum commentary on Medicaid expansion, one of the key issues in the state this election cycle, essentially fell within party-line talking points; Democrats said they fully endorse growing the entitlement and Republicans noted they want to see reforms and cost-savings within the program before expansion.
Rust, though, has been more supportive and optimistic of the Medicaid expansion than his Republican colleagues.
Each candidate's responses to the chamber's questionnaire can be found online through LoudounChamber.org.