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In their first and only public forum before the Nov. 3 election, candidates for the 93rd District seat in the Virginia House of Delegates took advantage of the opportunity to confront each other face-to-face on statements about their character and accomplishments.
About 300 people, including students and senior citizens, packed the auditorium at the Williamsburg Regional Library last night to see incumbent Del. Monty Mason (D) and challenger Lara Overy (R) take questions from moderator Michael Fox.
The forum was organized by the League of Women Voters of the Williamsburg Area.
The 93rd District includes all of the City of Williamsburg and parts of Newport News, James City County and York County.
The forum began with the candidates speaking to what they believe is the biggest issue on the minds of citizens – for Mason, widening I-64, and for Overy, jobs, education and transportation – followed by their opinions on campaign finance reform.
Overy called for sensible legislation that encourages transparency while Mason recommended putting a cap on campaign gifts and prohibiting spending those gifts on personal expenses, but in her rebuttal, Overy turned her attention to Mason’s integrity and advised voters to look at his record.
“I believe that our public officials need to have a certain level of integrity and they need to be truthful and honest in all that they do,” Overy said. “I have run a campaign that has proven that I’m going to have integrity and respect, and I think that my opponent has shown that he doesn’t carry the same integrity, with the lies and the attacks he’s made on me.”
Mason quickly answered a question about delegate pay raises by calling them a “nonstarter” before responding to Overy’s assertion in campaign ads that he had not passed any bills in the House. He did so by showing the audience copies of six bills he passed and even a pen Gov. Terry McAuliffe used to sign one.
“Ma’am, you’ve run a campaign of integrity? Here’s six bills right here with my name on them,” Mason said before the audience erupted in applause. “How do you respond to that?”
Overy mentioned Monty’s failure to pass bills in her responses to subsequent questions, each time eliciting laughter from the audience.
Fox gave the candidates an opportunity to speak to misstatements made by their opponent or the opponent’s party later in the forum. Mason returned to Overy’s statement about his failure to pass legislation, while Overy addressed Mason’s suggestion in campaign ads that she has turned her back on women.
“I find it insulting that a man can tell a woman she doesn’t stand up for women,” Overy said, noting how she raised her daughter as a single mother. “If anybody sitting at this table knows what it is to be a woman and to struggle and to have to go through those challenges, it is me and I find it offensive. You should be ashamed of yourself on that one.”
Fox aimed to lighten the mood with a question about the book each candidate had most recently read and later asked which team would win the William & Mary versus James Madison University football game on Saturday.
While the candidates offered different views on Medicaid expansion and background checks on guns, they agreed on the need to diversify the local economy and the value in welcoming the drone industry to the Commonwealth.