GMU to host debate between candidates in Aug. 19 special election

By Buzz McClain
George Mason University

Mason professor and debate moderator Frank Shafroth (GMU Photo)

Mason professor and debate moderator Frank Shafroth (GMU Photo)

As the Aug. 19 special election in Arlington and McLean to choose a new state representative draws near, George Mason University steps up to host a debate on Monday, Aug. 11, between candidates David M. Foster (R) and Richard “Rip” Sullivan (D) at Founders Hall Auditorium on the Arlington Campus.

And with just 90 minutes to meet the politicians, the questions posed during the debate need to be carefully considered, as the debate moderator, George Mason professor Frank Shafroth, knows very well. After months of planning — inviting the candidates, booking the venue, organizing event volunteers, arranging media coverage—the questions remain paramount.

“The key is that these candidates are running for the [Virginia] House of Delegates seat, so we have to anticipate what are the most important issues that are going to be dealt with in the next session of the legislature,” says Shafroth, director of Mason’s State and Local Government Leadership Center. “And of those issues, which are the ones that are going to [have] impact most on local governments? That is, what are the issues most likely to affect citizens?”

Voters in attendance can expect Shafroth to bring up the topic of ethics in Virginia government. “Everyone is focused on the trial” of former Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell (R), he says. “Everyone understands that no matter if the jury finds him innocent or guilty, there’s no longer any question whatsoever [that] had there been an ethics code that other states have, we would never have gotten this far.”

Another question sure to be on Shafroth’s list is that of the regional economy “which in Virginia is really slumping, particularly in Northern Virginia,” he says. “A lot of that is because of the federal government; the ability for the area to rely on the federal and defense spending is gone, probably forever. So you can ask what is your role in the legislature going to be when it comes to with dealing with the changes that are required to adjust.”

The controversial streetcar system in Arlington and Alexandria, redistricting, immigration issues, expanded Medicaid coverage and education are also likely to be addressed, if not by Shafroth, then by questions submitted by audience members.

The debate, co-hosted with Mason by the League of Women Voters’ Arlington and Fairfax chapters, begins Monday, Aug. 11, at 7 p.m. and ends at 8:30 p.m.; doors open at 6 p.m. Admission is free, but audience members must register here.

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Truman Lewis
A former reporter and bureau chief, Truman Lewis has covered presidential campaigns, state politics and stories ranging from organized crime to environmental and consumer protection.