The forum was hosted by the Dulles Regional Chamber of Commerce.
The evening was a somewhat tense one, with Democratic candidate Jennifer Boysko aggressively attacking Republican incumbent Thomas Rust's prior voting record, and Rust passionately defending it, as well as correcting her on what he said has been several misrepresentations she has accused him of in mailings to voters' homes recently.
In a question from the audience, Boysko stated that her three biggest priorities are addressing students' needs and fair wages for teachers; expanding Medicaid and help for health and human services; and transportation.
Rust identified his three biggest priorities as education; continuing the state's hard work on transportation improvements; and continuing to create new jobs and grow the economy.
"Many people have asked why I'm running again," Rust said. "After 10 long years of hard work getting the transportation plan done—which a lot of people give me and a few others a lot of credit accomplishing—but I thought a lot about it, and I say, there's still a lot of work to be done. A lot of work to be done."
That work includes helping locals continue to fully recover from the economic downturn of 2008 and 2009, continue to create new jobs in the region and protect our right to work, and continue to improve Virginia's education system, both in elementary to high schools, as well as in higher education, including trying to keep tuitions down.
"So, there's still a lot of work to be done. And it will take someone with experience, with leadership, and who has demonstrated those skills over the years. I'm that person," he said.
Right off the bat, one of the first questions by the panel questioned the candidates on their positions regarding controversial women's health issues.
Boysko said this matter was largely one that inspired her to run for the office.
"The chipping away of our women's health issues is a detriment to all of us," she said, accusing Rust of supporting TRAP laws and voting for "personhood" in 2011, as well as voting to defund Planned Parenthood.
Rust corrected Boysko to say that she was misrepresenting his voting record on several points. He said in fact, he voted against the personhood bill and against one that would have required women wanting an abortion to get a transvaginal ultrasound.
When Boysko accused him of voting to defund Planned Parenthood, Rust became visibly angry and said that what he actually voted against was a bill that would have diverted funds from the State Department of Health to Planned Parenthood "because you never know what they're going to use it for" and because he thought the funds were better spent staying with the State Department of Health.
The only bill he said he did vote in favor of was one that required stricter standards on women's health clinics that provide abortions.
The audience applauded when Rust corrected her, multiple times throughout the evening.
Another heated topic of the night was a question from the panel that asked, "What should Virginia be doing about Medicaid?"
"I think we should have taken the dollars at the first chance they were offered, and gone ahead with the Medicaid expansion," Boysko said, referring to federal dollars that the commonwealth has turned down to assist with Medicaid expansion, which some voters say is valuable money "being left on the table" and possibly even being used to fund other states' expansion plans.
She added that Rust supports Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli, who does not support the Affordable Care Act or Medicaid expansion, which she thinks "is a mistake."
"Four-hundred thousand new people could be insured; 30,000 new jobs; 62,000 seniors could be helped through this—a savings to our state of 115- to 135-million dollars," she said.
"I have said many times before, publicly, and I'll say it again tonight—I do support the expansion of Medicaid," Rust said in rebuttal. "But there should be reforms. There should be revisions. Those are all being studied right now."
He said a thorough study is currently taking place at the state level, and he things it is a valuable and important one.
Other topics of the night included district gerrymandering, insurance exchanges, gun control, distribution of education funds throughout the state, and how to address concerns over some of the state's degrading bridges.
Watch the forum in its entirety in HC-TV's video above, or visit their website to see when it will air again on their channel (channel 23 on Cox, channel 28 on Verizon FIOS, both broadcast in Herndon). The video is also archived under "Video on Demand" in the Programming section of the website.
Note: If the video screen above looks blank, refresh the page once and it should appear. If not, see the link above to watch it via HC-TV's website.
What do you think of the candidates' answers on some of the night's tough questions? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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