Rep. Spanberger, Del. Freitas faced off in first and only Seventh Congressional District Forum

Rep. Spanberger, Del. Freitas faced off in first and only Seventh Congressional District Forum

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - United States Representative Abigail Spanberger (D) and Virginia Delegate Nick Freitas (R) participated in the Seventh Congressional District Forum, which was hosted by Chamber RVA and VPM.

The debate was the first time both congressional candidates stood on stage together all political season and will be the only debate between the two before the November election.

The debate included close to 350 submitted questions from the community, which was collected over the span of four weeks, as a part of the VPM’s Citizen Agenda. The responses included topics about:

  • Compromise, Values and Working Together
  • Rebuilding / Recovery from the COVID-19 Pandemic (healthcare, economy, education)
  • Equity and Economy
  • Criminal Justice and Police Reform
  • Voter Protections and Government Reforms
  • The topics from the survey will be used in ongoing election coverage

The debate was moderated by Washington Week moderator and Managing Editor Robert Costa, who is also a national political reporter for The Washington Post. After opening statements, each candidate was asked the same question and was given 90 seconds to respond before given additional time for rebuttal after each other’s response.

Economy

The first topic brought up by the moderator was the economy as it relates to negotiations in Congress over a possible $2 trillion COVID-19 stimulus relief package as the federal budget deficit soared over $3 trillion during the 2020 fiscals year. Freitas was the first to answer the question of whether he believed the stimulus package to be necessary. While Freitas does not dismiss the idea of more stimulus relief, he says that it can’t be done the way Democrats intend it to be.

“If we’re going to do stimulus, the way that we need to do it is targeted spending toward those individuals and businesses that need it through no fault of their own as a result of COVID and some of the draconian shutdowns that we’ve seen as a result of Democrat governors all across the country,” Freitas said. “So it’s important that we pass things like one issue per bill so that we can look at these individual expenditures, and we can make decisions that work best for the people that are most affected, instead of voting for things like bailouts for state governments.”

Abigail Spanberger agreed that the American people need more stimulus relief, but that it would have to be a bipartisan effort.

“Another stimulus package is necessary, and I say this because I hear from the small business owners that I represent, restaurant owners in Henrico County, small business owners in Chesterfield County, and across the 10 counties of the 7th District of Virginia, additional relief is necessary and that’s what I’ve been fighting for,” Spanberger said. “I have worked with a bipartisan group of lawmakers, the problem solvers caucus 25 Democrats and 25 Republicans to put forth a framework when leaders in the White House and in the House of Representatives and the Senate walked away from the negotiating table. I went back to it with my colleagues, and we put forth a proposal that we - as a bipartisan group of legislators - agreed on, recognizing the dire need for aid and the dire need for relief.”

COVID 19 Pandemic

On the issue of the pandemic, the moderator asked if the candidates believed income equality inequality should be addressed with a raise in the federal minimum wage, and if so, what should that be. Spanberger says she would address that issue by supporting a plan that would call for the phased increase of minimum wage.

“I have voted in support of raising the minimum wage. On a phased increase to $15 an hour, I supported an amendment that would exempt certain small businesses under a certain revenue and employee level, recognizing the importance and the need for a little bit more flexibility for small businesses. But income inequality is part of it. It’s also an issue of opportunity and equality of opportunity across our district and our country,” Spanberger said. “Equality is an issue of the paycheck, but also the ability to access the marketplace to be able to work from home, particularly in a time of a pandemic, for children to have the same levels of opportunity that it exists for kids just down the street in a neighboring suburban county.”

When Freitas was asked the same question, he disagreed with Spanbegrer’s solution arguing, that raising the minimum wage would only put an increased strain on small businesses struggling to stay afloat amidst the pandemic.

“It’s amazing to me right now that we’re telling business owners, especially small business owners, that are fighting to try to provide economic opportunities, not just for them, but for people that want a job and people who desperately need a job, that now we’re going to double the cost of hiring someone that needs to get that initial job to learn about work ethic to get the necessary work experience to move up,” Freitas said. “The bottom line is this, less than 3% of the people in the labor force actually make minimum wage, and the vast majority of won’t be making a minimum wage some several months down the road provided that they can get that first job opportunity. But when you make it so expensive to hire them in the first place, youth unemployment goes up and we know this for all the states and countries that have attempted to do this in the past.”

Spanberger rebutted by saying that this was not an issue of young people not being able to enter the workforce and instead of an issue of the economy straights of the pandemic disproportionately affecting single mothers, particularly of color, across the country.

“My opponent has previously voted not to have protections for pregnant women in the workforce," Spanberger said. "Income inequality is an issue of fairness. It’s an issue of fairness for women, for men and for skilled and unskilled workers.”

“Here’s the problem, they’re not going to be able to move up the economic ladder. They’re not being able to get those opportunities if they can’t find a job in the first place, no matter how good the intentions of what Abigail Spanberger wants to do. The result of raising the minimum wage, doubling the minimum wage, means that there’s going to be fewer job opportunities for the people that need it the most,” Freitas said.

Big Tech

The candidates were asked how Congress should regulate antitrust privacy and foreign interference issues with tech companies as it related to the Justice Department’s legal challenge to Google arguing it has an illegal monopoly over search. Freitas was the first to respond saying that while he is not a fan of the government trying to control the Internet of the flow of information, he believes that social media giants like Twitter and Facebook should not selectively censor content or messages in accordance with the company’s political biases.

“I think one of the biggest problems that we’ve had, and we’ve seen this lately, with Twitter and Facebook, simply to suppress information that was coming out about hunter Biden and Joe Biden is that they are trying to operate as a publisher, but they want the legal protections of a platform,” Freitas said. “A platform has the ability to put information out there so that people can have access to information, but they’re not supposed to selectively censored in accordance with their own political views.”

“These big tech companies do have to understand if they’re going to operate as a publisher, then they’re going to have to face the legal consequences when they deliberately censor information, simply because it doesn’t fit within their political, preferred political beliefs.”

Spanberger responded to Freitas’s response saying that the key is transparency and that tech companies have a role to play in ensuring that propaganda and fake news is not disseminated across cyberspace through social media.

“I think it’s absolutely appropriate that tech firms should not be pushing Russian propaganda. And when it is they are made aware that that exists by the United States is FBI, they have an obligation to recognize the harm that propaganda from a foreign adversary nation can pose to our elections in our election systems,” Spanberger said. “I do believe that social media companies should be held accountable, they should be held to the same standards. When there’s a television ad on the TV or on the radio, you know who is putting that ad out there and the same requirements must be placed on political ads and other ads that go on social media, and importantly, that disclaimer of who’s paying to influence the viewer, the user needs to follow that ad along.”

Taxes

Spanberger and Freitas were asked who should be paying higher taxes and if the corporate tax rate, which was cut from 35% to 21% under President Trump’s 2017 tax law, should be raised? Spanberger says that while she agrees that it was smart to lower the corporate tax rate, she disagrees with the permanent tax cuts to large corporations and pharmaceutical manufactures and says middle-class families will end up footing the bill.

“What was told to the American people is that the system was going to be fairer, that the system was going to be simpler, it would be easier to file taxes. This tax reform added trillions of dollars to the debt when we were still recovering from the recession of the last decade, and left us in a position even further unprepared to come into this pandemic,” Spanberger said. “To lower the corporate tax rate as much as we did with permanent tax cuts to corporations and a bill that will come do for America’s middle-class families. That’s not the way to do it. I do not support raising taxes on the everyday working-class and middle-class families.”

Freitas chimed back by saying that before the pandemic, the tax cuts were intended to make the country more competitive with overseas competition, adding that driving taxes back up would only send more jobs overseas.

“They are going to raise taxes not just on corporations, they’re gonna raise taxes on people here, families here within the seventh district to the tune of at least $2,500 per household, potentially as high as $4,800 per household," Freitas said. “I don’t see how in the midst of a pandemic when people are desperately trying to pay the bills, pay the rent, keep their businesses open, you’re going to raise taxes on them at the same time.”

Healthcare

Costas also asked questions regarding the future of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) of which the Supreme Court will hear arguments after the election. Freitas was asked whether he believes Congress should step in and legislate new protections if the decision by that decision ruptures coverage for millions of Americans. Freitas responded by saying that while he believes along with Democrats and Republicans that coverage needs to be protected during the pandemic, the healthcare system as it stands needs to be fixed.

“If we’re really serious about making sure that we have access to affordable and quality health care. There is one way in one way only to do it, you have to increase the supply of the doctors, the nurses, the clinics, the hospitals, the specialists, but it is democrat regulations that are standing in the way of doing that,” Freitas said. “So the important thing to provide coverage for the vulnerable when you need to, and then make sure that we increase the supply so everyone can have access to quality and affordable health care.”

Spanbeger responded by saying that the ACA already protects people with preexisting conditions saying that the attacks against the ACA are meant to undo its protections.

“The ACA is the program is the law of the land that protects people with pre-existing conditions that did away with caps on lifetime coverage that would impact that baby born early and who spent months in an ACU,” Spanberger said. “This is the program that my opponent has called cancer and vowed to undo this is the only law of the land that protects people with pre-existing conditions. It is also the law that closed the doughnut hole for Medicare recipients saving them $2,200.”

“The ACA is not the only thing that existed in order to protect people with pre-existing conditions. If you want to talk about rural hospitals, since I live in a district with rural hospitals, it’s things like COPD and regulations that actually prevent new services from being able to come in and help underserved areas," Freitas said.

Abortion

The sixth topic posed to the candidates was their positions on abortion and issue where both candidates vastly disagree on. Spanberger was the first to tackle this question and kept her answer brief.

“Roe vs. Wade is settled law. It is settled law, and that’s what I support,” Spanberger said. “I do not believe that in those desperate difficult conversations there is a place for politicians to insert themselves.”

Freitas responded by criticizing Governor Ralph Northam over comments he made on abortion back in 2019, saying that more needs to be done to give women more options than abortion and that young men need to be held accountable for the obligation they have to their children.

“I think we need to be able to offer people more options than just abortion and we also need to make sure that we’re raising young men that understand that you have an obligation to your children and to the mother of your children,” Freitas said. “I want to foster a society where we encourage life where we welcome life into this country and where we provide the resources for mothers that they desperately need so that they can choose life.”

Consulting Experts

In the wake of 210,000 Americans who have died as due to novel coronavirus, Freitas and Spanberger were asked to answer whether the president should listen more closely to Health experts in Washington. Freitas said that while the President should follow the advice of health experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci, other experts of different fields should be consulted when trying to address the full scope of the pandemic.

“I think whenever we’re looking at a government response to something as significant as a pandemic, of course, we need to listen to health experts, but we also need to listen to economists, public policy experts, logisticians, because we need a comprehensive approach in order to deal with COVID,” Freitas said. “It is absolutely mind-boggling to me that Joe Biden is now threatening nationwide lockdowns which are not only unconstitutional, but according to the World Health Organization don’t even work and have dire consequences not just for the economies, but perfect for people’s health as well.”

Freitas says there needs to be extra focus on medical resources to the areas where the sick and elderly are concentrated so that another situation like the dozens of COVID-19 deaths that occurred in Henrico living facilities does not happen again. Spanbeger rebutted saying that the only way that we will reopen our economy fully and completely and bring back consumer confidence is by getting the pandemic under control by having coordinated effort from the white house.

“We need leadership from the White House that models behaviors like wearing a mask, listening to scientists, and a plan to ensure that we get the PPE that we need,” Spanberger said. “In the early stages of this pandemic, we saw that states were competing with state hospital systems were competing with hospital systems, and the coordinated response that should have come was not there.”

Working with the President

The candidates were asked what they would tell the next president, whether it’s Vice President Biden or President Trump to make a priority on the pandemic in 2021. Spanberger reiterated points made during the debate that the top priority going into 2021 is getting the pandemic under control.

“The priority has to be a coordinated strategy, where we the United States are leading in the world on how to get this virus under control, where we have a president who listens to scientists who shares information openly and correctly with the American people so that they can make decisions about how to protect themselves based on science and based on knowledge,” Spanberger said. “I have been an advocate for sponsoring legislation to request that the White House utilize the Defense Production Act because I believe in the strength of the United States and our ability to deploy the PPE and the testing components that are necessary for us to be able to aggressively understand where this virus is on the verge of an outbreak and be able to get that under control so that we can open our economy completely and fully restore complete consumer confidence and so that we can get back on the progress on a path towards saving lives and improving back on a path towards our economy stabilizing.”

Freitas says that the allocations of resources to hard-hit areas like nursing homes, and extended living facilities are essential to ensuring that those institutions have what they need in order to potentially give life-saving treatment and drugs to the people that need it in addition to isolating people who may be in a position to transmit it to other people that are vulnerable.

“There needs to be a specific task force assigned to duties and responsibilities like that in order to facilitate coordination between federal, state, and local governments,” Freitas said. “As we learn more about the virus, we also understand that if you’re below the age of 60, there’s probably a point 00 6% chance that this can be fatal. But if you’re at it jumps up significantly, and we need to make sure that we’re allocating resources to those areas, especially nursing homes, and extended living facilities to make sure that they have what they need in order to potentially give life-saving treatment and drugs to the people that need it while isolating people that might be in a position to transmit it to other people that are vulnerable.”

Additionally, Freitas says that the U.S. economy needs to be allowed to safely and responsibly reopen in order to have a tax base with which to draw additional resources to combat the pandemic.

Criminal Justice Reform

When asked what should the federal government do in response, especially on federal policing laws and policies, Freitas said that Trump has already implemented criminal justice reform through the First Step Act which aims to reform federal prisons and sentencing laws in order to reduce recidivism, decrease the federal inmate population, and maintain public safety.

“I think one of the most important things that we can do with respect to federal policing, is understand that if you really want strong police and it has to be community policing, and too often federal law enforcement can come into a situation where because they have the additional budget, local departments can be enticed away to prioritize federal concerns over local concerns,” Freitas said. “State and local law enforcement agencies need to be primarily focused on the communities which are the priorities which are established not just by the law enforcement entities themselves, but by the communities that they’re serving.”

Spanberger says that following the death of George Floyd back in May that there has been a clear need for change and improvement of police reform in the United States.

“I supported the Justice and Policing Act, which is a bill that would outlaw moves like carotid holds or a chokehold utilizations of force that have left numerous people across this country dead, and it would outlaw no-knock warrants in the cases of narcotics arrest, which is the circumstance under which Breonna Taylor was killed in her own apartment,” Spanberger said. “There is a role in the federal government to ensure the pathway toward strength training and strong staffing so that we can have police departments across the country who are honoring their communities that they are working in.”

Protests

When asked about the President in addition to the Justice Departments' handling of protest across the nation this past Summer, Spanberger says she opposes the current administration’s approach to addressing the civil unrest.

“Our first amendment right says that we have the right to peaceably assemble to advocate for what we believe in to use our voices as Americans and across this district, I participated in events where people were advocating for racial justice for equity,” Spanberger said. “It’s incredibly important that we all recognize the value of our voice and our constitutional right to use it. I do not support the way that this administration has attempted to clamp down using gas on protesters in a public square who were peaceably assembled, which is their right.”

While Freitas also says he also supports the first amendment rights of peaceful protestors, he condemned acts of violence that occurred during the protests across Virginia, making the claim that many of the cities that experienced the violence and destruction of property have been under Democratic control and that Democratic mayors and governors across the county plan to let the riots continue.

“There’s one thing that all of these cities have in common, whether it’s the incident with George Floyd, or whether it’s the violent protests that took place after that, every single one of those cities has been almost under unilateral Democratic control for the last 50 years,” Freitas said. “Democrats have promised people they would fix security, they have promised people they would fix education, they have promised people that they would fix infrastructure, and yet they allowed violent protesters to take over a peaceful protest, engage in destruction of property engage in violence, which is going to lead to people actually leaving those areas where they need the tech space to improve schools and provide economic opportunities.”

“Violence is violence, destruction of property is the destruction of property, but our first amendment right is to peaceably assemble and what we saw in Washington, D.C., when there was gas released on protesters is they were peaceably assembling,” Spanberger said.

Confederate Monuments

When asked whether he supported or oppose the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue and if should Confederate monuments, in general, should stay up or come down, Freitas says he was for having continued conversation on including context or putting up more statues of civil rights leaders, he was against removing all statues because e he believes the conversation has moved away from reconciliation.

“This movement is about Democratic politicians trying to distract from the fact that they have not been able to deliver on their promises in the cities that they have the cities that they’ve controlled for decades and now they’re trying to point to an inanimate object as if that’s going to make it better,” Freitas said. “This idea that we would rip down statues of Washington, Jefferson and Madison here in Virginia is just beyond the pale and I do not support that.”

Spanberger replied to Freitas’s comments saying that the conversation is not about removing the statues of Founding Fathers, but instead removing those of confederate leaders which have been the focal point of nationwide debates for years.

“I have voted in the House of Representatives with a bipartisan majority, Democrats, and Republicans, who agree that the statues of the Confederacy should come down from the U.S. Capitol and that we should rename military bases previously named for Confederate generals for heroes of our United States of America,” Spanberger said. “It’s important to reference and note that these structures, while statues represent so very much and we as a people, as Americans should be focused on what structures could symbolize who we are and what we want to be into the future.”

Militia Group

On the topic of national security, the moderator brought up the rise of militia groups in the U.S. and the revelation from the FBI that Governor Ralph Northam was a possible target of radical militant groups, Freitas and Spanberger were asked what the role of Congress was to address the rise. Both candidates cited their background in serving their government to answer this topic.

“I’m a former CIA officer and I worked radicalism and anti radicalism efforts, as it related to counterterrorism, the growth of radical ideologies and extreme ideologies that would lead us, citizens, to believe and create a plot whereby they would seek to abduct and create a sham trial and then murder a sitting us governor is indicative of a major issue and it falls on all of us any person in any level of elected office to denounce these sorts of extreme or conspiratorial views that make us weaker as a country,” Spanberger said. “Within Congress, it’s important that we focus on and define what is domestic terrorism because any group that would choose to abduct and murder a sitting governor in the United States of America is doing so for political reasons. That is the sheer definition of terrorism.”

Freitas responded similarly to Spanberger but also criticized the Democratic party for not condemning groups like Antifa with the sea vigor as other rising militia groups in the U.S.

“Any organization that decides to use violence against innocent people in order to achieve a political objective fits the definition of a terrorist organization, and absolutely cannot be tolerated for the security of this country for the security of our communities. And yes, the federal government has a role of working in conjunction with state and local law enforcement in order to investigate try and prosecute to the full extent of the law, any organization that advocates violence against the innocent in order to achieve their outcomes,” Freitas said. “What I don’t understand is why so many democrats remain absolutely silent as groups like Antifa, were ith threatening violence, we’re engaging in violence, we’re hurting innocent people, there didn’t seem to be any concern for them. I’ve been concerned about that then, I’m concerned for now, because it is always wrong and completely unacceptable in a free society.”

National Security

Spanberger and Freitas did find common ground when questioned on what they believed to be the top national security threats currently facing the nation, both candidates pointed to nations like China, Iran and Russia

“One of the things that we have to look at is the threat that is obviously coming and being presented from China. That’s both from the conventional weapons for that as well as asymmetric threats, the different technologies that are developing the cyber capabilities that they’re developing that is not just targeting our military infrastructure, but our economic infrastructure has to be taken very seriously,” Freitas said. “Another is a huge threat to the Middle East, it is a threat with respect to gaining nuclear weapons, North Korea is in the same boat. Russia also presents threats to regional stability within its area, we need to also get our debt under control. Because if we’re not able to actually finance our military and ensure that it’s the best equipped and best trained in the world, that is going to pose significant security threats to our country.”

Freitas added that the country needs to prioritize, bringing our troops home from Afghanistan, the reprioritize defense spending so that it’s addressing the coherent threats that we see coming out of China, Russia, Iran and North Korea.

While answering the question Spanberger also named China a threat to the nation’s national security and criticized the president for not doing enough to stay up to Russia which she has made credible threats to undermine the election and spread misinformation in the U.S.

“When we look at the threat to our democracy, that threat comes from Russia from a country where we have not as a country seen our President stand up to the threat of an adversary nation that seeks to undermine our elections that seeks to divide the American people and what we must do as an American people is join together in the face of these threats, joined together, recognizing that our position of global leadership is the one that makes us stronger," Spanberger said. “Our partnerships with friends and allies throughout the world is what brings us together in broad Coalitions against the threats from Russia, China, Iran and other authoritarians."

Lighting Round

For the final aspect of the debate, the candidates were subjected to rapid-fire questions in which they had to answer their questions in a couple of sentences. The first of the questions was the candidate’s stance on packing the Supreme Court to which both replied that they vehemently opposed both major political parties from doing.

“I think it’s important to note that I oppose all politicization of the Supreme Court I oppose ideas being floated by Democrats to pack the court justice. I oppose Republican efforts to cram through a nominee in record time,” Spanberger said.

“Court-packing is an assault on the institution of the court and our American people need to understand that our political differences are supposed to be solved in Congress. We’re not supposed to weaponize institutions, which all Americans are supposed to be able to rely on for objectivity,” Freitas said.

When asked what grade they would give the President in his response to the pandemic, both candidates were predictably opposite in their answer.

“The overall grade with respect to the federal response is pretty good,” Freitas said. “Restricting travel early on was very essential and then getting medical resources of the places that needed it so that we could flatten the curve and make sure that we didn’t overwhelm our medical system was accomplished. We do need to move more work with respect to the allocation of resources, and also to make sure that governors are doing a better job of once they have those resources, getting them to the people that need them.”

“I would defer to the families of 220,000 Americans who have died of this virus because it was able to plague our community in a way where other peer nations haven’t experienced the scope and breadth and proportion of death,” Spanberger said. “But moving forward, what we need to do as an American people is focus on a unified response testing nationwide access to PPE and testing so that we can get this virus under control.”

When questioned about climate control Spanberger agreed that the U.S. should rejoin the Paris Agreement, with Freitas replying that the U.S. has continued to be an environmental leader outside of the agreement.

“The United States should continue to demonstrate its leadership when it comes to addressing issues of climate change and we were doing that in as part of the Paris Agreement and we should return to it,” Spanberger said.

“We left the Paris accords and we reduced our carbon emissions by 100 and 40 million metric tons. China and the EU stayed within the Paris accord, and they increase theirs by 100 and 40 million metric tons,” Freitas said. “There was a Republican bill that said that we could rejoin the Accord if it didn’t cause a net loss of jobs to China and Congresswoman Spanberger voted against that.”

On the 2nd Amendment, Freitas has been a staunch proponent of defining 2nd amendment rights while Spanberger believes there need to be greater gun control measures which she says that most Americans are in favor of.

“I think now more than ever, we need to understand that people have an inherent right to be able to defend themselves and the sort of gun confiscation bills that we saw within the Virginia General Assembly right now should be a huge concern for everybody that values your inherent right to be able to defend yourself,” Freitas said.

“I support the Second Amendment. I used to carry a firearm every day I grew up in a household with firearms,” Spanberger said. “The important thing here is that we are able to apply the same standard of the law when it comes to the background check that one undergoes when they buy a firearm in a place like Cabela’s, that same standard should be applied across the board.”

Both candidates also agreed that they would take a COVID-19 vaccine if one was approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

“Yes, absolutely,” Spanberger said. “I just led a piece of legislation ensuring that seniors across the United States would be able to receive such a vaccine free of cost.”

“Yes, I would and I think the administration deserves some credit for removing a lot of the regulations that have stood in the way, not only of this vaccine being created in a timely manner, but several other types of life-saving drugs that if we could just reduce those regulations, we could get into the hands of people that needed him at prices they could afford,” Freitas said.

Each candidate was also asked what issue they would be willing to work with the president on if the opposing party’s office won the 2020 election.

When it comes to things like Civil Asset Forfeiture reform within the umbrella of criminal justice reform, I think that’s something that I’ve worked on with Democrats in the House of Delegates," Freitas said. “I believe in the Frederick Douglass quote, 'I will work with anybody to do good and nobody to do evil.’”

“I have a demonstrated track record of working with President Trump I went to the White House met with President Trump to focus on border security and get our government back open,” Spanberger said. “If there is a continuation of the Trump administration, I will continue to work with the President on issues that matter to Central Virginians.”

Both candidates also found common ground when asked whether they support the FBI’s conclusion that there is no widespread voter fraud.

“I believe and trust the FBI and the hard work of the men and women of the federal law enforcement agency,” Spanberger said.

“There are so many numbers of state legislative bills that have passed that have reduced the integrity of overall elections that it is of concern, but I still have faith in the integrity of our elections, and I believe in the peaceful transition of power,” Freitas said.

7th District Infrastructure.

The final question asked of the candidates during the debate was what they thought was the greatest infrastructure need in 2021 for the 7th district which covers Henrico, Chesterfield, Orange, Culpeper, Goochland and Louisa Counties. Both candidates said rural broadband was what the district needs.

“When we look at our overall infrastructure package, we need to understand that as we’re improving roads, as we’re improving electrical lines, that presents an excellent opportunity to use existing easements and resources,” Freitas said. “One of the biggest problems is having to go back and actually dig everything up once you’ve already put the road in place, the power lines in place. If we can actually do that, as we’re improving this infrastructure, it is going to go a long way in order to give people the internet they need without putting the government in control of it.”

“Rural broadband is a need of Central Virginia. I’ve been fighting for it since I arrived in Congress, I work to protect valuable investments in the reconnect program that’s already delivered $28 million in grants to Central Virginia,” Spanberger said. "Unfortunately, my opponent voted against a bill that would make it easier to use easements throughout Central Virginia to bring rural broadband to the communities that need it so much.”

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