RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) and her Republican challenger Del. Nick Freitas (R-Culpeper) sparred Tuesday night in their first televised debate over coronavirus relief, health care, increasing the federal minimum wage and issues concerning residents of Virginia’s 7th Congressional District.

The race for Spanberger’s U.S. House seat is considered to be one of the most competitive in Virginia, possibly the country, and is expected to play a key role in the fight for power in the chamber. The district was a Republican stronghold for decades before the congresswoman defeated GOP incumbent Dave Brat in the 2018 midterms.

The forum — which can be found here — was hosted by VPM and Chamber RVA, and moderated by Robert Costa, Washington Week’s managing editor and moderator and a national political reporter for The Washington Post.

Freitas began his opening statement highlighting his military service as a former Green Beret, saying that he never envisioned leaving the Army until hearing candidates run on platforms “of wanting to fundamentally change this country.” The state delegate made his support for limited government clear before the questions were asked.

Spanberger recounted growing up in the 7th District and how her family “prioritized service,” sharing how she always imagined going into public service in her opening remarks. She noted her experience in Congress in an introduction targeted towards community members in the district.

The candidates touched on several topics during Tuesday’s debate, addressing their views on whether another round of stimulus is needed, the coronavirus response, Congress’ role in regulating tech companies, health care coverage and protecting Virginians with preexisting conditions.

A coronavirus stimulus package

Freitas said that a new stimulus package needs to have “targeted spending,” to help small businesses and not what House Democrats have proposed. He added that lawmakers should look at measures individually and not provide “bailouts to state governments.”

Spanberger called additional relief “necessary,” mentioning the bipartisan work she’s done with the Problem Solvers Caucus to develop a framework for a stimulus package. She brought up voting against a Democratic-backed bill in May “because it wasn’t negotiated,” reiterating moderate views as Freitas continues to paint her as someone who is too liberal for the district.

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