RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A Virginia congressman has told his Republican challenger to acknowledge his and President Joe Biden’s 2020 election victories or they won’t debate ahead of the upcoming midterms, saying he can’t take part “in any forum where facts are not the basis.”
Rep. Donald McEachin (D-Va.), an incumbent seeking a fourth term, is facing off against Republican Leon Benjamin for a second straight time. In 2020, McEachin received nearly 62% of the vote when he defeated Benjamin to reclaim Virginia’s 4th Congressional District seat.
Benjamin sent a letter to McEachin on Aug. 8 to set up two debates before the 2022 midterms in November, with each campaign getting a chance to organize one debate. McEachin wrote back to Benjamin on Aug. 15 informing him there wouldn’t be any debates unless Benjamin accepted the results of the 2020 elections.
“My victory – and the significant margin – are facts and facts are not fungible,” McEachin wrote. “Until you accept the results of the 2020 election, concede the 2020 congressional race and acknowledge President Biden’s victory, I will make no joint appearance with you.”
When asked multiple times Monday, Benjamin declined to say whether he thought Biden and McEachin had legitimately won in 2020.
“He’s called me all types of names, saying I’m denying and everything,” Benjamin said of McEachin in a phone interview. “No, I’m questioning. I’m questioning the election process and I’m not alone with that.”
Benjamin, a Navy veteran, claimed most Americans lack trust in the country’s election process, saying data shows 75% believe U.S. elections are not free and fair but not pointing to specific polls. When pressed for specifics and told that data shows a partisan divide over trust in elections but that most Americans believe that elections are fair, Benjamin did not directly respond.
“No objective or knowledgeable individual has ever questioned the 2020 congressional election in VA-04 nor has anyone alleged anything out of the ordinary in that race except you who has cited nothing to attest to your position,” McEachin’s letter continued. “Reality is not simply what you want it to be.”
Instead, Benjamin pivoted to inflation, education and gas prices. For several questions on the 2020 election results, Benjamin shifted to McEachin’s health, saying he’s “not in good shape right now” and claiming he’s not voting or attending meetings in the U.S. House.
Data shows McEachin has voted on several recent pieces of legislation. According to McEachin’s campaign, the congressman did not miss any votes in 2022 and missed three out of nearly 450 votes in 2021.
“Once again, Bishop Benjamin is not dealing in facts,” Tara Rountree, a McEachin campaign spokesperson, said in a statement. “In 2022, Congressman McEachin has not missed a single vote. Let me reiterate that so it’s crystal clear- he has NOT missed a single vote in 2022 out of 299 votes total. In all of 2021, he missed three votes out of a total of 449. The facts speak for themselves.”
Benjamin, a bishop for a Richmond church, said he was “praying” for McEachin and questioned whether he was “strong enough” to serve in Congress. Benjamin then added that he was “strong, vibrant, young” and can stand on his own two feet.
In 2019, McEachin did miss votes while recovering from two surgeries. According to his office, McEachin experienced “ongoing complications” related to chemotherapy and radiation he underwent during his treatment for rectal cancer.
“The Congressman is most assuredly doing his job, representing his constituents and working each and every day to make a difference for the families in his district. Facts are facts, throwing something out there does not make it true,” Rountree continued.