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Cline and Lewis face off in Winchester

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Candidate Jennifer Lewis and Representative Ben Cline.

The candidates running to represent Virginia's sixth district in the U.S. House of Representatives met on the debate stage on Saturday. WMRA's Randi B. Hagi reports.

Incumbent Ben Cline, a Republican, and challenger Jennifer Lewis, a Democrat, debated for the first time during this race at the Handley Regional Library in Winchester. The city, along with Frederick and Clarke counties, were recently absorbed into the sixth district. Cline was first elected to the House in 2018 after serving 16 years in the Virginia House of Delegates. Lewis ran against him four years ago, and lost with 40% of the vote.

Cline talked extensively about breaking down partisan barriers in Washington.

BEN CLINE: Then you get to break bread with your colleagues, and that's something that helps to build bridges so that when you're in a committee, when you're on the floor, you don't go low. You don't attack.

He highlighted his support for veterans, small businesses, and agriculture, and proposed addressing inflation by increasing domestic energy production. He never mentioned Presidents Trump or Biden by name, but said that under the "last administration," the U.S. was less dependent on foreign energy sources. However, the U.S. has been a net total energy exporter since 2019, according to the Energy Information Administration.

Lewis came out with a more adversarial tone. She praised Biden for the Build Back Better and Inflation Reduction acts, and said that Cline voted against both –

JENNIFER LEWIS: … out of pure partisan pettiness.

She listed among her priorities: increasing funding for assisted living facilities and in-home care, legalizing marijuana, mitigating and planning for climate change, and codifying same-sex marriage and the right to an abortion.

LEWIS: The government does not belong in our family planning. [applause]

According to The Northern Virginia Daily, the two candidates will debate again at the Lexington-Rockbridge Chamber of Commerce on October 25th.

Randi B. Hagi first joined the WMRA team in 2019 as a freelance reporter. Her writing and photography have been featured in The Harrisonburg Citizen, where she previously served as the assistant editor; as well as The Mennonite; Mennonite World Review; and Eastern Mennonite University's Crossroads magazine.