The following press release is from the Loudoun County Democratic Committee; to watch the debate, click here.
In VA10 Debate, Wexton Offers Insights; Cao Extremist Rhetoric
Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton illustrated what it means to be focused, calm and professional while in the spotlight during Sunday night’s candidate debate at the Dar Alnoor Islamic Community in Manassas, delivering thoughtful, fact-based replies even as her opponent’s ill-mannered supporters jeered in mob-like fashion.
Her opponent, Hung Cao, a former Navy captain, delivered right-wing rhetoric to fire up his base, dodging inconvenient questions – still refusing to say if he believes the 2020 election was stolen – while clearly differentiating himself from Wexton’s positive approach by delineating the many things he finds wrong with America.
“His views are extreme,” Wexton said. “While he comes to you with platitudes, I come to you with policy and plans.”
Ultimately, Cao’s far-right positions left little doubt that these debates and candidate forums leading up to Nov. 8 elections aren’t changing minds nor serving to find a middle ground for thoughtful discussion.
- Echoing his previously stated view favoring a complete abortion ban, he noted that in his Vietnamese culture life begins at conception. And yet, abortion has been legal, free of charge, in Vietnam since 1989.
Wexton was quick to point out that the life beginning at conception could mean the end of in vitro fertilization and contraception, then offered full backing of a bill supporting abortion rights.
- In response to a question noting that “firearms are now the number one cause of death of children in the United States … what would you do to address the epidemic of gun violence?” he fumbled momentarily and then reached for the time-worn refuge of Second Amendment advocates: “It’s the mental health issue… we have to address mental health.”
But Democrats did just that last week and found Republican support lacking as they passed a bill, the Mental Health Matters Act, to provide mental health in schools, which Wexton supported.
Wexton’s reply to the same question: “The root cause is easy access to guns. Period… Gun violence prevention is one of the main reasons that I ran for office in the first place…. I will keep fighting for gun violence prevention as long as I’m in Congress.”
- The term “health” or “healthcare” was mentioned 37 times throughout the debate, in response to question about abortion, guns, policing and the environment. Asked specifically what they would do to reduce healthcare costs Cao offered a completely hands-off, “free market” approach, but stopped short of saying whether he opposed the Affordable Care Act, a form of government intervention that has brought down health costs for millions.
“…Never once has (anyone) sat on Metro going, You know what I need, I need more government intervention. Right? …Let the free market work itself out. We need competitiveness,” he said.
Wexton countered that the free market resulted in “kicking people off their coverage or refusing to cover them for preexisting conditions … I disagree that the free market is going to take care of everybody.”
- One of the more provocative questions was directed at Cao’s calling Frank Gaffney a “true American” and Steve Bannon a “true patriot of our times”. As this event took place in a mosque, the Islamophobic rhetoric of Gaffney and the Muslim ban supported by Bannon were of particular importance. He gave a fumbling response, saying that friends sometimes disagree – but didn’t say if he disagrees with Gaffney and Bannon.
In closing Cao complained that Wexton – citing Cao’s opposition to women’s reproductive rights, healthcare expansion, gun safety, LGBTQ+ protections and praise for the Jan. 6 insurrectionists – has characterized him as “an extremist.”
Rather than being characterized as an extremist, he argued that based on his military service “I deserve to be called an American.”
Perhaps he’s right about this one: He’s an American extremist.