Republican challenger Scott Taylor and incumbent Representative Elaine Luria (D-Virginia Beach) faced off Tuesday night in their first televised debate. The 2nd Congressional District race is currently a toss-up.
Political reporter Joe St. George served as the moderator. Questions featured were presented in three segments: from the moderator first, then viewers, and lastly from Taylor and Luria.
Topics included stimulus packages, mask mandates, the defense budget, gun rights, police reform and funding, relations with China, and Medicaid.
In her opening statements Luria opted to not remark on Taylor’s political history – instead focusing on hers – and even thanked Taylor for the debate. Luria emphasized her dedication to protecting the Paycheck Protection Program and healthcare coverage for pre-existing conditions.
While Taylor’s opening statements also focused on his accomplishments and sympathies for constituents’ struggles during the pandemic, he opted to criticize Luria’s political record. Taylor cited Luria’s frequent support of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, voting against a second round of stimulus checks, and use of taxpayer dollars on campaigning.
Luria responded that she voted against the stimulus bill “because it won’t target enough for relief.” The representative also mentioned her vote against Pelosi’s two HEROES Acts due to excessive partisanship. Luria argued that Republicans don’t want to include child or income tax credits, or nationwide plans for addressing the coronavirus.
Taylor rebutted that only localities know best how to address the pandemic. He also downplayed Luria’s vote against Pelosi’s legislation, stating that the only ones who voted against it were Democrats in swing districts.
The two sparred over the other’s level of dedication to constituents during their respective times as representative. Taylor claimed Luria hadn’t provided enough resources or services for constituents, especially during the coronavirus; Luria claimed that Taylor didn’t provide her with any case files when she assumed office. Both candidates vehemently denied the other’s claims.
Taylor supported reallocation of defense spending, but no reductions. Luria supported increasing naval presence in the Western Pacific. Both candidates established China as a threat.
The topic of the 2019 Virginia Beach tragedy arose during discussion of gun control laws, prompted by a viewer question. Luria stated that she supports the 2nd Amendment. However, she stated an urgent need for stricter gun ownership laws; she voiced her support for red flag laws and bans on suppressors.
“We do need responsible guardrails on gun ownership. UBCs are a very simple first step in order to protect people in our community.”
Taylor took the opposite stance, deferring qualifications for gun ownership to individual choice rather than government oversight. Then, he criticized Luria for her initial statements following the Virginia Beach mass shooting.
“There were still bodies on the ground and blood on the floor when my opponent was tweeting her support of gun control. Every single policy that advanced wouldn’t have prevented that tragedy.”
On the topic of a national mask mandate, both candidates said they preferred to leave mask-wearing up to individuals. Taylor argued that some of the lockdown measures had a worse impact than the virus. Luria criticized President Donald Trump for not making a consistent plan to address the virus.
Both candidates stated that they wouldn’t defund the police. However, Luria stated that she would ban no-knock warrants, chokeholds, and racial profiling.
In his closing remarks, Taylor focused on his many police endorsements, as well as Luria’s silence during the riots and her majority support of Pelosi.
“This evening and this race is about contrast. It is a myth that my opponent is a moderate,” stated Taylor. “Sure both of us support veterans and the military – that’s easy. But there’s a demonstrable difference in our actual votes.”
In her closing remarks, Luria relied on her recent passage of legislation, and positioned herself as an advocate for Medicaid expansion and pre-existing condition coverage.
“There are 23 million Americans who could lose their healthcare. And [Taylor] very clearly said he doesn’t believe in Medicaid expansion.”
The opponents’ battle for the 2nd Congressional District seat first began in 2018. Luria unseated then-incumbent Taylor narrowly, securing 51 percent of the votes.
As of this month, polls rank the race as a toss-up.
The outcome of this election weighs into which party will control the House.
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Corinne Murdock is a reporter at The Virginia Star and the Star News Network. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Virginia Second District Congressional Debate” by CSPAN.