By Tyler Whitley
Two candidates for the 7th District congressional seat disagreed on almost every topic at a debate in Henrico County last night, except that Rep. Eric Cantor should have been there.
"I am very disappointed that the incumbent representative doesn't feel the need to speak to you folks," said Floyd Bayne of Chesterfield County, an independent conservative who has tea-party backing.
Democrat Rick Waugh, a Louisa County social worker, said Cantor "is more interested in political power than he is in representing the people in his district."
Cantor, a 10-year incumbent and a Republican leader in the House of Representatives, was attending a fundraiser at a private residence a few miles away in Manakin-Sabot. Liz Cheney, a daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, was the main attraction.
Ray Allen Jr., a spokesman for Cantor, said the fundraising event was arranged before the League of Women Voters and Richmond First Club organized the debate at the Tuckahoe branch library in Henrico.
Cantor has declined two debate invitations, saying the people of the 7th District know where he stands on the issues. He has spent much of the campaign going around the country stumping for GOP congressional candidates.
Waugh has put out a "wanted" poster on Cantor calling him a "chicken." He has hired someone in a chicken suit to make that point.
None of that was in evidence last night out of deference to the League of Women Voters, whose members don't like political theatrics.
About 60 people attended the debate, which will be aired tomorrow at 6 p.m. on WVTF public radio and Sunday at 6 p.m. on WCVE public television.
Asked a series of questions, Baugh, a liberal, and Bayne, a conservative, took strongly divergent views.
Bayne said the government should get out of the way and let the free-market system produce jobs and wealth. Waugh said the government needs to invest in infrastructure and alternative energy sources to get the economy moving.
Waugh said the health-care plan sought by President Barack Obama is "not perfect" because it doesn't cover enough people, but "it's a start. We can improve on it." Waugh said, "Cantor's idea of health care is that if you can't afford it, you die."
Bayne said if the free market were allowed in the health-care system, more competition among doctors would result and medical costs would be lowered.
Bayne said the Gulf of Mexico oil spill represented a failure of government.
Waugh said the oil spill represented a failure of business.
Waugh said he would not extend the Bush-era tax cuts to people making more than $250,000 a year, because that would increase the debt while helping only 2 percent of the wealthier people.
Taxing the wealthy would only punish success, Bayne said.
"I never got a job from a poor person," he added.
(Cantor's wife, Diana F. Cantor, is a member of the board of directors of Media General Inc., parent company of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.)