Congressional candidates vying to represent the 6th District in the House of Representatives will engage in an electronic forum organized by the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Chamber of Commerce and the Rotary Club of Harrisonburg on Monday at noon.
It will be the first such event for incumbent Rep. Ben Cline, R-Lexington, and Democratic challenger Nicholas Betts. The events will be streamed online on the chamber’s website and Facebook via Zoom, according to a press release from Cline’s campaign.
“The citizens of the 6th Congressional District should hear directly from the candidates about their plans to serve them in office,” Cline said in a Wednesday press release. “I look forward to highlighting the accomplishments my team and I have achieved during my first term, as well as laying out how I will continue to fight for my constituents on important issues like the economy, healthcare, and individual liberty while in Congress.”
Cline declined to comment further Wednesday.
Betts, a law clerk in Lexington, and Cline agreed about the importance of candidates interacting with the public at events such as debates and joint town halls.
Recovering from the “devastation” of the COVID-19 pandemic is one of Betts’ priorities if he gets elected, he said Wednesday.
“I think it will be important to facilitate business growth and [enacting] what policies will do that,” Betts said.
The event will begin with introductory remarks from Betts and Cline, followed by a series of questions the candidates will answer, according to Frank Tamberrino, the president and CEO of the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Chamber of Commerce.
Some questions will be submitted in advance and other questions will be taken from the audience by a moderator of the electronic event’s chatroom, Tamberrino said Wednesday.
He said the chamber has not ruled out an in-person debate or similar event in the future, but it seems unlikely.
“There’s just not a whole lot of appetite for in-person events like that,” Tamberrino said.
Cline and Betts said they will also participate in a similar event hosted by the Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce on Oct. 5 at 11:30 a.m.
Independent candidate Aaron Luciani, a Roanoke businessman, did not garner enough signatures to be on the ballot, according to documents from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit.
Luciani’s name will not appear on ballots in Harrisonburg or Rockingham County, according to Jane Burner, the secretary of the city’s electoral board, and staff at the county voter registrar’s office.
Luciani could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Betts’ campaign received $11,306.50 in donations and spent $5,908.48 between March 5 and June 30, according to the most recent data from the Federal Elections Commission.
The Cline campaign has raised and spent far more. The Republican incumbent’s campaign received $581,143.76 in donations and spent $344,520.38 between Jan. 1, 2019, and June 30, 2020, according to the most recent data from the Federal Elections Commission.
The 6th District is considered solidly Republican by the Cook Political Report, an independent election analysis organization.
Election Day is Nov. 3, but voters can also cast ballots early in-person between Sept. 18 and Oct. 31, according to previous interviews with Lisa Gooden, the voter registrar of Rockingham County, and Bill Ney, the spokesman and vice chair of the Harrisonburg Electoral Board.
Voters also do not need a reason to apply for an absentee ballot this year, according to Ney and Gooden. Absentee ballots will begin to be sent out on Sept. 18 and must be postmarked or delivered to the local registrar’s office by Nov. 3.