Bain, Vanke Debate Without Goodlatte

Brent Finnegan -- October 27th, 2010

Republican incumbent Rep. Bob Goodlatte was noticeably absent from a debate between 6th Congressional District candidates Tuesday evening in Harrisonburg.

Libertarian Party candidate Stuart Bain and Modern Whig Party candidate Jeff Vanke delivered their (sometimes enigmatic) remarks on a myriad of issues in front of an audience of about two hundred at Memorial Hall. An organizer from the Madison Debate Society, who sponsored the event, said that Goodlatte had not responded to several invitations to participate.

Jeff VankeThere were no big surprises in the issues raised by audience members — abortion, war on terror, gay marriage, taxes, illegal immigration, energy policy — but the candidates’ responses often strayed from the safe answers we’ve been conditioned to expect from politicians.

The candidates disagree on the so-called Fair Tax — Bain supports it, Vanke does not — but made only subtle distinctions on several issues, such as gay unions. Vanke supports equal rights and benefits for homosexual unions, Bain maintained that federal government should have no say whatsoever in matters of marriage.

The debate often teetered between the “fiscally conservative centrist” and the free market libertarian points of view. Vanke stressed the importance of a balanced budget; Bain said of Vanke’s balanced budget, “he balanced it, I turned it into a $2 trillion surplus.”

Daily Beast writer John Avlon recently mentioned Vanke in a column on CNN.com:

Jeff Vanke is the [Modern Whig P]arty’s candidate in Virginia’s 6th District, running a competitive campaign against Republican incumbent Bob Goodlatte. (There is no Democrat in the race.) Vanke — a 40-year-old former Eagle Scout with a Ph.D. in history — has a detailed balanced budget proposal as the centerpiece of his campaign and pledges to keep at least 50 percent of his net worth in federal bonds “in order to get more of American debt out of Chinese, Middle Eastern, and other foreign hands and back into our own country.”

Both third-party candidates are staunchly optimistic about their chances on November 2.

Stuart Bain“When you look at all the anti-incumbent sentiment that’s out there this year, and the fact that there’s no Democrat in this race . . . Goodlatte’s plan to ignore our existence kind of backfired on him,” Bain said, acknowledging that there are no Libertarian Party representatives currently holding office in Congress. “In talking to people in the 6th district, we’re seeing a lot of this anti-incumbent sentiment roll right in through things like the Tea Party, and straight into votes for my column.”

Vanke said his recent push poll shows that the support for the incumbent is weak. “Bob Goodlatte has received a lot of votes who will vote for him no matter what, and a lot of votes from people who will vote against a Democrat no matter what,” Vanke said. “He is imminently beatable. People in this district will vote against a Democrat, but they are not necessarily pro-Goodlatte.”

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