Politics/Elections

Wittman faces challenge from human rights lawyer Rashid

(CNS) – Virginia’s 1st Congressional District Representative Rob Wittman is running for reelection for the 8th time, challenged this year by Democratic candidate Qasim Rashid.

Wittman has been in office since 2007 after he defeated Phillip Forget. Wittman serves on the House Armed Services Committee and the Committee on Natural Resources.

Rashid, a human rights lawyer and author, is running to transform his advocacy for marginalized groups into policy, according to his campaign website.

This is not the first time Rashid has run for public office. He ran for Virginia state Senate in 2019, but lost by 15 points, according to The Virginia Public Access Project website.

During Wittman’s last reelection campaign, in 2018, he received 55.18% of the vote, beating Democratic candidate Vangie Williams. Rashid defeated Williams in this year’s primary with 52.53% of the vote.

Virginia’s 1st District includes localities from Prince William County to James City. Around 813,878 people reside in this district, 72% of whom are white, according to the 2018 American Community Survey.

Republican candidates Ed Gillespie and Corey Stewart won the district in the 2017 gubernatorial and 2018 U.S. senatorial races, respectively. The district has not elected a Democratic candidate since 1970.

COVID-19 will be a key issue in this election. Localities that make up the district have been hit by over 19,259 cases and 333 deaths, according to the Virginia Department of Health website.

Rashid has criticized the federal government’s response to the pandemic, and Wittman wrote a letter in July to the White House Coronavirus Task Force urging to keep data about the number of cases transparent.

Given the current racial climate caused by police brutality and the subsequent protests, law enforcement and criminal justice reform are also pressing issues in this election.

Both candidates attended a Black Lives Matter protest on June 10 in Montross. However, Wittman voted against a police reform bill on June 25. Later that week Wittman attended a Back the Blue protest in Fredericksburg, where the mayor apologized for police mistreatment of Black Lives Matter protesters.

“I believe that calling for policing reform does not mean getting rid of our law enforcement departments. The solution is to increase public safety and community health while better supporting law enforcement officers,” Rashid wrote on his Medium profile following the Criminal Justice Forum and Debate on Aug. 21.

Rashid’s platform regarding criminal justice reform centers around abolishing the private prison system, as well as addressing the system’s racial and economic bias, according to his campaign website.

Wittman has raised over $1.1 million while Rashid has raised $543,409, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.

Most of Rashid’s campaign funds come from people who donated less than $200, while  9% of Wittman’s funds fall in that category. Additionally, Wittman received over $400,000 in contributions from PACs and other committees, while Rashid received $17,040, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.

The candidates’ second debate will be live-streamed and hosted by the University of Mary Washington at 7 p.m. on Sept. 21.

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