GOP congressional hopefuls make case at Free Press candidate forum

by | Apr 24, 2024 | ALLFFP, Government, Politics & Elections

Two of the five candidates who took the stage at the Fredericksburg Convention Center on Tuesday night are military veterans who spent time in the special forces. Two others immigrated to the United States, while yet another is an ordained minister who claimed his bishop told him 10 years ago that “the Lord was sending me to Washington.” 

However, seeing as voters and not providence will determine the Republican candidate for Virginia’s 7th Congressional District, Derrick Anderson, Cameron Hamilton, Maria Martin, John Prabhudoss, and Terris Todd gathered for a wide-ranging candidate forum that covered issues from immigration to inflation, while also serving as a platform for the candidates to tout their credentials.  

On June 18, Republicans will hold a primary to determine their candidate for VA-7, a seat in the House of Representatives currently held by Abigail Spanberger, who has announced she’ll forgo a chance at re-election to seek the Democratic nomination for governor.  

Derrick Anderson, a former Green Beret who finished runner-up in the Republican primary in 2022 behind eventual candidate Yesli Vega, came into Tuesday’s forum having raised $888,635, the most among Republican candidates, according to the website Ballotpedia.

Republican candidate Derrick Anderson emphasized his local upbringing during Tuesday’s candidate forum. (Photo by Joey LoMonaco)

During Tuesday’s forum, which was sponsored by the Fredericksburg Free Press and moderated by Stafford County Director of Revenue Scott Mayausky, the Courtland High School graduate repeatedly referred to himself as “the homegrown guy.” 

I mean, we truly do have a deep-rooted connection with this district, with me and my family,” Anderson told the crowd of approximately 50 people. “I think it’s important when you’re the homegrown guy that your mom will hold you accountable if you do something bad up in D.C. She will drag me out by the ear.” 

Hamilton, who spent 10 years as a Navy Seal — earning the title of Seal chief — before working in various capacities for the State Department and Department of Homeland Security, referenced his previous experience in government as his primary motivation to restrain it from within as a congressman. 

“I’m looking at the trajectory of this nation, and I’ve seen the ins and outs of our government at three different federal agencies under four different administrations,” said Hamilton, who lives with his wife and three children in Orange. “I’ve seen the bureaucratic sickness that our government is plagued with.” 

For Terris Todd, a Michigan native and former sixth-grade teacher, landing a role with the Department of Education under former President Donald Trump was nothing short of divine intervention.

“I knew it was God because I did not apply for anything,” said Todd, a minister who later worked for The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.

The candidates largely agreed with their dire assessment of inflation, though each provided unique examples from their lived experiences.  

“Every single day my mom goes to the grocery store,” said Anderson, “and the first thing she does is take a picture of eggs and says, ‘Why the heck is it costing $5 for a carton of eggs?’” 

For his part, Hamilton noted that the price of hay has gone up for his five donkeys, who are not ideologically aligned with the usual trope.  

“They’re Republican donkeys, donkeys for Trump,” he said with a laugh. “Make no mistake. But that being said, it’s just — it’s insane how much the cost has gone up.” 

Immigration proved another topic on which the candidates were mostly aligned, especially as it pertained to the ripple effects of fentanyl and other drugs. Anderson said he agreed with Governor Glenn Youngkin that, under the Biden administration, “every state is a border state.” 

Martin, who came to the United States from Bolivia, likened the unchecked flow of immigrants across the country’s southern border to garbage collecting on a riverbank.  

“You clean it up, and the next morning there is more trash,” she said. “Until you figure out that actually, on the beginning of the riverbank, there’s a place where all this trash is dumped, daily. That is the way our government looks like.” 

While no Republican candidate mentioned Democratic frontrunner Eugene Vindman by name, there were a few allusions to the former Army colonel as a potential adversary come November. Vindman and several other Democratic candidates will participate in a Free Press forum on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at the Convention Center.  

“I think having a strong national security background is very, very important in this race,” Anderson said. “To be able to go on stage with these people and talk about the issues specifically.” 

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