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Rep. McEachin declines to debate Republican opponent who espoused election fraud claims

McEachin responded to Republican Leon Benjamin's request for two debates ahead of the November election in Virginia's 4th Congressional District.
Credit: AP
U.U. Rep. Don McEachin D-4th. waves during a rally for Democratic gubernatorial candidate, former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe in Richmond, Va., Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

NORFOLK, Va. — U.S. Rep. Donald McEachin said he won't debate his Republican opponent in the race for Virginia's 4th Congressional District, Leon Benjamin, due to the latter's election fraud claims.

McEachin's comments were part of a written response to Benjamin's request for two debates ahead of the November 2022 election, which is a rematch of the 2020 election in the district. 

Benjamin made the request on Aug. 8, and McEachin responded on Monday.

The Democratic congressman wrote that he can't participate in any forum "where facts are not the basis."

"You have refused to acknowledge either my victory in 2020 - and your defeat - or the victory of President Biden," McEachin wrote to Benjamin. "I will note that I won by over 90,000 votes, a margin of almost 25%."

He continued: "Until you accept the results of the 2020 election, concede the 2020 congressional race and acknowledge President Biden's victory, I will make no joint appearance with you."

McEachin defeated Benjamin 61% to 38% in the 2020 election in the 4th Congressional District, but the Republican candidate alleged election fraud, echoing unfounded claims by former President Donald Trump.

According to his Facebook page, Benjamin participated in Stop the Steal rallies that falsely claimed the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Trump. One of those was the rally on Jan. 6, 2021, leading up to the U.S. Capitol riot.

Virginia we are ready for the next step. Do not lose heart. Leadership is coming out of you: those who love America,...

Posted by Leon Benjamin on Thursday, January 7, 2021

"As I am sure you know and understand, for our democracy to survive and thrive, we must trust facts and elections," McEachin wrote. "I simply cannot and will not engage with someone who won't accept the premise of our democracy - leaders chosen by elections - and, moreover, pretends absurd assertions are facts."

In the original letter, Benjamin wrote that the two debates would be good for voters to compare platforms and stances on important issues "in an open and amiable forum."

"I am very grateful to have this opportunity to participate with you in some informative and congenial debates," Benjamin wrote.

13News Now reached out to Benjamin's campaign for a response to McEachin's letter, who hasn't responded yet.

Following last year's redistricting, Virginia's 4th Congressional District covers the area just to the west of Hampton Roads, including Richmond, Petersburg, Emporia and Wakefield. The Cook Political Report predicts the 2022 election in the district to be solid Democratic.

Despite the steep odds, Benjamin has landed high-profile endorsements from fellow Republicans, including former Trump White Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, according to his campaign website.

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