Senate candidates fire it up at Chamber of Commerce debate

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Political jabs and counter jabs highlighted Thursday’s debate in the most closely watched State Senate race in the state.

Photos: McCollum vs Wagner Debate

The Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce sponsored the meeting between Republican Incumbent Frank Wagner and Democratic Challenger Gary McCollum. No two main stream candidates running for State Senate, who are both competitive raising money, have raised more than Wagner and McCollum. Together they have raised $1,664,210 million: Wagner $947,362 to McCollum’s $716,848 according to the most recent filings listed on

Gary McCollum is the challenger and his job is to build the case against the incumbent. He began by saying, “I’m Gary McCollum and I am not a politician.” McCollum is running as a political outsider which is popular this election cycle. He reminded the 120 gathered at the Chamber event at the Virginia Beach Convention Center is that Senator Frank Wagner has been in office, “He has been in Richmond 24 years, and 24 years in Richmond is long enough.”

You could see Senator Wagner scratching his forehead in aggravation that he had to hear those lines again, and then he fired back, “to stand here and take these shots that somehow I am not a leader when everyone in this room knows how the transportation bill went down,” Wagner said with a strong direct voice, and that it was Wagner’s leadership that got the historic transportation bill through the General Assembly bringing more transportation money back to Hampton Roads per person than what goes to Northern Virginia, “If that’s not covering transportation for this region then I don’t know what is.”

McCollum says Wagner has not been a leader and laid out his own priorities, “Diversifying our economy; Are we fully funding transportation, providing the kind of leadership we need for our schools and taking care of our veterans as they return from these two wars.”

Gary McCollum’s failure to know he’d been discharged from the Army Reserve for 14 years forced him to talk about that, “I’m disappointed my opponent has tried to use this issue, this mis-characterization in my time in the service to impugn my credibility. This is what career politicians do.”

Wagner fired back to that, “The media brought up that issue and continues to bring up the issue…it is true he [McCollum] claimed as late as two weeks ago that he was still in the Army Reserve, there is no way you can be in the Reserve 23 years and have no  contact with the Army. We are just bringing out the facts.”

Election Day is November 3. Stay tuned because there will be lots of TV commercials and more charges and counter charges to come.

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