Libertarian Joe Walton said he was kept out of Monday night’s 7th Congressional District debate because of U.S. Rep. Dave Brat, the Republican incumbent.
“I am disappointed Representative Brat wouldn’t commit to participate if I was on stage even though I am a ballot-certified candidate,” Walton said in a news release the morning after the debate. “That is disrespectful to the voters in the 7th District and the democratic process. They need to hear from all the candidates so they can make an informed decision about representation in Congress.”
Walton, a former chairman of the Powhatan County Board of Supervisors, is one of four Libertarians running in races across the state this election season.
Brat and Democrat Abigail Spanberger worked out an agreement for debates, Spanberger spokesperson Justin Jones said. It covered details like participants, the format and moderators.
Brat’s campaign did not respond to requests for comment.
Walton’s staff contacted the Culpeper Chamber of Commerce in August to claim a spot in this week’s debate, according to emails provided by Jones. The chamber, which hosted the debate, was prepared to include Walton in press releases and announcements for the event, according to the emails.
But Walton was not part of the original agreement between Spanberger and Brat. The Spanberger campaign said they had “no opinion” on Walton’s participation and deferred to the Brat campaign.
Brat’s staff ignored requests to include Walton. Brat told Walton at an event in Louisa that the decision to let Walton in the debate was out of his control, according to Walton’s campaign.
“Joe will debate Representative Brat and/or Democrat-nominee Spanberger at any time and any place and subject to whatever conditions those two candidates can agree upon,” a release from the Walton campaign said. “We have asked Spanberger’s campaign to plan a debate before Election Day with Joe and invite Representative Brat. We are waiting for Spanberger’s campaign to agree to a date.”
Jones said the Spanberger campaign had no comment on scheduling a debate with Walton.