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Senate candidates in the 27th District debate Wednesday at UMW


The last of two University of Mary Washington-hosted public debates between candidates for local elected office this fall will take place this week. Tara Durant (R), Monica Gary (I) and Joel Griffin (D) will vie for the District 27 Virginia State Senate seat on Wednesday, Sept. 27, at 7 p.m., in George Washington Hall’s Dodd Auditorium.

Scan to watch the 65th District House of Delegates debate live via Zoom ( on Wednesday, Sept. 27, at 7 p.m.
Scan to watch the 65th District House of Delegates debate live via Zoom on Wednesday, Sept. 27, at 7 p.m.

The venue was updated due to the large turnout for the first debate, held earlier this month, when Joshua Cole (D) and Lee Peters III (R) faced off for Virginia’s 65th District House of Delegates seat in the Weatherly Wing of UMW’s Seacobeck Hall.

“I am delighted that the local candidates have agreed to participate in this important community service,” said Professor of Political Science and Center for Leadership and Media Studies Director Stephen Farnsworth, who will moderate the hourlong debates. “Candidates standing side by side to discuss current policy challenges provides vital opportunities for voters to compare the alternatives offered on the ballot.”

The debates are being hosted by Mary Washington’s Student Government Association (SGA). They are co-sponsored by the Fredericksburg Regional Chamber of Commerce, The Free Lance-Star and the League of Women Voters of the Fredericksburg Area. Farnsworth, along with fellow UMW Professor of Political Science Rosalyn Cooperman, who chairs the department; WFVA Radio News Director Ted Schubel; and a representative from The Free Lance-Star will ask questions of the candidates. Audience members will be able to submit questions for consideration before the start of the events.

Both Virginia’s House of Delegates District 65 and State Senate District 27 cover Fredericksburg and parts of Stafford and Spotsylvania counties.

Tara Durant assumed office as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates for the previous 28th District in January 2022. There, she has supported lowering taxes, restoring excellence in education and investing in law enforcement. A Marine wife and former elementary school teacher, she has lived in Stafford County for 20 years, serving with local nonprofits and the PTO board, and as a youth coach. She is the mother of three.

A member of the Stafford County Board of Supervisors for the Aquia District, Monica Gary serves such groups as the Fredericksburg Area Metropolitan Planning Organization and the Rappahannock River Basin Commission. She has worked to support the Stafford County Sheriff’s Office, and to establish the county’s first Diversity Advisory Coalition and conservation specialist position. Gary is the wife of a Marine Corps veteran and a mother of seven.

Joel Griffin is a Marine and small business owner who founded a company dedicated to supporting veteran entrepreneurs. After his older daughter passed away from a heart attack at school, he and his wife cofounded Gwyneth’s Gift Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to educating people about CPR and the use of automated external defibrillators. They lobbied state government to pass Gwyneth’s Law, mandating CPR training in Virginia schools. The couple has one other daughter.

“It’s so important that the University hosts these debates because it sets a standard for active youth within civic engagement,” said UMW SGA President Jaylyn Long. She said participation is often difficult for students, especially those from areas outside of Fredericksburg who may not be familiar with the candidates in local races but have an opportunity to vote here. “These debates give them the opportunity to find that connection to the candidates, but also that deeper connection to the Fredericksburg area.”

UMW’s Dodd Auditorium is located inside George Washington Hall, between Brent and Dandridge streets. Or tune in virtually via Zoom at

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