An audience listens to a woman wearing a scarf speak at a podium.
Lexington City Council candidate Collette Barry-Rec speaks at the candidates’ forum on Tuesday. (Muckle photo)

By Shauna Muckle

The four candidates running for Lexington City Council and the two opponents in Virginia’s sixth House district race tried to win over voters at a candidate forum this week. A recording of the forum is available here.

Rep. Ben Cline, who is running for re-election in the sixth district as a Republican, and his Democratic opponent Jennifer Lewis, a mental health worker from Waynesboro, traded remarks on a slate of issues, from rural broadband to healthcare.

Cline is widely expected to win the race, according to Cook Political Report and other election forecasting sites.

Meanwhile, Lexington City Council candidates Collette Barry-Rec, Nicholas Betts, Chuck Smith and David Sigler discussed issues at the heart of Lexington’s economic development: housing, building a healthy workforce, childcare and raising revenue.

The four candidates are competing for three seats on the city council. Sigler and Smith are running as incumbents. Betts, a newcomer, serves on the city’s Planning Commission and previously ran as a Democrat against Cline in 2020.

Meanwhile, Barry-Rec, a retiree, started an initiative for local veterans known as the Care-Box Project. She’s also been vocal in her support of Donald Trump and gun rights.

The candidates agreed that housing is a major issue in Lexington, particularly as it relates to attracting new talent to the city. Betts, Sigler and Smith emphasized the importance of increasing housing density and encouraging the development of multi-family structures.

Lexington City Council candidate Nicholas Betts speaks at the candidates’ forum on Tuesday. (Muckle photo)


Perhaps the most controversial moment of the night came when local candidates were asked about childcare opportunities in Lexington.

“I believe that the mother’s place is in the home, and I sacrificed a lot to stay at home,” Barry-Rec said. “I could have had a major career, but the children always came first.”

Some attendees audibly groaned in response to Barry-Rec’s remarks. Meanwhile, Sigler and Smith, who spoke after Barry-Rec on the question, took an opportunity to praise their wives and emphasize their role as co-parents.

“I just want to put it out there publicly how incredibly proud I am of my wife, who works outside the home and has significantly more education than I do,” Sigler said. “The example that my wife is providing to our two daughters of being ambitious, successful and the breadwinner in the household will take my kids so far.”

Even Cline highlighted his wife’s education in his next response.

Tuesday’s event was the last public forum the candidates will participate in before facing off on Election Day, Nov. 8.

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