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Donald McEachin rejects debates with Republican challenger who questions 2020 election results

Rep. Donald McEachin speaks at a July event
Crixell Matthews
Rep. Donald McEachin (D-Va.) speaks at a July event encouraging parents to have their children vaccinated against COVID-19. (File photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

Rep. Donald McEachin (D-Va.) on Monday declined invitations to debate his Republican opponent, Leon Benjamin, unless Benjamin acknowledges the legitimacy of the 2020 election.

Benjamin is a Navy veteran and pastor who challenged McEachin for his 4th District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives once before in 2020, when he lost by a 62% to 38% margin. The Republican has continued to perpetuate the false claim that the 2020 election was stolen.

Benjamin wrote to McEachin on Aug. 8, requesting the candidates hold two forums, with one planned by each of the campaigns, according to a press release from McEachin’s office. 

McEachin, running for his fourth term in a heavily Democratic district, responded in a letter Monday that he “simply cannot and will not engage with someone who won't accept the premise of our democracy — leaders chosen by elections.”

“Should you decide to review the uncontested facts and acknowledge my victory and President Biden’s victory, I would be happy to engage in debates organized, as is the case in real trustworthy campaigns, by neutral respected institutions in our district,” McEachin wrote.

Benjamin did not immediately respond to multiple emails and a phone call seeking his reaction to McEachin’s letter.

Benjamin’s Facebook page includes photos of him attending the Stop the Steal rally in the run-up to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol — as well as photos of mobs climbing the steps of the building.

“Virginia we are ready for the next step. Do not lose heart,” Benjamin posted the day after the attack. 

Judges tossed out more than 60 lawsuits filed by former President Donald Trump and his allies challenging the results of the 2020 vote. There is no evidence of voter fraud affecting the election’s outcome. 

The 4th District includes Richmond, Petersburg and areas to the south. The district was redrawn as part of a once-per-decade redistricting process but remains solidly blue. President Joe Biden won 67% of the vote in the district in the 2020 presidential election, according to the experts who drew Virginia’s political boundaries.


Ben Paviour covers courts and criminal justice for VPM News with a focus on accountability.