Republican congressional candidate Hung Cao voiced his opposition to both aid to Ukraine and the bipartisan infrastructure bill that passed Congress last year in a debate Thursday with incumbent Democrat Jennifer Wexton.
The low-key debate before the Loudoun Chamber didn’t produce any real fireworks, but Cao’s differences with Wexton on Ukraine and infrastructure spending put him at odds even with many members of his own party.
Asked about the effect of the war in Ukraine on the US economy and the proper US response, Cao said: “My heart goes out to the Ukrainian people. … But right now we’re borrowing $55 billion from China to pay for the war in Ukraine. And not only that, we are depleting our national strategic reserves.”
A $40 billion aid package to Ukraine passed the House of Representatives earlier this year by a 368-57 vote, with majority Republican support.
Wexton, for his part, supports efforts to support Ukraine’s defense against a Russian invasion.
“Vladimir Putin has invaded a sovereign nation. We can’t let that stand,” she said.
As for the infrastructure bill, which provided $1 trillion for roads, bridges, ports and other spending, Cao dismissed it as a labor union mumbo-jumbo.
“The infrastructure law, everything that has been done has enabled the unions to get priority in terms of infrastructure and reconstruction. We all want safer roads, but we also want the right to work,” he said.
Wexton said the infrastructure bill is exactly the kind of legislation business groups like the Loudoun Chamber and others have been demanding from Congress for years. “I’m so proud of this bill, I can’t even tell you,” she said.
The infrastructure bill passed Congress with the support of 13 Republicans in the House of Representatives and 19 Republicans in the Senate.
In his opening remarks, Cao – a Vietnamese refugee and retired Navy captain – complained that Wexton was unfairly labeling him as an extremist. He said she mistakenly linked him to the Jan. 6 attack on Congress in a campaign message, when in reality he had just returned to the US from his last combat deployment on Jan. 6 and was nowhere near the Capitol.
“I fought and bled for this country. I am an American. And she calls me the same name she calls a terrorist,” Cao said.
After the debate, Wexton said she calls Cao an extremist because he has extreme views. She cited comments Cao made during the primary in which he complained that those arrested in the January 6 attacks were denied due process.
“That’s exactly what totalitarian, authoritarian regimes do,” Cao said back in April. “After I’m sworn in, I promise, I’ll be in those prisons wondering what the process is.”
Cao also tried to question Wexton about a bill proposed by a Democratic state lawmaker that would make it a crime to bully or abuse a child based on their LGBTQ status. The law has become a topic of Republican debate, with some Republicans saying they fear it could be used to prosecute parents who do not support their child’s gender reassignment efforts.
Vexton said after the debate that she doesn’t believe the bill would do what Republicans claim, but that she doesn’t support it, and said parents shouldn’t be criminalized for disagreeing with their children if they express a desire to change gender.
Wexton, a two-term incumbent, is favored in the newly drawn 10th District, located in northern Virginia. But the GOP was encouraged by the fact that Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin won 49 percent of the vote in the district last year, and said Cao’s background as an immigrant and a retired naval officer is particularly attractive in a region with a high percentage of Asian Americans and military families.