Wayne Powell will debate Eric Cantor next month

Rep. Eric Cantor will have competition this fall. A democratic candidate has emerged, eager to take on the Republican House Majority Leader. And on Friday, September 28th, the two will have a debate.

UPDATE #1 August 20th, 2:45 PM

Democratic challenger Wayne Powell will debate House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-7th) on Friday, September 28th at a yet-named business within the 7th Congressional District. The debate will focus on the business community, job creation, and overall economic recovery.

“We are pleased to host this debate and provide a platform for both candidates to address the important issues facing our country and the Commonwealth,” said Barry DuVal, President and CEO of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, organizers of the debate. “It is important that the business community is aware of where the candidates stand on issues that impact the economy.”

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Wayne Powell has his eyes set on winning Virginia’s 7th congressional district. The Democratic challenger will oppose the Republican incumbent, Eric Cantor, later this fall. On the phone late last week, however, his immediate concern was his son.

Speaking from Ft. Campbell, Kentucky on Friday, Wayne’s said his son (Sean Andre Powell, Major US Army, 101st Airborne Division) is about to be shipped to Afghanistan for a nine to twelve-month tour. It is his second tour after his deployment to Iraq between 2006-07. “He’s doing what he signed up to do,” said Powell about his son. “Just like I did.”

Wayne Powell served for 30 years as a Reserve and Active Duty Army officer. He recalled being mobilized after 9/11 to command a specialized intelligence unit, the first of its kind after the terrorist attacks. He retired as a full Colonel from active duty in July 2002, receiving the Legion of Merit in the process.


  • Raised in Church Hill
  • Graduated from John Marshall High School
  • Graduated U. of Richmond in 1972 with a degree in Spanish and French
  • Earned an MA in Spanish from U. of Wisconsin, 1973
  • Received a J.D. Degree from U. Of Richmond, 1980
  • Served as a Reserve and Active Duty Army officer for 30 years
  • Spent 9 years as Assistant Attorney General of Virginia
  • President of Powell & Parrish, P.C. Since 1999

Powell was born and raised in Church Hill. At about the age of seven, his family moved to Highland Park where he spent his “entire youth.” He earned a J.D. law degree from the University of Richmond in 1980 and spent most of his 31 years of practicing law as a trial attorney. Powell said he is running for Congress to “change the dialogue in Washington.”

Speaking of Cantor, Powell called the House Majority Leader “fiscally irresponsible,” adding that “the initiatives he takes are not designed to help citizens of the 7th district.” He notes in particular the STOCK Act.

The Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act (STOCK Act) is designed to counter insider trading involving members of Congress, their staff and associates. Eric Cantor introduced a version of the bill in 2011 after stalling previous incarnations. His version removed a provision that the Senate had previously approved that required people who trade on “political intelligence” to register as political intelligence consultants. Many see this as a form of insider trading that uses information from government, including Powell.

“He’s gutted that act,” said Powell. This is but one issue that concerns him. He decided that “instead of yelling at the television” he would take on the “dysfunctional” Congressman. It will not be easy.

On the issues

  • Favors ending tax breaks to the top 1% of earners
  • Proposes ending the 2003 “Bush Tax Cuts”
  • Supports spending to increase public education
  • Wants to reduce defense spending
  • In favor of equal rights for gay and transgendered citizens
  • Supports a legal path to citizenship for illegal immigrants

Stretching from Richmond’s West End through Henrico and Chesterfield counties, the 7th congressional district has not voted for a democratic representative since John O. Marsh, Jr. who served from 1963 – 1971. “I realize it’s an uphill battle,” said Powell. He also said that he plans to show residents of the district that “the big D [i.e. the Democratic Party] is not a dirty word.”

While many still believe Democrats have a “tax-and-spend” financial philosophy, Powell said that he is “not a tax and spend liberal.” He cites being a business owner for the last twenty years and having thirteen employees at his law offices as qualities that make him mindful of businesses and financial matters (“I know the struggles and challenges of the business man”). He says that, in addition to Democratic voters, he hopes to appeal to independent voters. He also plans to court moderate Republicans, as he feels that the Republican Party has moved “so far right” that they are not in line with most Americans, let alone residents of the 7th district. Overcoming Cantor’s name recognition, however, may prove problematic.

To counter this, Powell said that he has a “national campaign.” In addition to resources among the legal community, he has held fundraisers as far away as the West Coast. To him, not only is resonating with voters important, but also establishing the capital means to take on Cantor.

As to his opponent, Powell said “I don’t expect for him to even acknowledge me.” He said that he doubts the House Majority Leader will agree to debate him, which Powell welcomes. “He’s a pure political animal,” he said. “This is what we have to eliminate [from the political landscape in Washington].” As the campaign amplifies in the coming months, Powell is confident with what he will offer voters versus his opponent: “My resume is much better than his.”

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photo courtesy of the Wayne Powell campaign

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Nathan Cushing

Nathan Cushing is a writer, journalist, and RVANews Editor.

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