Mabie: No time to debate

State senate candidate David Mabie declined a recent invitation to attend a Republican debate sponsored by a group that is advised by an outspoken political ally of Mabie’s opponent.

Mabie, 49, and Bob FitzSimmonds, 50, are both seeking the GOP nod to challenge seven-term Democratic incumbent Charles J. Colgan for the 29th District Senate seat following a May 10 party convention.

Mabie is the Prince William County clerk of the court. FitzSimmonds was a legislative aide to Delegate L. Scott Lingamfelter, R31st District.

The Prince William County Political Action Committee is affiliated with the Platform for Active Civil Empowerment. The group seeks to empower local Muslims in the political process, and is not affiliated with any party or candidate, according to group Chairman Muneer Baig.

Baig and fellow PWCPAC officers sought the advice of outspoken FitzSimmonds proponent Faisal Gill, an attorney who works with FitzSimmonds on the Prince William County Taxpayer’s Alliance. The Taxpayer’s Alliance is working to get candidates in Prince William County to sign a pledge not to raise taxes if elected.

Gill, a Pakistani immigrant, said he was planning to become a member of the PWCPAC.

The debate was slated for April 16 at the Bull Run Regional Library, but its future is now uncertain. FitzSimmonds has accepted an invitation to attend.

“David Mabie was like, let me give you a short answer … no,” Baig said. “I don’t know why he’s acting this way. We still hope that he turns around. We still have an open invitation for him.”

Mabie said he is currently concentrating on getting the number of votes needed to earn his party’s nomination at the GOP convention and that this is not the right time for a debate.

“The best use of my time is to spend my evenings on the phone when people are at home, contacting friends and neighbors. Debates are just not the best use of time,” Mabie said. “I would love to [debate] after the convention. I have to be very careful as to the use of my time.”

FitzSimmonds could not be reached on Friday afternoon.

In Virginia, political parties have the option of holding a primary, or a nominating convention. Candidates receive the party nod by getting a majority of delegates to vote for them at a convention. Delegates must be registered as party members by April 30.

Mabie was adamant on Friday that his only intention in declining the invitation is to give himself more time to find and recruit delegates, adding that he means no disrespect to the Muslim community.

Mabie and FitzSimmonds both participated in a candidates forum Thursday, sponsored by the Bull Run Republican Women’s Club. The only reason he attended that event and has refused the PWCPAC’s is because of the advance notice he had for Thursday’s event.

“If he was not accepting the invitation from anybody, we would understand,” Baig said. “But he is accepting invitations from other organizations, but not us.”

“I would absolutely participate after the convention,” Mabie said. “The strategy for getting delegates for the convention is just not conducive to the debate.

“But time is of the essence,” Mabie said. “Every spare minute must be spent recruiting delegates. This is just not the most effective use of our time.”

The PWCPAC came to Gill to find out how to get more involved in local politics, he said.

“They wanted to know if they could sponsor a debate. They drafted up some debate formats,” Gill said. “They asked about both candidates.”

Gill said he told the group that he is a FitzSimmonds supporter. Party affiliations do not matter to members, Baig said. Right now the group is interested in finding the best candidate for all Prince William County citizens.

Mabie found it suspicious that the group wanted to hold a debate with only the 29th District candidates. The Bull Run Republican Women’s Club hosted candidates from many different races.

But the group is planning to hold debates for all local candidates, Baig said. The current intention is to get a debate going, so that the Muslim delegates will know which candidate they want to support at the GOP caucus.

In that sense the caucus is very much a primary and important in the competition for delegates, Gill said.

“We’re trying to approach all the Muslims in the local community and communicating to them by phone, e-mails, every means of communication we have,” Baig said. “We are asking them to come out to the debate, to look at both candidates and what they have to offer.”

The PWCPAC will be sending a formal letter to Mabie, inviting him again. Group representatives called him Thursday to originally inform him of the debate.

Staff writer Daniel Drew can be reached at (703) 878-8065.

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