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Gilbert declines Prince's debate challenge

By Alex Bridges

A state delegate seeking the Republican Party nod in Tuesday's primary turned down a late debate challenge by his opponent this week.

Toms Brook resident Mark W. Prince challenged Del. C. Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock, to a debate Friday night on the steps of the Shenandoah County Courthouse. Prince issued the challenge via email Monday, which Gilbert declined in an emailed response.

"Mark Prince hasn't lifted a finger, said a word or spent a dime in his own campaign so far," Gilbert stated in the email. "It is odd that he would wait until the Friday before the election to start."

"We are now in the get-out-the-vote phase of the election," Gilbert added. "The time for debating passed long ago."

Information provided by the nonprofit Virginia Public Access Project shows Prince raised $550 toward his campaign -- $500 of which came from Woodstock attorney Brad Pollack and $50 funded by Prince himself. Gilbert's campaign, funded mainly by political action committees representing business and law groups, had more than $116,000 remaining as of May 29.

Campaign flyers mailed out by Gilbert's camp prompted Prince to issue the challenge. Gilbert's campaign accused Prince of filing lawsuits against the government that cost the county several thousand dollars to fight, according to Prince's email. Prince also refutes Gilbert's accusations of running a smear campaign against the incumbent.

"I've stated that you are a nice guy but lack leadership qualities needed to be a good delegate," Prince wrote. "You allowed all of this unwanted debt pile upon our shoulders without the taxpayer's approval and allowed the continued corruption with the local governments."

Prince has filed several lawsuits against the Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors, the Virginia Resources Authority, the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail Authority and other defendants over large-scale, high-cost projects. Most of the lawsuits have been dismissed, prompting Prince to appeal to the Virginia Court of Appeals.

Prince acknowledged in his email that the lawsuits may have cost several thousands of dollars, but argued that the commonwealth had taken away the constitutional right to vote on all debts.

"I am trying to bring that right back to the taxpayer and have received no help from you, State Senator [Mark] Obenshain or Attorney General [Kenneth] Cuccinelli," Prince wrote.

Prince blames the implementation of lease-to-own contracts by local government and the Virginia Resources Authority for nullifying the state law that requires the voters to approve measures to borrow money for projects through general obligation bonds. Prince claims that local governments "forced" $1.1 billion in "illegal" debt on taxpayers over the past six years and at an interest rate double that which would go with money borrowed through general obligation bonds.

Funding of the RSW Regional Jail project in Warren County and renovations to the Edinburg School in Shenandoah County comes from sources other than general obligation bonds. Prince has argued that government officials used these methods to avoid seeking approval from voters.

Prince notes in his email that Gilbert's campaign flyers accuse the challenger of stopping an REI sporting goods store from locating in Shenandoah County. Prince refutes the claim, asserting instead that the prospective move fell through when it became clear the company proposed to build on land in the Toms Brook battlefield.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com


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