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Candidates vying for the 49th District House of Delegates seat sparred over Medicaid expansion, but found a degree of common ground on immigration, in their first debate of the campaign season.

Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-49th) used the forum to affirm his support for Virginia joining the federal Medicaid expansion, a policy position that drew a rebuke from his Republican challenger.

“Virginia cannot sustain the expansion – we will bankrupt the next generation,” Adam Roosevelt said during a Sept. 5 forum, sponsored by the Arlington County Civic Federation.

Republicans in Richmond have refused to participate in the expanded Medicaid program, which Democratic leaders estimate would provide enhanced health-care services to about 400,000 Virginians, including more than 6,000 in the 49th District.

“It’s a moral issue, but it’s also an economic-development issue,” said Lopez, noting the recent birth of his second son, who arrived prematurely and required extensive medical care before being sent home.

“If I didn’t have insurance, I’d have to sell my house or declare bankruptcy,” Lopez said. “It’s immoral not to expand Medicaid. It’s wrong.”

Roosevelt, a U.S. Army veteran and consultant, said the legislature needs to focus on fiscal reality.

“Let us not try to pass legislation based on emotion alone. Pass legislation that is responsible,” he said.

On immigration, each candidate suggested that federal officials should not target otherwise law-abiding undocumented immigrants for deportation, but rather put resources toward clearing out the criminal element within the immigrant community.

“If you commit a crime and you’re undocumented, I’ll be the first to say you should leave the country,” said Lopez, the son of an undocumented immigrant from Venezuela who received residency status and later became a U.S. citizen.

Roosevelt seemed willing to support some immigrants staying, even if they arrived in the country illegally. “I want to talk . . . about making sure that [non-criminal immigrants] have a future here in the U.S.,” he said.

The 49th District includes much of Arlington from the Columbia Pike corridor south, as well as adjoining areas of Fairfax County. Both Lopez, who has represented the safe Democratic district for six years, and Roosevelt are Arlington residents.

Democrats occupying three other legislative districts that include parts of Arlington – Patrick Hope in the 47th, Rip Sullivan in the 48th and Mark Levine in the 45th – are facing no opposition on Nov. 7. Roosevelt, 25, is the lone Republican candidate in local or legislative races in Arlington this year.

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