Posted: Tuesday, October 28, 2014 9:05 pm

BY ANDREW CAIN Richmond Times-Dispatch

RICHMOND — For at least one night, Randolph-Macon College became “the cradle of congressmen,” in the words of the Ashland school’s president, Robert R. Lindgren.

Republican Dave Brat and Democrat Jack Trammell, Randolph-Macon College’s professorial politicians, faced off in a cordial debate Tuesday night at the Ashland school, a week before the 7th District congressional election.

The candidates, colleagues for nearly 15 years and sometimes intramural basketball teammates, exchanged views on topics such as Ebola, immigration reform, the Affordable Care Act and entitlement programs and the cost of higher education.

On Ebola, Trammell said he is “hesitant to act out of fear.”

He said the U.S. should “use targeted flight bans and not bring our economy to a halt with draconian measures that are not targeted.”

Brat said he differs with Trammell on the issue.

“I think we should have quarantined the Western Africa nations and the flights coming in,” he said.

He likened Ebola to what in economics is termed “a black swan event,” which he said is “a very low probability event that has catastrophic consequences.”

Brat’s stunning upset of House Majority Leader Eric I. Cantor in the June Republican primary paved the way for Tuesday’s implausible tableau — a debate between a pair of congressional hopefuls at the tiny college where both teach.

In his opening comments, Trammell related that a few months ago he was speaking with Brat on the phone “and he said, ‘I think I’m going to win this primary.’”

Trammell indicated that, like many others, he thought it unlikely at the time. Months later, he and Brat stood side by side on stage at the Blackwell Auditorium Performing Arts Center.

Quoting Thomas Jefferson, Trammell said: “I like history, but I love the dreams of the future much better.”

In his opening remarks, Brat offered a “Go Jackets!” shout out to the college community before getting down to business.

Brat sought to tie the Democrat to what Brat termed the “top-down” failed policies of the Obama administration.

Brat said 250,000 Virginians will lose their health care policies in November because of the Affordable Care Act.

“I believe we need to send an economist to Congress” he said.

Trammell said the Affordable Care Act could be improved, but it is doing some of the things it was supposed to do.

Brat said he opposes comprehensive immigration reform because he said it is “code language” for going beyond a secure border and getting “cheap labor” at the behest of “crony capitalists.” He said he also opposes a path to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants.

Trammell said he supports the Dream Act and comprehensive immigration reform.

“Is the problem immigration or this ‘do-nothing Congress’?” Trammell said.

Brat said he does not support raising the minimum wage. He said that when Seattle announced it would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, restaurants there started firing people.

Businesses that cannot make a profit lay people off, he said.

Trammell said he thinks immigration should be added to the list of what makes America great.

Trammell said he supports raising the minimum wage because it would help elevate individuals’ standard of living.

On entitlements, Brat said he has pledged to “preserve and protect” Social Security and Medicare for seniors.

“What we’re talking about is the unfunded liabilities” of $127 trillion in entitlement programs that will bankrupt the budget by 2030, he said.

Brat criticized Trammell for “scaring senior citizens” with “false attack ads” that distort the Republican’s position. Brat joked that if Trammell were one of his students he would assign him an ethics paper on the issue.

Trammell said that since Brat has term-limited himself to 12 years in Congress, he would be out of office when the Social Security crisis hits.

Trammell and Brat said they agree with Sen. Timothy M. Kaine, D-Va., that Congress should debate and vote on whether to authorize airstrikes against the so-called Islamic State.

Brat said that when former President Jimmy Carter criticizes the president’s strategy “you know you’re in trouble.”

Lindgren and co-moderator Heather Sullivan, news anchor with NBC 12, posed the questions during the hour-long debate. Libertarian candidate James Carr was not invited to participate.

Brat, who joined the R-MC faculty in 1996, has served as an economics professor and as chairman of the school’s Economics-Business department. Trammell, the school in 2000 as director of disability services and serves as an associate professor of sociology.

Brat and Trammell have been on leave from teaching while campaigning for office.

Trammell drew a laugh in his closing statement when he said: “I miss this place,” and “I’m hoping I’m not coming back.”

Lindgren, the school’s president, said: “I really don’t want to see either of you come back,” Lindgren said, “but we’re going to welcome one of you back with very open arms.”