HAMPTON—Del. Tom Gear said Tuesday night that he might relinquish control over the future of Fort Monroe to the state government, rather than have the city lead the redevelopment process after the Army leaves. "Based on past history of the city of Hampton," Gear said, "I'm not one who's going to sit here and tell the state of Virginia just turn the keys over to the city of Hampton."
Gear said the city needs to draft a plan and has so far failed to do that.
The incumbent Republican's remarks occurred during a heated debate with challenger Randy Gilliland, a Hampton councilman who's running as an independent in the 91st House District race.
Gear made his remarks after Gilliland criticized him for not getting involved in either the city's efforts to save the historic post or planning for the future after it closed.
"Even though he grew up in Phoebus," Gilliland said, "We haven't a heard a word from Tom Gear on this issue."
About 50 people watched the debate at Burbank Elementary School. The candidates are competing in a district that captures part of York County, Poquoson and part of Hampton.
The two Hampton natives also verbally slugged it out on several other issues:
* Transportation: Gear wants to lease the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel and use the proceeds to expand the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel. Gilliland blasted Gear for doing nothing to ease congestion, other than offering an absurd idea that would jack tolls up to $65. Gear repeatedly urged Gilliland to offer a solution: "What's your plan, Randy? Put something out there."
* Lottery: The state uses revenue from lottery tickets to help pay for public schools. Gear said that's a true user fee. People have the option not to pay, he said. Gilliland said he suspected that Gear likes it because he's a bingo operator.
"Gambling in any variety would suit him," Gilliland said.
* Abortion: Gilliland said he supported parental notification for underage girls, as well as underage boys who get teens pregnant. He opposes late-term abortions. He favors the standard exemption of allowing abortions in instances of rape, incest and when the mother's life is at risk. Gear simply said he's pro-life . *