We live in an economically diverse district, but too many of our citizens are slipping through the cracks in dead end jobs. I refuse to accept the notion that we must transition to an economy dominated by non-productive industries. Rather than cutting resources for job seekers, we need to increase funding and incentives for vocational training and higher education.
Virginians deserve a better chance to earn a decent living. My opponent, Mr. Hurt, consistently voted against job creating bills when he was in the state legislature, and he has followed the same pattern in Washington. Republicans have hindered our economic recovery by blocking bills that would fund transportation infrastructure, education, and healthcare right here in Central and Southern Virginia.
As your representative in the U.S. House, I would make it my number one priority to level the playing field. I would propose increasing the minimum wage to twelve dollars an hour. I would vote for any legislation that would bring back jobs in construction, manufacturing and production. I would support investments in education, and healthcare to enable us to hire more teachers and nurses right here in our district. Also, when we encourage the growth of public and private sector union labor, our economy does better and our middle class thrives. Our country did not become the greatest nation on earth without the hard work of farmers, factory workers, and skilled labor. While government can never be the answer to all of our problems, it can provide solutions to some of them.
Our public schools have gone through some ups and downs since the time I was a student. We have areas that need to be fixed such as reducing class size, raising teacher pay, and completing the transition from “No Child Left Behind”. We need to make sure our schools are preparing our children for college or a good trade industry. Currently, only a very small percentage of the population is able to afford college or graduate programs.
When I graduated from Albemarle High School, in Charlottesville, I was fortunate enough to have the tools to go on to college, but I still had to work my entire way through college as an under-graduate. I stand for fair and affordable higher education, and will propose, co-sponsor, and vote on any legislation that reduces costs and eases some of the burden of debt on our students. I had student loans. I understand the needs of someone who is struggling, and will focus on achieving the goal of making college affordable and available to any student who wants to obtain a degree.
In contrast to my opponent, I believe that access to affordable health care is a right, not a privilege. For far too long, there have been tens of millions of Americans who have not been covered by medical insurance. It is for this reason that I fully support the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which was passed by Congress and upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States. Despite the rhetoric of people like Mr. Hurt, the ACA is not a form of "single payer" (or socialized medicine) such as the system that exists in Canada or France. Under the ACA, people buy an insurance policy from a private insurance company and pay for their own health care protection.
Environmental concerns, here in the commonwealth of Virginia, range from the local to the global, yet Republicans like Robert Hurt have voted against environmental legislation seeking to address everything from climate change to the pollution of the Dan River, the safety of our farms and the cleanliness of our clam and oyster fisheries. As your representative, I will fight to reverse this kind of disregard for our precious and beautiful resources here in Virginia.
My opponent and his Republican allies have voted against bills such as the Agricultural Conservation Practices amendment to H.R. 1947 and the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013, which would help ensure that Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) funds are used to achieve greater conservation of our natural resources. Not only do we need to address significant environmental issues, but we need to protect local farming jobs by providing for a cleaner, safer environment for us and for future generation of Virginians.
Environmental policy should not be determined by energy corporations. The position that my opponent, Hurt, has taken against regulation has not only harmed our natural resources, but it has cost jobs from Danville to Warrenton. My opponent's single greatest cause as a freshman congressman has been fighting regulations of every kind. He is against the type of strict regulations that would have prevented the Duke energy spill from endangering the livelihood and ongoing revitalization of the city of Danville. When big industry or power corporations hurt our environment, it can have a devastating effect on our local economy. As your congressional representative, I would vote for sensible regulations. I would side with the people and not with crony capitalism. I would make sure we enforce regulations that will keep your community clean and prosperous.
Unlike my opponent, I support the rights and freedoms of everyone in the 5th district. Women should have a right to choose what they do or don't do to their bodies. Our brothers and sisters in the LGBT community should have the right to marry and enjoy the same benefits as straight couples. People should not be divided on issues of race. Fairness and equality are core democratic principles, as well as principles that can be found in the constitution. These freedoms should not be trampled on by any legislative body with a radical agenda. I support the Human Rights Campaign for their efforts to stamp out the last vestiges of hate in America. Discrimination is a weakness. When we all work together to raise our consciousness, and fully embrace diversity, then we are much stronger as a nation.
We have strayed from our constitution when it comes to the defense of our nation and declaration of war. I was opposed to the war in Iraq for many reasons. The enormous price paid by our brave men and women as well as the huge financial debt that we incurred was not necessary. Republicans in Congress continue to defer those costs on our military personnel and our veterans through the sequester and other austerity measures.
Not withstanding the government shutdown, the Republican budget proposals that my opponent, Robert Hurt, has voted for over the past three years, have forced the Pentagon into reductions that have taken a tremendous toll on enlisted personnel right here in our district. These political policies are also causing reductions to TriCare, active duty health benefits, and to retired military pensions. As the greatest nation on earth, it is unacceptable that we have homeless veterans or military families who struggle to pay the bills.
We owe so much to the men and women who serve. Instead of laying off soldiers and cutting funding for the VA, we could begin by eliminating the ongoing fraud by military contractors. Fraud committed by dozens of irresponsible military industrial corporations have cost taxpayers more than $1.1 trillion. Eliminating this fraud would offset most of the estimated $1.2 trillion in policy savings required over the next decade in order to realize the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimated $1.4 trillion in deficit reduction without "gutting our military". Furthermore, as a component of tax reform, there should be a tax exemption status for combat veterans written into the tax code.
I support the Dream Act and H.R. 15, I would urge an immediate vote. I have personally seen and known many immigrant families who, despite being undocumented, are otherwise good law abiding, tax paying people. The children who are raised here by these loving families need to have the same fair and affordable access to education and other rights and freedoms. I have met and worked with people from many different cultures and appreciate the positive impact that diversity has had on our nation. It is this diversity that makes us Americans.
Ever since Reagan granted amnesty in the 1980’s, immigration policy in the United States has been to look the other way while millions of undocumented immigrants crossed our borders and now live here in the shadows. Sensible solutions include tightening border security, taxing and penalizing those here illegally, and deporting undocumented immigrants who are breaking other laws. One of the reasons Robert Hurt is wrong for Virginia, in that he does not support these solutions, and I do. Because this issue has a serious impact on our national economic outlook, it will be a top priority of mine when elected.
We have run up too much debt and put it all on the backs of the working people who are paying close to .33 cents for every dollar they make at their job. Meanwhile the billionaires and corporations are often paying no tax at all. A flat tax is not the solution. My opponent, Robert Hurt has consistently sided with big money when it comes to taxes and regulation. He has not supported tax benefits for same sex couples. He has voted against higher tax rates for the top earners, despite the impact on our national debt. We need a tax code that is simplified and streamlined, but I will not vote for any tax cuts for those making over 250,000 dollars a year, and I will definitely not support a flat tax scheme such as the one proposed by the republicans.
We need fair and free elections in this country, but we also need for people to actually vote. The United States has the lowest voter turnout of any modern nation on earth. Low turnout by Democrats and Independents, in non-presidential elections, has become epidemic. We have too much money in politics and not enough people. 90% of the incumbents keep getting re-elected despite approval ratings in the low teens. My opponent has made it clear where he stands by voting against a renewal of the Voting Rights Act.
I would support any effort to expand access to secure voting and raise greater awareness of local elections. Thomas Jefferson said “All tyranny needs to gain a foothold, is for the people of conscience to remain silent”. When someone fails to vote, is unable to vote, or otherwise refuses to vote, the message is silence. We need to be encouraging more Americans to exercise their right to vote, not passing laws designed to limit that right.
The 2nd Amendment:
While I disagree with those who say that the 2nd Amendment is there for the purpose of protecting us from our own government, I do feel that sensible gun laws should not restrict ordinary, law abiding citizens from safely owning guns. As a nation, we have had assault rifle restrictions, which are currently not in effect. We have also seen many horrific shootings that perhaps could not have been stopped even if these restrictions had been in place. I would certainly support the bi-partisan proposal for background checks, and do not consider that a slippery-slope. I would propose or vote for any common sense, widely accepted legislation that keeps guns out of the hand of criminals, terrorists, or the mentally ill.