For years we have seen the warning signs around climate change: harsher winters, hotter summers, more extreme natural disasters. We cannot continue to ignore global warming and the dangerous effects climate change has on our planet. The American people have demanded change to protect the environment, exercising their right to protest and call on government officials to pursue green energy and preserve America's natural beauty. And yet, the current administration continues to roll back environmental protections.
On a local level, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline would see a natural gas pipeline built through the VA-05, marring our land and endangering our citizens without providing energy options in the district. I oppose pipelines that increase our reliance on fossil fuels and cause harm to our environment, whether that is in the 5th district or elsewhere in our country.
Clean renewable energy is a critical need for the people and the planet. I believe in more locally sourced renewable energy that will lower costs for businesses and customers as well as cut our carbon footprint. My environmental agenda would strive toward realization of the following legislative goals:
- Upgrade all federal buildings to be more energy efficient
- Increase tax credits for homeowners and businesses who use wind and solar energy
- Invest in methane gas converter machines that can turn gas released from trash and waste into electricity
- Reinstate protections created during the Bush and Obama administrations such as:
- Support the WaterSense Program
- Rejoin the Paris Agreement
The recent pandemic has highlighted a key fact which we have known for years: we have a healthcare crisis in the United States. We have 30 million uninsured people in this country, and about half of that number have access to insurance but cannot afford it. We have an additional 44 million people who are underinsured because of high out-of-pocket costs.
Although the American Care Act (ACA) was a step forward in helping Americans gain access to basic healthcare, we need to appreciate that healthcare remains a burden to the majority of Americans. We must bring prescription prices down, end surprise billing, improve oversight of healthcare facilities, and work with rural communities to provide better access to healthcare.
In times of crisis, whether or not an individual can afford to seek treatment should not even be a question. Healthcare is not a privilege but a right, a right which is lacking for so many citizens living in one of the most prosperous nations in the world.
I don't believe you go to Congress without having big ideas. For years, politicians from both sides of the aisle have agreed that our country needs a comprehensive infrastructure bill to repair roads, bridges, tunnels and water systems but with no action to speak of. Crumbling infrastructure has lead to serious problems, often beyond the ability of local government to fix. Localities such as Flint, Michigan simply do not have the financial capacity to repair critical infrastructure such as the water pipes needed to supply clean drinking water to residents and will need help from the federal government. The status and maintenance of our infrastructure is also a national security issue. Without roads, bridges, and tunnels we cannot move goods or provide for common public safety.
I believe that rural broadband should be part of the infrastructure conversation and belongs in this category. Rural broadband cuts across all aspects of education, employment, public safety, healthcare, and jobs. Without the internet, rural communities are falling into the "have not" category while our urban areas continue to prosper and provide the necessary bandwidth for their children to be productive in school and the elderly to have access to modern care. As we have seen in recent weeks, the ability to work remotely and participate in remote classes has become imperative. Similarly, telemedicine allows for remote consultation with a medical professional while practicing social distancing. Without reliable internet though, our community is falling behind and during pandemics, is put at increased risk.
As the former chairman and current member of my county's broadband committee, I have learned first hand the challenges of convincing providers to bring services to unserved and underserved rural communities. We must overcome this obstacle by investing in rural broadband as part of an infrastructure plan and treat it as the rural electrification issue of our time.
School systems across the nation are underfunded, causing local boards to cut staff, counselors, sports, and art and music classes. We can’t continue to have unequal education in regards to pay and funding.
As a former school board member in Virginia, I learned first hand about the importance of early childhood education and the devastating effect of falling behind at a young age. We must properly fund public education and not rely on private, for-profit schools to answer the challenge of failing city and rural districts. For the past 10 years, I have been involved in Headwaters and the Child Care and Learning Center to help address these issues, issues which I could further advance in Congress.
Through my experience on the board of the Rappahannock Center for Education, which is responsible for establishing the county's adult education program, I have learned that there is a need to provide a pathway to reliable, paying trade jobs. We must recognize that students may choose to go to college or they may choose to follow another career path and support them in their decision either way.
These experiences have informed my position on education which includes:
- Improving equality in education and correct disparities in underserved rural communities
- Improving career and technical education programs
- Expanding rural broadband access to ensure education equality
- Providing teachers with the resources they need and the pay they deserve
All people, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, should be equal under the law. I support adding the Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution alongside other reforms including:
- Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, ensuring that no individual or organization is above the law
- Strengthening laws to protect women from family responsibilities discrimination
- Supporting legislation for comprehensive and evidence-based sex education for all children, with an emphasis on the necessity of consent
- Supporting a woman's right to choose; this is a private decision which must be protected by public policy
- Supporting legislation to protect people from being fired or discriminated against based on their gender preference or sexual orientation
- Increasing support for sexual assault victims including funding for rape kit testing, training of first responders, and counseling support for survivors
- Requiring, under the law, equal pay regardless of gender or sexual orientation
Agriculture is Virginia’s largest industry, but federal and state regulations put burdens on farmers that prevent them from being successful. I want to ease these regulatory burdens and promote farming as an industry that future generations can make a living in. I want to make sure that the taxes are fair and do not prohibit individuals from starting and growing their agriculture business.
There are amazing opportunities for entrepreneurship in areas such as urban farming. There is an abundance of vacant land in urban areas that are perfect locations for growing food, and items for products like hemp. This creates opportunities for growing the local food supply, eliminating food deserts, and providing an affordable healthy product to the public.
I believe we need to increase the minimum wage. The way we do that is the harder question.
The Democratic Party currently advocates for a minimum wage of no less than $15 per hour. I believe that this is an achievable goal; but it must be done incrementally and in step with local economies. For example, Charlottesville and Danville have extremely different economies and what works for one, may not work for the other.
Moreover, I will advocate for removing the federal loopholes that allow companies to pay disabled workers 10 cents on the dollar.
Voting rights and election security in America are in serious jeopardy: voting roll purges, voter ID laws, broken and hackable machines, foreign meddling. We have watched the public lose faith and simply stop participating in the process. We know that the Russian government directed extensive activity in recent years against U.S. election infrastructure at the state and local level. The Russian meddling is continuing into the 2020 election.
In recent years, Democrats have led the effort, over the objections of Republicans, to provide funding for election security grants to improve the cybersecurity of our states’ infrastructure. A total of $805 million was provided for election machine replacement, post-election audits, registration database improvements, cybersecurity best practices, training for local election officials, and increases in cybersecurity and information technology staff. House and Senate Democrats have also supported legislation establishing mandatory election security standards for federal elections, including voter registration databases, ballot marking and counting machines, and election night reporting websites. Republicans have fought these efforts, jeopardizing Americans' right to vote in a fair election.
We must restore faith in the system. I will fight to put stronger programs in place to protect voting machines, secure election integrity and ensure that votes aren’t tampered with by foreign adversaries or corrupt domestic efforts. I will continue the fight for voter rights beginning with making Election Day a national holiday and automatically registering all Americans to vote on their 18th birthday. And I will fight for same-day registration, no-excuse early and absentee voting, and for the restoration of voting rights to felons who have completed their sentences.
America was founded on the principle of one person, one vote. Brave women and men fought to ensure that this right be granted to all citizens despite race and gender. We must continue to respond to evolving threats to our democracy while ensuring that our elections are pure and that we truly adhere to this core constitutional right.
I am a proud gun owner and licensed to carry. I support the Second Amendment.
But I also support the rule of law. I support common sense. I support police and sheriffs, many of whom are veterans like me. Many of the laws that are being proposed are to help and protect local law enforcement.
Common sense demands that we draw a line and implement legislation that will keep our families safe, for instance: elimination of the boyfriend loophole, a ban on high capacity magazines, and a prohibition on guns in public buildings.
We need to focus more on rehabilitation, offering job training and education, as well as restoring voting rights upon completion of a sentence.
The war on drugs has clogged up our legal system and cost taxpayers billions of dollars because of mass incarceration of nonviolent drug offenders. It is time to legalize cannabis for adult use and regulate it like alcohol. In addition, it needs to be available for prescriptions. I also support the expungement of all records of people arrested, charged, and convicted of cannabis possession and small quantity distribution.
For the past three years, our government has been systematically broken from within. We have lost valuable public servants, including hundreds of scientists in the USDA and literally thousands of foreign policy experts in the State Department. Agencies like the Department of Homeland Security, Education, and the Environmental Protection Agency have been decimated. The result has been inefficiency, corruption, and scandal.
We must carefully and thoughtfully rebuild our agencies with knowledgeable leaders and dedicated public servants who will ensure that our federal government works for us.
The United States was once respected for our values, our leadership, and adherence to the rule of law. In the past three years, however, we've seen our relationships around the world weakened and the reputation of the United States diminished. Our President has ignored the advice of our military leaders, pardoned war criminals, celebrated tyrants, and returned us to the isolationist policies of the 1930's. We have turned our back on allies who stood beside us in our darkest moments.
Simply put, we have not been safeguarding the national interest.
In Congress, I will work with my colleagues to restore and strengthen our alliances and rebuild our credibility on the world stage. This starts with supporting and rebuilding our foreign service, and respecting the institutional knowledge of the State Department's Diplomatic Corp.
In addition, I will ensure we renegotiate the Iran nuclear agreement, end support for the Saudi war in Yemen, restore travel to Cuba, and bring our troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan.
We are all descended from immigrants, and our country is founded on the principles of equality for all. We must stop locking children up at the border. We cannot continue to deport men and women who served our country overseas. We cannot continue to demonize dreamers.