The four Democratic candidates vying to unseat Republican Rep. Dave Brat of his 7th Congressional District seat met Monday night to discuss their campaign platforms at the Old House Vineyards in Culpeper County.
Their platforms ranged from preserving parts of the Affordable Care Act to saving the environment.
The Culpeper County Democratic Committee hosted candidates Helen Alli, Diane Fraser, Abigail Spanberger and Dan Ward at its general meeting.
Alli, of Glen Allen, is a community activist and Army veteran who served on the Richmond Economic Development Authority and now owns a hormone replacement and weight loss clinic.
“I’ve been behind the scenes working in politics my entire life, and I keep feeling like we are losing our voices,” she said.
She made up her mind to run for elected office when the current president won against Democrat Hillary Clinton. Among the issues she said are important to her are healthcare and the economy. Alli advocated for universal healthcare by providing Medicare for everyone.
“I really want to make sure people are able to get care,” she said. “I want people to be able to go to the doctor and not to have choose between that and fixing their car or buying groceries.”
Born and raised in upstate New York, Alli moved to Richmond after leaving the service as a young woman, more than 30 years ago. She joined the military because she said she wanted to make the country better and that’s what she said she’s tried to do while living in Richmond.
“I’m ready to fight with you,” Alli told the crowd of about 75 people.
Fraser, a Richmond native, moved to Washington, D.C., for a career in journalism after graduating from the University of Virginia. She also has a background working for an environmental firm in Philadelphia.
In 2016, Fraser launched “Hoos for Change,” a group focused on environmental advocacy and social justice reform. She is running for political office to preserve democracy, she said.
“Right here in the 7th District were two individuals that created American democracy—James Madison and Thomas Jefferson,” Fraser said. “We are at a tipping point—the democracy they created is under siege.”
As a journalist, she said she learned to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.
“I take a real kind of traditional approach to being an active citizen and looking out for our essential rights,” Fraser said.
She said the environment is her No. 1 issue.
“We need healthcare for planet earth,” Fraser said.
Spanberger, of Glen Allen, is a former federal law enforcement officer and CIA operative now running her first campaign for elected office.
“I think we need to send new leaders to Washington,” she said, calling for accountability. “My priority is to ensure that everyone has access to affordable, quality healthcare.”
Spanberger advocated for “shoring up” the Affordable Care Act and expanding it for the future with a focus on improving access to hospitals for rural citizens. She supported a public option plan called Medicare X that would expand the social program to non-elderly Americans, as introduced last year by Sen. Tim Kaine.
Spanberger, referencing her past work in intelligence and national security, said she has the experience to “understand very deeply” what the country needs and an ability to make strong and informed decisions.
“This district can be won,” she said of the historically Republican-leaning district. “It is absolutely possible.”
Ward lives in the town of Orange and grew up in Madison County, graduating from the high school there in 1986. He is a 25-year Marine Corps veteran who flew attack jets in various combat missions.
“My first job was the McDonald’s in Culpeper,” Ward said.
He also showed steer as a youngster at the local farm show. Ward now flies for United Airlines out of Dulles and said he is running for congressional office to “take away a lever of power” from the current Republican-led U.S. House.
“I want to preserve and protect our institutions,” he said. “Our institutions of accountability are under attack. We have to win—we have to take 24 seats to take that lever of power away.”
Ward said the Democratic Party needed to be the party of the American worker, advocating for tax cuts for the middle class and not “the donor class” and investments in rural America through broadband infrastructure and skilled labor training. He would work in Congress on issues of agreement, he vowed.
Ward said a “blue wave” of victory in November is what is needed to bring the Republican majority “back to reality.”
On Sunday, the 7th Congressional District Democratic Committee decided to hold its primary on June 12 to decide which of the candidates will face Brat in November’s General Election.