The candidates running in the 6th Congressional District in western Virginia met virtually for a debate Monday afternoon.
Incumbent Republican Ben Cline and Democratic Challenger Nicholas Betts both said overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic was the most important issue facing Congress but they differed on specific steps.
Cline emphasized repairing the economic damage caused by coronavirus. "We’re going to do that by targeting the focus, the help the government can provide," Cline said. "The Cares Act did that through the Paycheck Protection Program, providing assistance to small businesses, making sure they kept people on the employment rolls." Cline also said the production and distribution of coronavirus vaccines will be a focus of the next Congress.
Betts emphasized a need to expand access to health care with a public insurance option. "Not only should it be viewed as a right, I believe it’s also a public necessity that folks have access to the medical attention they need which will reduce the spread of the virus and just make folks healthier overall," Betts noted. Betts also said he wanted to eliminate student loan interest to help younger people get a secure financial start.
Cline was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2018. Previously he was a member of the Virginia House of Delegates and an aide to his Congressional predecessor Bob Goodlatte.
Betts is a law clerk from the Lexington area and has not held public office before.
Monday's debate was organized by the Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce.