Virginia’s 6th Congressional District stretches from Roanoke and Lynchburg north into the Shenandoah Valley. It has been represented by Republican Bob Goodlatte for more than 25 years.
But Goodlatte’s not running for reelection and Democrats see a window of opportunity starting with Tuesday’s primary.
For the first time since 1992, there’s no Republican incumbent running in the 6th Congressional District. It’s an opportunity not lost on the four Democrats hoping to win their party’s nomination.
"Especially when Bob Goodlatte announced his retirement, I said 'This is it. I’ve got to do this,'" says Jennifer Lewis. She was already frustrated with the Trump administration when she decided to get in the race.
"People are tired of that feeling that the rich are getting richer. That people in office get there and they forget what it’s like to come from where we come from or live the lives that we live," says Lewis, a mental health worker and Democratic organizer from Waynesboro.
She puts healthcare at the top of her campaign’s list of priorities. "We have a lot of rural pockets that don’t have hospitals, they don’t have providers, so we need Medicare for all. I support Congressman Ellison’s Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act. I think that’s the only true way we’re going to be able to control out of pocket costs, negotiate prescription drug costs."
Healthcare is also high on the list for Peter Volosin. He supports a proposal from Senator Tim Kaine called Medicare X. "This is a public buy-in option to the Medicare networks. It’s something that we can do now because those networks already exist," Volosin says. "We believe it could reduce premiums by up to 30 percent."
Volosin’s from Roanoke and sees his experience working as an Economic Planner for the World Bank translating into economic opportunity in the 6th District. "I see a poverty level of 20 percent here in Roanoke, 25 percent in Lynchburg and it was this realization when I came home that there’s a lot that can be done here. I’m working in cities in Indonesia that have lower poverty rates."
Charlotte Moore is also from the Roanoke area. She says two natural gas pipelines now being built in western Virginia weren’t properly vetted and emphasizes other environmental issues. "I think climate change is real. It is definitely an issue. We need to sustain our planet," Moore says. "We need to do whatever we can to make our planet sustainable. We need to keep plastics out of our streams and rivers and oceans. We need to put our EPA regulations back into force."
Moore is the only candidate in the primary who’s been elected to public office. She served two terms on the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors. "It’s given me an advantage as to serving with colleagues on the board and getting things done and compromising."
Sergio Coppola also emphasizes a willingness to work with all political persuasions, even in his top priority—a public buy-in option for healthcare. "We want a plan that’s passable in Congress. 25 Having a more middle of the road approach in having a plan, we could actually have a better healthcare system by having a public buy-in option," Coppola says.
Coppola is from Rockingham County and calls himself a moderate in the race. "I’m hoping the district will find that electing a moderate candidate will be more successful in the general. Because you can elect whoever you want in the primary but it’s no good to elect that person if they can’t win the general election."
The winner of Tuesday’s Democratic primary will face Republican Delegate Ben Cline in November. It will likely be an uphill climb in what’s regarded as one of Virginia’s most conservative districts.