*Some candidates are still sending in their responses and this page will be updated.

 

What are your top three priorities if elected?

John Lesinski: 

  1. Creating a public option for healthcare, and quickly transitioning to universal health coverage for all Americans
  2. Fighting climate change through the creation of green infrastructure/jobs and environmental protections
  3. Universal national broadband

RD Huffstetler: 

Things weren’t always easy for us growing up.  We lived in Section 515 housing for a time, and my parents struggled with substance abuse, which killed my dad.  But, I was able to go to the Harvard Business School on the GI BIll and live the American dream.  I want the same for everyone. I want to ensure that everyone in the 5th district has access to high-quality, affordable healthcare, world-class digital infrastructure, and the education they need to compete in the changing economy.

Claire Russo:

If elected, I will always take on the tough fights for the people of this district. Right now, we must fix our healthcare system. We have to ensure our children and teachers feel safe in their classrooms and address the gun violence epidemic in this country. Finally, women’s rights are human rights, and we must elect a champion for women who won’t back down, and protect women’s reproductive rights.

Cameron Webb:

  1. Deliver on the promise of access to affordable, high-quality healthcare for everyone in this country.
  2. Address our climate crisis through decisive action, science-driven policymaking, and requiring corporate accountability as we transition to a clean economy.
  3. Ensure widespread opportunities for success and economic mobility through investments in education, housing, infrastructure, workforce development, and criminal justice reform.

 

Healthcare has been a big topic in this race. Could you briefly outline your plans?

John Lesinski: 

We can do better than our current healthcare system. Employer-based coverage just doesn’t work: not only during a pandemic when people are losing their jobs, but also in our changing economy, in which short-term work & freelancing is more common. That’s why I will propose a public option when I am in Congress, and work toward fast-tracking universal coverage. Healthcare is a right, not a privilege. The way forward is to bring healthcare to all Americans. Our health should never depend on our job or our bank account.

RD Huffstetler: 

My wife, Dr. Emily, Huffstetler, is an OB/GYN here in Charlottesville, and we talk about healthcare everyday in the Huffstetler household, whether it’s how many patients Em had to see that day or that a woman gave birth in the parking lot of Martha Jefferson Hospital. I plan to protect and expand the work of the Affordable Care Act by supporting Tim Kaine’s Medicare X plan. In addition to allowing for an early Medicare buy-in, this plan would also ensure that there is a public option on our rural exchanges immediately, and everywhere else after that. Access to adequate medical care in our rural communities is particularly dire, which is why I support heavy investment in telemedical infrastructure, loan-forgiveness programs that incentivize doctors to set up their practice in rural areas, and emergency relief for rural hospitals struggling to keep their labor and delivery wards open. Finally, we must treat women’s healthcare like what it is; healthcare. I don’t want politicians getting between women and their doctors.

Claire Russo: 

Growing up, my family struggled with access to affordable healthcare. We can’t afford the status quo any longer. It’s time we prioritize patients and families who need care — not big drug companies and insurance agencies. Right now, too many people cannot get coverage or the healthcare they have is too expensive. We’ve made progress with the Affordable Care Act, but it’s not enough. We must introduce a public option so that every American has access to affordable healthcare. Our rural communities deserve more than one provider or plan. We must lower the cost of prescription drugs and enable Medicare to negotiate directly with drug companies. Women’s healthcare must no longer be treated as an afterthought – we need to prioritize universal prenatal care and family planning services so that all of our kids – regardless of zip code, income, or race – are able to have a strong start.

Cameron Webb:

Our healthcare system is extremely complex, is one-fifth of our economy, and is our nation’s largest employer. Reform requires precision, experience and thoughtfulness. Given my background, I believe that now is the time for a comprehensive reform effort to achieve universal health coverage and take the next steps in addressing our healthcare crisis.

First, I propose the creation of a comprehensive, widely-available public health insurance option. To allow this to work optimally, we must concurrently decouple employment and health insurance, and also transition private insurance to a non-profit endeavor. Special attention must be paid to expand health access in rural, low-income, and underserved communities.

To reduce costs, we must effectuate greater price transparency, leverage the buying power of public insurance to negotiate drug prices, and propagate health information exchanges to eliminate redundant care. Finally, we must transition to value-based care to incentivize achieving good outcomes in a cost-effective manner.

As Congress continues to create financial aid solutions for individuals and sectors impacted by COVID-19, in what ways would you like to build on that?

John Lesinski: 

The stimulus money provided to Americans so far is simply insufficient. Americans need help, and they shouldn’t have to risk their lives in a global pandemic to be able to pay their bills. Congress needs to make more funds available to individuals and small businesses ASAP!

26 million people are out of work in this country, and we’re not close to being in a position to safely reopen the economy. A $1200 stimulus check is just not going to cut it for most of us. Congress needs to pass legislation for recurring direct payments for all Americans.

RD Huffstetler:

There are people all around this district currently living paycheck-to-paycheck that have been greatly impacted by the new economic realities of the pandemic. The first round of direct stimulus bills was an excellent start, and I would like to see Congress pass more of that. However, upcoming bills should also include massive investments in infrastructure. Because interest rates are so low, it is time to build. Now is the time to focus on projects such as the development of a smart grid, renewable energy research, and the expansion of rural broadband. Investment in infrastructure projects would not only allow the country to work towards our long-term goals, but would also act as an enormous jobs creator.

Claire Russo: 

We need to focus on the immediate needs of the people who are impacted by this crisis. In any financial aid we pass, we need to prioritize workers and employees. We must learn from the mistakes of the 2008 recession and make sure that we are bailing out Main Street not Wall Street – and that our financial aid does not go into stock buybacks or the pockets of CEOs. It’s unacceptable that the Lakers have been able to receive aid while my local mechanic in Earlysville still can’t get a loan from the bank when he hasn’t made payroll in weeks. This crisis has highlighted the inequities in our society. As we map the recovery efforts of this nation we must make smart investments in the infrastructure, technology, and industries that will help to address those inequities.

Cameron Webb:

In order to keep people safe while they are separated from the economy—and often from work—we have to make it financially possible for people to avoid going out and unwittingly spreading the virus. This is not the time for austerity, it is the time to keep the fabric of our economy intact while we keep the participants in our economy alive. We must financially support individuals with recurring direct stimulus payments to individuals through the crisis and expanded eligibility/offerings in the Medicaid and SNAP programs. We must protect people from eviction and from mortgage or student loan default if they cannot work because of COVID. We must also mandate at least 12 weeks of paid sick, medical, and family leave for all employees.

Plan for maintaining business continuity and employment relationships until it is safe for people to resume normal participation in the economy.

For businesses, we must ensure robust funding of forgivable, emergency loans to small businesses—including local, minority-owned, and women-owned small businesses—to support this backbone of our economy. At the same time, we must close the loopholes that allow large corporations to avoid taxes and take advantage of federal dollars they don’t need. We should impose a national moratorium on small business debt collections. Finally, all of this must be done while putting in place oversight and accountability mechanisms for corporations who receive bailouts. No CEO who received government money should be getting a raise this year, and they must be held accountable for protecting jobs.

 

Rural broadband expansion efforts have been underway. How can you build on those efforts?

John Lesinski: 

Rural Americans keep hearing promises that they’ll get reliable internet coverage “someday.” That’s not good enough. I’ve lost count of how many students in our district have told me that they are having to do their homework in library or fast-food restaurant parking lots to get reliable internet service right now. That’s ridiculous — and it’s not fair. We need national, universal broadband.Equality of opportunity in the 21st century demands universal broadband, and that’s what I’ll work toward in Congress.

RD Huffstetler:

Over 90% of the residents in Buckingham county do not have access to broadband internet. That means, even in the best of times, school children are going to McDonalds to be able to do their homework. That is not the country written about in the Declaration of Indepence, where everyone is supposed to be created equally.  Representative Abigail Spanberger in our neighboring district has done an amazing job spearheading the rural broadband effort in Congress, and I plan on joining her in that fight. We must ensure that states have the resources to get broadband to all of their residents, even when Internet Service Providers (ISPs) do not.  This concept can be accomplished by helping localities form co-ops and establish their own ISPs. This way, we don’t have to rely on large service providers to ensure that rural internet is put into place and kept updated, and we can keep investment local.

Claire Russo:

This issue is personal to me – I don’t have access to broadband at my house, just 25 minutes north of Charlottesville. This pandemic has highlighted just how important it is that everyone has equal access to broadband – as people try to work from home, homeschool their kids, and stay connected to one another, we need to make sure our rural communities have the same access to that critical infrastructure as our cities do. I strongly support Abigail Spanberger’s efforts to protect ReConnect funding and fight for rural access to broadband for Virginians.

Cameron Webb:

There are three primary ways that I hope to build on the existing rural broadband expansion efforts. First, I will help facilitate the provision of federal funding and resources for broadband initiatives directly to the Commonwealth and its two primary programs for achieving universal broadband coverage: the Virginia Telecommunications Initiative (VATI) and the Tobacco Commission’s last-mile program. Next, I will advocate for increased coordination and oversight of funding allocation from programs like the Federal Communications Commission’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s ReConnect Program to ensure that funds flowing into states are not duplicative and resulting in overbuild in some areas with some areas remaining unserved. Finally, I will call for comprehensive evaluation of state broadband initiatives to create a clearinghouse of best practices to aid in the establishment of optimally effective federal broadband initiatives.

 

Embracing the renewable energy sector continues to gain bipartisan support, with some companies based in this district. What can you do from a seat in Congress to enhance renewable energy in our district, state, and country?

John Lesinski:

Climate change presents an existential threat, but it’s also an opportunity: by investing in the renewable energy sources we’ll need to end this crisis, we’d create millions of new high-paying jobs & revitalize our middle class. We just have to have the courage to take action. When this pandemic ends, we will need an extraordinary effort to get our economy moving. I propose a massive investment in renewable energy sources that will provide millions of well-paying jobs, get us off fossil fuels, and mitigate the threat of climate change.

RD Huffstetler: 

The first thing we must do is ensure that every American can collect, store, and sell their own energy. Dominion and other energy monopolies have stifled the growth of renewable energy in this state, and we have to take active measures to get their thumbs off the scale. The 5th district has the most green energy jobs in Virginia, and enormous potential for growth. We have a real opportunity here to connect our rural communities with our more urban centers to work towards a green energy future, which is not only better for the environment, but also much more cost-effective and would allow Virginia true energy independence.

Claire Russo:

When it comes to our energy sector, we need to look to the future. During this pandemic, we have seen the disasters that happen when our leaders in Washington ignore science, and we cannot do that when it comes to climate change. Climate change is the biggest existential threat facing our democracy and we need to urgently move toward renewable energy. In Congress, I’ll look to support local businesses, like Apex energy, and work with state and local leaders on federal partnerships that will support the industry right here in the 5th.  

Cameron Webb:

I will protect the health of our planet the same way I work to protect the health of my patients—by following the science and making evidenced-based decisions. I will work to ensure the same ambitious action that we’ve seen here in Virginia to transition to a clean energy economy as soon as possible—and certainly no later than mid-century. I will work to establish a clean energy standard that urgently requires 100% of U.S. electricity from clean and renewable sources. I will invest in programs to eliminate carbon emissions in agriculture and land use through reforming economic support programs for farms to meet climate goals. I will advocate for significant shifts in our approach to transportation, building infrastructure and industrial systems consistent with these goals. Finally, I will help make sure that we can keep the jobs created by a 100% clean energy future right here in Virginia.

 

Where do you stand on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline?

John Lesinksi:

Wholeheartedly against. The pipelines that are being built around our state and around the country are an unacceptable risk to our environment. In Congress, I will fight to stop construction of these threats!

RD Huffstetler:

I oppose the building of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. We should not be investing in energy sources that are both harmful for our environment and well on their way to becoming cost-ineffective. Instead, we should be putting our resources behind setting and achieving aggressive clean energy goals. Let’s move as rapidly as possible to a distributed energy future that empowers all Americans.

Claire Russo:

I oppose the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. We have seen environmental violations throughout the construction process and this pipeline disproportionately impacts our communities of color. We need to look to the future when it comes to investing in our energy, and I’m so proud of the activism we have seen on this issue to secure local victories, such as the halting of a compressor station in Buckingham county.

Cameron Webb:

I oppose the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. I don’t think that Dominion and its partners should be investing time and resources into building infrastructure for natural gas when we have an urgent and critical need to build infrastructure for clean and renewable energy. It isn’t only an issue of addressing climate change or preserving our natural environment, but also one of environmental justice/environmental racism as we’ve seen in Union Hill. I think Virginians have spoken, and fought, and declared that they don’t want this pipeline and it’s negative impact on our environment or on the communities harmed by construction of the pipelines. Finally, I think that Congress has to take its oversight of FERC seriously and ensure that all energy projects are environmentally safe and move us in the direction of decarbonizing by mid-century. When they do not, they shouldn’t be approved or should be stopped before it’s too late.

 

Ranked choice voting emerged in local/state 2019 elections. Is it something you think should be implemented for Congressional and Presidential races?

John Lesinksi:

I do. It’s a way to make our elections more fair and accessible.

RD Huffstetler: 

The way our current electoral system is structured has led to large parts of the American public feeling left out and unrepresented. Implementing ranked choice voting would be an important first step in making sure that everyone’s voices are heard. Our country is supposed to be a ‘marketplace of ideas,’ and we need to reward good behavior, like bold ideas, instead of artificially punishing them.

Claire Russo: 

We should consider implementing ranked choice voting, and it highlights an issue that is central to my campaign – we need to make sure that everyone feels as though their vote will count and their voices will be heard in every election. That also means we need to end partisan gerrymandering, end voter suppression, and increase voter access by allowing everyone to vote by mail.

Cameron Webb:

I believe that ranked-choice voting would be a fair and simple mechanism to ensure that the candidate who gets elected best reflects the values of a majority of voters. 

What are your ideas for increased minimum wage? What role can the government play in helping companies make that possible?

John Lesinski:

I support the goal of a $15 minimum wage. This can be implemented in some places immediately, in others incrementally based on cost of living.

RD Huffstetler: 

This pandemic has highlighted the need to redefine who comprises essential workers. Going forward, this definition is obviously going to include healthcare workers, but also the people pumping gas, staffing our grocery stores, and making biscuits, just like my mom used to do.  When they’re clocking in 40 hours a week, nobody should have to worry about how they’re going to pay for food or make their rent. I support an immediate increase of the federal minimum wage, and indexing the minimum wage to inflation going forward.

Claire Russo: 

I support a $15 minimum wage. Everyday of this pandemic, we are seeing hourly, low wage workers deemed essential as they put their health on the line to keep our country running, and we must ensure they are earning a living wage. It is now clearer than ever that every worker in America deserves a living wage. We must look at other ways to support working families – we need to address costs; we must work to lower the costs families pay for healthcare, for childcare, and for housing. We must take a holistic approach to address the rising cost of living for working American families, we cannot limit our approach to wage increases. 

Cameron Webb:

Jobs can only meet people’s needs in our society if they pay a living wage. Today’s federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour is the same as it was in 2009. I support efforts to achieve a national $15 minimum wage in the next five years to ensure that low-wage workers share the benefits of economic growth. When we achieve this $15 minimum wage, over 100,000 workers in VA-05 would see an increase in their wages, with an average increase in annual wages of $3,100. Consistent with Rep. Scott’s (VA-03) Raise the Wage Act of 2019, I believe that the minimum wage should thereafter be indexed to median wages. As opposed to indexing minimum wage to inflation, this ensures that low-wage workers share a common trajectory of wage growth with the broader labor market and improves the ability of the minimum wage to reduce income inequality.

 

On Federal finances, where should Congress trim spending, and where should it bolster funding?

John Lesinski:

We need to stop spending/losing billions of dollars on corporate bailouts, tax breaks for the rich, and endless wars. This money can be redirected toward a public option in healthcare (and more Medicaid expansion in general), and the creation of massive efforts to switch over to renewable energy sources, which will create millions of high-paying jobs.

RD Huffstetler: 

I’d start with proper oversight of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which has clearly had some implementation challenges. It’s obviously unprecedented to have the United States Government disperse this much money this quickly, but that still demands extensive oversight, which isn’t happening right now to the degree it should.

Claire Russo:

We need to look at the budget holistically. I think there are a lot of places where we can trim fat and there are certainly places we need to support increased spending. Right now, Republicans in Congress are using this pandemic to propose cuts to Social Security and Medicare, and it’s unacceptable. I have personally worked on legislation for defense appropriations, and have the expertise and experience necessary to take a hard look at our defense spending.

Cameron Webb:

At nearly 50 percent of the federal government’s discretionary budget, defense spending is the most obvious place to look when it comes to reducing costs. This could be accomplished primarily through a shift from military to nonmilitary engagement in a carefully targeted number of the over 150 countries that presently have a United States military presence. Additionally, repealing President Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 would save over $1 trillion over 10 years. Cuts like these would afford the opportunity to federally invest in critical infrastructure projects, as well as investing in people through education, healthcare, and supporting small businesses. This will be particularly critical as we aim to emerge from the current coronavirus recession.

 

Do you support universal background checks? What other gun-related legislation would you support or oppose?

John Lesinski:

I’m a gun owner, hunter, and veteran. I know all about the importance of the 2nd Amendment. Endemic gun violence in this nation, though, shows we must do something. I support stronger background checks and red flag laws: we must not continue to force our families to live in fear.

RD Huffstetler: 

My dad was a lifelong NRA member and put me in a tree stand when I was 12 years old. I understand the importance that guns hold in many American families. But even my conservative, Republican uncle doesn’t believe that the guns that he carried in Vietnam should be allowed on American streets. This is why I support universal background checks, a reinstatement of the Assault Weapons Ban, closing the “boyfriend loophole”, and enabling states to enact Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs). These measures are just common sense, and would make sure that everyone is safer from the scourge of gun violence.

Claire Russo:

I support universal background checks. We also have to close loopholes and pass the Violence Against Women Act – it is unacceptable that Denver Riggleman voted against its reauthorization. Our children and our teachers should be safe in their schools, and no parent should be worried about the life of their child while they are at school. The fact that my husband has to worry about the safety of his daughters in their classroom, while he is fighting for the safety and future of this country overseas, is unacceptable. There is an epidemic of gun violence in this country and it must be treated like the public health crisis that it is. This is an issue that the majority of Americans – and gun owners – agree on, and we need a Representative that isn’t bought and paid for by the NRA who will fight for these common sense reforms.

Cameron Webb:

As a physician, I know from experience that gun violence is a public health crisis in this country. As a lawyer, I respect the Second Amendment’s declaration that “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” I believe that the responsible manifestation of that right must acknowledge the compelling interest in ensuring public safety. I support universal background checks and believe we must close the loopholes to ensure that these checks are done in all settings where individuals aim to purchase a firearm. Additionally, I support banning new sales of assault weapons, banning the purchase of high capacity magazines, and passing “red flag” laws. I believe that these and other thoughtful, common sense, and evidence-based policies to reduce gun violence are essential to our collective goal of preventing future mass shootings and saving American lives.