This is one of three profiles of Virginia’s 5th Congressional District candidates vying for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Josh Throneburg smiled for a brief moment, while responding to the question of why he is running for Congress, a slight pull at the corners of his mouth as he reflected on his two daughters.
“As a parent, the thing you want is to make sure that your kids have a future,” Throneburg said. “We have problems to solve and I want to help solve them.”
Throneburg said that impending threats of climate change are a large inspiration for his bid as the Democratic nominee for Virginia’s 5th Congressional District.
“If we don’t have a sustainable planet, everything else is moot.”
That’s why one of his biggest priorities if elected is to push for ways to help protect the environment — and he hopes to join the House Committee on Natural Resources. Thorneburg is the only Democratic candidate running for the 5th District seat. He will face off this fall against the Republican candidate.
Allocating federal funding is a part of what U.S. representatives and senators do, and can play a role in climate change mitigation strategies. That’s why Throneburg said he wants to explore setting up taxes or fines to the nation’s largest carbon emitters. In doing so, he said that money can go towards other costs related to climate change.
“I think part of what Congress has to do is recognize the costs and then take those who are a part of producing those costs and hold them responsible,” Throneburg said. “Whether that would be a carbon tax or a carbon fee is something that brings money back into our system because those carbon producers are making it.”
Citing the costs of fighting wildfires in California or sea level rise in Virginia and Florida, he noted the financial strain climate mitigation can cause state and local governments.
“There are constant economic costs that come with climate change,” he said.
Originally from a small town in Illinois, Throneburg moved to Charlottesville three years ago with his wife and daughters. He and his wife own Nooks & Crannies, an eco-friendly cleaning business, and he is an ordained minister. He’s a former minister at an Evangelical Covenant Church in Massachusetts before moving to Charlottesville in 2019.
It’s his passion for ministry and his background in rural and Republican communities that he said position him to represent the 5th District. One of the largest districts in Virginia, the 5th Congressional District spans from the North Carolina border to Albemarle County and Charlottesville — it includes 18 counties and three cities. A Democrat has not been elected to represent the 5th District since 2008.
“The world I grew up in was kind of that conservative, evangelical Republican world and family. That’s what I would have called myself for the first 20 years of my life,” Throneburg said. “I realized as an adult that my values were more aligned with the Democratic Party, but that’s still the world that I grew up in. It’s my native political tongue.”
With sharp partisanship surrounding certain national issues, Throneburg hopes his understanding of the other side of the aisle will be helpful if elected to Congress. He also said that his experience as a minister may prove helpful.
“I’m going to obviously stand up for the things that I believe in and the way that I think we can best serve the people of this district,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean that I’m not going to be someone who tries to bring everyone together.”
He hopes his experience will translate in the resurgence of debates around access to abortions. Thorneburg supports the right to have an abortion.
With a pending U.S. Supreme Court decision that could remove federal abortion protections, Throneburg asserts that he will pursue strategies that can both a person’s right to get an abortion and choice to have a child.
“I do think, as the Democratic Party, we want to be the party of choice in the fullest version of what that means,” he said. “And I think sometimes we have really spent all of our time and energy focusing on a woman’s choice to end a pregnancy and to access an abortion. But I think we also want to be the party that does everything we can for women who want to choose to carry to term.”
As such, Throneburg wants to expand Medicaid to cover pregnant people for the duration of their pregnancies and the first year after childbirth as well as enhance child care access and support adoption services.
If Roe v. Wade — a nearly 50 year old Supreme Court case that federally protects abortion access — is overturned this year, Throneburg said that he will work on protections in Congress.
Rural connectivity and economic growth is something Throneburg also wants to champion in Congress. He plans to carry the torch of representatives before him by continuing efforts to get U.S. Department of Agriculture ReConnect grants to the district to bolster rural broadband buildout. This, he said, also connects to his goals of supporting education and school infrastructure.
Citing the continued investment in the U.S. Armed Forces as an example, Throneburg said that he’d like to see Congress treating investments in education the same way.
“I think we should set a national goal to have the best schools and the best education system on the planet,” he said.
Throneburg said he’d work on Public Service Loan Forgiveness expansions and grants to help teachers receive free or reduced education along with expanding Federal Pell Grant eligibility and capping interest rates on federal student loans at 2%.
Throneburg would like to help localities update their school infrastructure at the federal level by creating a program that federally funds school construction, similar to the Civilian Conservation Corps program that stemmed from the New Deal.
According to a state-commissioned study, more than 1,000 schools in Virginia are more than 50 years old and in need of renovation. Funding for school construction stems from taxes at local levels, which makes it a challenge for localities that don’t have a large enough tax base to adequately fund school construction and renovation.
Since announcing his campaign last year, Throneburg has been paying attention to constituents around the district. It’s inspired him to dig into some policies he could support if elected.
“One of the things that we are hearing on the ground a lot is about affordable housing,” he said.
Throneburg said he plans to support the Neighborhood Homes Investment Act, legislation that has already been introduced into Congress. The bill will create a tax credit to finance home-building and rehabilitation in distressed urban, suburban and rural areas. The goal, Throneburg said, is to help incentivize home-buying for low and moderate income families that are often shut out of the market.
In the meantime, Throneburg said that he is learning a lot as a first-time candidate. He’s enjoyed traveling around the district to connect with people and learn more about the district-specific things he can focus on at the federal level.