In a reliably conservative district, a longtime incumbent has squared off against a political newcomer, and both candidates have differing visions for affordable health care for all Americans.
Eleven-year incumbent Rob Wittman, R-Montross, faces Democrat Vangie Williams in the campaign for the 1st Congressional District.
Williams’ candidacy marks a historical moment in the district, as she’s the first African-American woman to win a nomination from either major party for the 1st District and, if elected, would be the first woman of color elected to Congress in Virginia, according to Williams’ communications director Sheri Shannon.
Wittman, a former environmental specialist turned local politician, has served as mayor and on the Board of Supervisors in his hometown of Montross. He also represented the 99th District in the General Assembly.
Wittman first took office for the 1st Congressional District in 2007 after Congresswoman Jo Ann Davis died. If re-elected, this would be his sixth full term.
For the past five years, Wittman has pushed to get two pieces of legislation passed that would hold his colleagues in Congress accountable.
“I’ve been frustrated, and I think constituents in the 1st District have been frustrated on things not getting done in Congress,” Wittman said. “One of the pieces of legislation is ‘no budget no pay.’ If members of Congress do not pass the budget in time, they don’t get a paycheck.”
The other piece legislation would be require all 12 appropriations bills to be approved by the end of July, or else members of Congress would not be allowed to leave for recess in August, according to Wittman.
Williams, a strategic planner, government contractor and mother to six daughters decided to run because she did not receive a response from letters and emails she wrote to Wittman’s office about her daughter’s health situation.
Williams said it prompted her to run because she believes a representative should be there for all of their constituents and be accessible to them.
“You have to be there for everyone and get back with people,” Williams said. “You are there to help and represent everyone, not just the ones who donate to your campaign or support your ideals.”
The 1st Congressional District includes the city of Fredericksburg and counties of Caroline, Essex, Fauquier, Hanover, Gloucester, part of James City, King George, King William, King and Queen, Lancaster, Mathews, Middlesex, New Kent, Northumberland, Prince William, Richmond, Spotsylvania, Stafford and Westmoreland.
Both candidates said they will work across the aisle in a time of political turmoil. The candidates also said they want to provide affordable and accessible health care for everyone, although they have different plans to do so.
Wittman said there needs to be greater transparency and lower costs in the healthcare system, although he does not have a specific plan, he would push the system to be more patient-provider centered. He does not approve of a government takeover or Medicare for all and voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
“We know that the Affordable Care Act promised that you can keep your doctor and plan and it didn’t pan out,” Wittman said. “We see costs, costs that are uncontrollable and we need to do things to drive those costs down.”
While Williams said she approves of the Affordable Care Act, there are issues with the program that need to be addressed. Williams wants to roll out a program called Medicare Now Plus, which would include coverage for mental, dental and vision health.
Both candidates seek to propose legislation to invest in infrastructure, such as towers and powerlines to bring high-speed, broadband internet to rural and under-served areas of the 1st District.
Wittman said the key to expanding broadband service is to leverage state and federal funding equally, as well as meet with service providers to build towers in communities.
Wittman, along with his congressional colleagues, worked to get over $600 million in federal funding for broadband infrastructure in rural areas. Wittman said the amount awarded to the 1st District is unknown, as the funding is still being secured.
Williams said she would work to modernize the Rural Electrification Act of 1936, which brings more federal funding to build infrastructure in rural and underserved areas. She also would advocate for agricultural legislation with a broadband factor to help the farming economy.
On gun legislation, both Wittman and Williams wish to see the national background check system become stronger and more accurate.
Wittman also intends to add a restriction to make sure those with serious mental health conditions and criminal history don’t have access to guns. Williams would add a restriction to be sure child abusers, domestic abusers, sexual offenders and stalkers would be restricted from getting firearms.
Helping and rebuilding communities in the rural district is a priority for both candidates.
Wittman wants to continue to bring tax cuts to small businesses and families and find more ways to help veterans.
If elected, Williams said her first focus would be her INVEST initiative, which stands for income now for veterans, enlisted military families, safety officers and teachers.
The initiative would exempt the first $50,000 of income from federal income taxes for these people and pay for it by closing two or three tax loopholes used by big corporations. This would give the recipients a $5,000 bonus every year to help with expenses.
“These groups are often the lowest paid and lowest respected,” Williams said. “They have done so much and continue to do so much for us and deserve better.”
Williams raised more campaign funds than Wittman in the quarter ending Sept. 30, according to data by the Federal Election Commission.
Williams raised $252,194.54 and Wittman raised $116,152.10 in individual contributions. Williams raised $256,020.18 overall and Wittman raised $238,152.10 overall for the reporting period.
House of Representatives
Election day is Nov. 6. Representatives hold a two year term with a yearly salary of $174,000.
Luck can be reached at 757-291-2038, firstname.lastname@example.org or @ashleyrluck on Twitter