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Opinion

Cameron Webb for 5th District Congress

SoVaNow.com / October 21, 2020
For all the energy being invested in the presidential campaign by partisans on both sides, it’s an unfortunate reality (to us, anyway) that Virginia’s decision will barely factor into the final outcome of the race. The Commonwealth has become a reliably Democratic-leaning state, trends in Southside Virginia notwithstanding, and neither Joe Biden nor Donald Trump is seriously contesting Virginia’s 11 electoral votes.

To find a race where Mecklenburg County voters will have a real impact when they head to the voting booths, all you need to do is look at the contest that draws The Sun’s first endorsement — for Congress in Virginia’s Fifth Congressional District. With the decision by a core group of GOP activists to deny incumbent Republican Denver Riggleman the party’s nod to run for re-election, our seat in the U.S. House of Representatives has come open — and two very different candidates are vying to pick up where Riggleman will leave off.

On the Republican side, former Campbell County supervisor Bob Good is the party’s nominee, running as a “biblical conservative” in pursuit of an agenda that will serve the sole purpose of fanning discord over social issues such as abortion, LGBTQ rights and religion in the public square. The Democratic candidate, Charlottesville physician Cameron Webb, is running to expand access to health care, strengthen public education, modernize the nation’s infrastructure (which includes fixing the disgraceful lack of internet in rural communities) and deal with a long list of kitchen table concerns that affect all residents and families of Virginia’s Fifth Congressional District.

The contrasts could hardly be greater. Webb, a 37-year-old graduate of University of Virginia, is a Spotsylvania native whose father worked as an HR manager for the DEA and whose mother helped children as a public school speech therapist. (Webb’s wife, Leigh Anne Webb, hails from Appomattox County and is also a physician.) His accomplishments are impressive for a person of his age, or any age: Webb is a practicing internist who has continued to pull ER duty during the campaign; he serves on the University of Virginia faculty as director of the health and equity program at the UVA School of Medicine; and he has public policy experience as an advisor on health issues to both the Obama and Trump White Houses.

Webb is running on an unabashed platform that calls for using the powers of the federal government to improve the lives of ordinary citizens — by increasing access and lowering the cost of health care and child care, raising the minimum wage, making college more affordable and expanding job training opportunities, addressing climate change in a serious, science-driven fashion, and the priority list goes on and on.

The phrase “strengthening the government’s role” normally sets off alarm bells among conservatives who claim no good can possibly come from activist government, but the bankruptcy of that claim has never been more exposed than this year with the coronavirus pandemic. Instead of rising to the challenge of keeping America safe from a deadly and highly contagious virus, Washington Republicans, led by President Trump, have offered a chaotic, fumbling, slapdash response to the worst public health emergency in a century. It’s a failure that has deep roots in the laissez-faire, do-nothing approach to governance long espoused by conservative ideologues whose chief priorities are granting tax cuts to the rich and packing the federal judiciary with right-wing activist judges.

There’s no reason to believe (contrary to the negative TV ads being thrown at him) that Webb subscribes to an extreme view that government is the solution to all problems. But nor does he seem like the type of Congressman who would sit idly by as lives are lost and futures are ruined because of a crisis that the federal government can effectively address — and should have addressed long ago, by invoking the National Defense Production Act to ramp up supplies of PPE and virus test kits, by implementing a vigorous system of contact tracing to stem the spread of the disease, by exercising leadership on matters as simple as mask wearing and social distancing. The fact that Cameron Webb is a physician — he would become the only Black doctor serving in the House of Representatives if elected — further underscores his appeal in these trying times. There is every reason to believe he would make a Congressman that the Fifth District can be proud of.

Bob Good, by contrast, marked time on the Campbell County Board of Supervisors by cutting the budgets of the county’s Sheriff’s Office (he is the only candidate in the race to actually defund police) and Campbell County Public Schools, withholding fiscal support for these essential public services. The essential expression of this political philosophy — in short, every man for himself — came when Good voted to raise fees for ambulance service in Campbell County, sticking sick people with community-wide costs that everyone should have been asked to bear.

By giving preference to Campbell County’s healthy citizens at the expense of its sick, Good offered a preview for how he would vote on issues such as health care if elected to Congress. Republicans continue to work to destroy the Affordable Care Act, with its strong protections for people with pre-existing health conditions, while vaguely promising to come up with an alternative — never saying what the plan is, or who pays. It’s plainly apparent how Bob Good would assign the costs — by sticking the bill with those least able to pay, all to shield upper income earners and political donors from the expense. Until Good and fellow Republicans offer an actual plan for dealing with the challenges of health care — to say nothing of dozens of other top-shelf issues — there is no reason to believe they will act any differently than they have acted countless times before: by siding with the plutocrats at any turn.

Mecklenburg County comprises a significant share of Virginia’s Fifth District, which runs from the Virginia border with North Carolina all the way to the outskirts of Washington, D.C. One might assume that such a sprawling (and gerrymandered) district would be impossible to unite around a common agenda, but Cameron Webb offers a bread-and-butter approach for dealing with problems that exist from Charlottesville to Charlotte County, Mecklenburg to Madison, Franklin to Fauquier. He’s someone the Fifth District sorely needs at the nation’s capital, working in measured, cooperative fashion to boost the region’s economy, prosperity and general health. He earns The Sun’s endorsement and, we hope, your vote.

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