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Our endorsements: Cockburn for the House, Kaine for Senate / October 31, 2018
Voters in the 5th Congressional District will go to the polls Tuesday to do their part to chart the nation’s course over the next two years. And the results of the Nov. 6 election will determine one big thing, if nothing else: Whether Washington Republicans, led by Donald Trump, can continue to run amok in their quest to consolidate power and monopolize the nation’s wealth on behalf of party donors and themselves, or whether the White House and Congress must bow to the will of a majority of Americans who expect decency, moderation and fair play from their government.

In the 5th District of Virginia, voters will choose between Leslie Cockburn, the Democratic candidate, or Denver Riggleman, the Republican, to serve as their next congressional representative. We emphatically support Cockburn. She has proven herself to be adept in policy matters, attuned to the needs of 5th District residents, and most of all, endowed with the independence of mind needed to make an impact in Washington. Cockburn has been unabashed in her progressive views — supporting Medicare for All, free community college and student loan debt relief for recent college grads, and focused on building a new economy for rural areas of the 5th through investments in broadband internet and nuts-and-bolts infrastructure. Her forward-looking outlook is a surprisingly good match for the region, which has suffered from underinvestment and lack of political nerve dating back generations.

Denver Riggleman, by contrast, strikes us as a cardboard cut-out candidate, a so-called libertarian conservative who fits in fine with a party that has cut taxes for the wealthy and saddled the country with spiraling budget deficits. Riggleman justifies the GOP’s smash-and-grab raid on the Treasury by pointing to recent trends in job growth: mostly the same as it was in the final two years under President Obama, although the rise in gross domestic product has been more pronounced. But on the matter of where the rubber meets the road, much has to change before most Americans enjoy economic boom times. First order of business: wages must outpace prices that are inching ever upward. (Trade tariffs that are a Trump keystone have something to do with this.)

Republican actions on the economy have done precious little to help anyone aside from members of the investor class who received the vast majority of the money from the Republican tax cut. In one telling sign, business capital investment has barely budged — a sure sign tax cut proceeds are ending up in the pockets of investors through stock buybacks and other ploys that have nothing to do with job creation. In the meantime, many middle-class household budgets have been drained by the sabotage of health insurance markets by the Trump Administration and Republican Congress. Since coming into power, D.C. Republicans have been obsessed with trying to overturn the Affordable Care Act. Their half-baked “reforms” have driven up premiums and made insurance less attainable, especially for those on the individual health insurance market who do not qualify for Obamacare tax subsidies. A major cause of the GOP’s health care failure is the party’s inability to propose a workable alternative — which leads us to the biggest lie of this campaign season, that Republican candidates like Denver Riggleman will keep insurance companies from discriminating against people with pre-existing medical conditions. Peel away the rhetoric and buzzwords (“consumer-driven models”) and what you’re left with is the complete absence of a workable Republican health plan. The devil isn’t in the details; there are no details, there’s only the devil.

Speaking of which: on the Senate side of Capitol Hill, GOP Majority Leader Mitch McConnell recently told reporters that the federal deficit is rising at an alarming rate not because of the party’s tax giveaways, but because the federal government spends too much on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — all programs upon which America’s middle class is built. McConnell’s audacity on this topic is a sure sign of which way the wind is blowing in Washington. The idea that Congress would keep shoveling money into the pockets of the very wealthiest while cutting hard-earned benefits for middle-class Americans seems like an obscene joke, yet there it is. McConnell said it — and his fellow Republicans have not repudiated him. People used to think the Republican Party would be deterred from carrying out the most extreme parts of its agenda by force of public disapproval. Is anyone still confident the standard guardrails remain in place?

If elected to Congress, Riggleman has pledged to join the Freedom Caucus, a far-right band of Republicans who were once denounced by their own leader, former Speaker of the House John Boehner, as “anarchists,” “nuts” and less complimentary terms we can’t print here. By contrast, Leslie Cockburn has vowed to protect programs like Social Security and Medicare, top targets of the Freedom Caucus. Considering the large number of elderly residents living in Southside Virginia, this commitment alone ought to bring the region around to her candidacy.

Southside is a traditionally conservative place, and conservative values such as paying your own way and respecting traditional norms of behavior will always have an important place in our public discussions. But the Republican Party and its leader in the White House have strayed so far from the path of reason and rationality that it’s abundantly clear a check on their power must be imposed. Leslie Cockburn can help restrain partisan excesses in Washington and still work across to aisle to enact commonsense, forward-thinking legislation. Denver Riggleman represents a sure vote for the same-old same-old. We know which of these options is more inspiring to us, which is why the News & Record and The Mecklenburg Sun enthusiastically endorse Leslie Cockburn for Congress. Please remember to vote next Tuesday, Nov. 6.


It’s almost embarrassing to handle our endorsement for U.S. Senate with a big “ditto” (thanks Rush Limbaugh) and mention that everything stated above also applies to incumbent Democratic Senator Tim Kaine, who is running for a third term. So allow us a separate moment to sing Kaine’s praises: he is a U.S. Senator that any state would be proud to have, a studious, reasoned, highly qualified leader who has never written off a constituency in need of effective representation nor shed his innate humility and integrity after many years in the public limelight.

As former mayor of Richmond, Lieutenant Governor, Governor and now Senator (with a foray into the 2016 presidential race as Hillary Clinton’s ticketmate), Kaine has always done Virginia proud. He is perhaps the state’s most popular elected official, with good reason — whether it’s his unceasing efforts to build an economy that works for all people, or his leadership on hot-button topics like gun control (where he proposes sensible limits on the types of guns that can be sold, and to whom) or social equality (as a young attorney in private practice, Kaine often pursued civil rights cases.) He is a shining example of everything a public servant is supposed to be.

In many ways, his bid for re-election is notable mostly because of the wretchedness of his opponent, Republican Corey Stewart. Stewart, chairman of the Prince William Board of Supervisors, has made a name for himself statewide by cozying up to white supremacists, running a nasty, unredeemable campaign, and presenting himself as “Trump before Trump was Trump.” The only benefit of his candidacy will come in seeing him lose and lose badly, as all the polls indicate. Regardless of horse race outcomes, Virginia Republicans need to reflect on their choice of Stewart as their flagbearer in this race, and what it says about a party that is becoming more toxic by the day outside of its aging, Fox News-viewing base. Fact is, Stewart might just represent the single worst candidate that the state party has ever put up for office — and this from a lineup that includes such abysmal figures as Ken Cuccinelli, the Rev. E.W. Jackson and Jim Gilmore. If those names are unfamiliar, don’t worry — Corey Stewart will be joining their ranks soon. Virginia is lucky to have Tim Kaine as our senator, and we strongly endorse his re-election on Tuesday.

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