Photo courtesy of Jennifer Wexton/Artwork by Kevin Myers
Q: How would you reflect back on your first two years in office? What has been the biggest surprise to you?
I’ve had a pretty unprecedented first term in Congress. After coming into office in the middle of the longest government shutdown in history, we got right to work delivering on the promises that we made to voters across America — on issues like affordable health care, gun violence prevention, fighting climate change, and more.
Now we are in the midst of a once-in-a-century pandemic. But despite all of the twists and surprises, the one thing that hasn’t changed is why I decided to run for Congress in the first place. And that’s to fight for Virginia’s kids and families.
Now more than ever, our district needs a proven leader who can fight to keep our communities safe, support our small businesses and local economy, and get our students back into the classrooms safely. My team and I have been working around the clock to get relief and assistance to those in need and to be accessible to constituents during these challenging times. I’m proud of everything that we’ve been able to accomplish, but I know there’s more work to do. I look forward to building on that progress when I’m elected for a second term.
Q: What is it like having to campaign virtually during the pandemic? What challenges has it presented, and have there been any benefits?
Moving our campaign to be virtual has definitely been an adjustment, but I’m proud of my campaign team for their hard work to continue talking to voters and letting our district know what’s at stake in this election.
Just because we can’t be out around the district in person as much as I’d like to, doesn’t mean that we’re not busy. We’re talking to voters every single day through phone banking and texting, and I’m constantly meeting with volunteers, voters, and constituent groups across Virginia-10 on Zooms and conference calls. Our top priority is keeping everyone safe as we continue to face the challenges of COVID-19, and I’m proud of how we have adapted to meet our goals while not putting voters or volunteers at risk.
Q: bviously last time you were running for this seat you were the challenger, this time you’re the incumbent, is there anything you’re doing differently this time around? If so could you elaborate on what you’re doing differently?
This is the most consequential election of our lifetimes, and we’re not taking anything for granted. I’m fighting for every vote and encouraging every Virginian to make a plan today to vote in whatever way is easiest and most convenient for them — whether that’s early in person, by mail, or on Election Day.
Besides what we’re doing differently this year because of COVID-19, the other big change is focusing on the ways that I’ve delivered for our district since being sworn in to Congress. I’ve been accessible to my constituents, hosting 17 town halls so far, and prioritized constituent services to help people in our district get the benefits that are owed to them by the federal government. I’m also proud of the legislative achievements that I’ve had, introducing legislation to combat the gun violence epidemic, fight disinformation, expand access to broadband, shine a light on human rights abuses in China, and more.
Q:What have you and your campaign been doing to try to entice younger voters?
Young voters have more at stake in this election than anybody else. The choices that will be made this year are going to influence decades of American policy — including issues that will have serious impacts on our future, like climate change and college affordability.
We’ve done outreach to help make sure that everyone who is eligible to vote is registered and knows about their options to cast their ballot this year. And to remind every young person that your vote matters. I’ve talked to plenty of young voters who are turned off by our politics today, and I can understand that. But the only way that changes is by all of you exercising your right to vote. In 2017, the Republican majority in the Virginia House of Delegates was decided by just one seat, and that race was decided by pulling a name out of a bowl because it was tied. So never let anyone tell you that your vote doesn’t matter.
Q: What other efforts has your campaign been making to get out the vote?
We’ve been working hard to educate Virginians about their new options to vote early this year and other changes to our election laws. For the first time, every Virginian can vote early with no excuse, including in person at certain voting centers and satellite locations in your county. You also can request your vote by mail ballot now, or vote in person on Election Day as usual. It’s important to make a plan for what is easiest and most convenient for you — to do that, you can go to iwillvote.com.
We’re seeing great enthusiasm from our volunteers who have been making calls and sending texts to get out the vote these past few weeks and will continue to do so through Election Day on November 3rd. I was in Leesburg on the very first day of early voting to cast my ballot and talk to voters in person while staying socially-distanced, and I was so impressed to see how many people were in line and excited to vote. We’re seeing this same kind of excitement all across the district.
Q: Do you see any issues with early voting or mail-in ballots? Why or why not?
No, we have been assured time and again that voting by mail is safe and secure, as is early voting. There is a lot of misinformation and disinformation out there by those who may be trying to dissuade people from voting, by scaring them into thinking that their vote won’t count, but that’s simply not true.
I’ve been impressed by what I’ve seen and heard here in Virginia-10 about the work of our elections officials to help things run smoothly at the early in-person locations and in the mailing of ballots. My best advice for a voter who is still concerned is to go vote early in-person sometime soon, or send in your mail-in ballot as early as they can so they don’t have to worry about it making it to the registrar on time.
Q: If re-elected, what important issues to you hope tackle in your second term?
There is lots of great work that we were able to get done in the House this term that has stalled in the Republican-held Senate. I’m hopeful that in my second term we’ll actually be able to get signed into law meaningful legislation that increases access to affordable health care, expands background checks to help combat the epidemic of gun violence, meets the challenge of climate change, invests in public education and makes college more affordable, expands voting rights, and more.
I also plan to continue being accessible to my constituents and hosting town halls and roundtables, as I’ve done many times in my first two years. Hearing from constituents is the best way for me to do my job and serve the people of our district — and many of the legislative issues that I’ve championed have come directly from constituent feedback and input about the issues that matter to our community.
Q: Why is it important that 18 year old high school students who are eligible to vote, get out and do so, especially in such a divisive political time period?
You get to have a say in our democracy and that’s the most important, powerful thing you can do right now, especially if you’re frustrated or turned off by our current political climate.
The right to vote is the bedrock of our democracy. Americans have fought and bled for the right to vote — like my late colleague Rep. John Lewis. He said that “Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part.”
No matter how you feel about our current leaders or what direction you believe our country should be going in, you have the ability to have your say with your vote. It’s not just about who becomes our next President. There are elections this year for Senate, Congress, and many mayors and town council seats as well. And because we love democracy so much here in Virginia, we have elections every year! And in 2021 there will be elections for Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General, House of Delegates, and more.
Make a plan to vote this year at iwillvote.com.
Q: You are very prominent and vocal on social media. Do the negative comments or threats ever get to you?
I try my best not to let them get to me. They’re just bullies. While I know not everyone agrees with every vote I take or every policy I support, I believe in what I’m fighting for and the work that I’m doing in Congress. Because of that, nothing that anyone says — especially not social media trolls — can bother me.
But it is clear that the divisiveness in our politics has grown to become very unhealthy and unproductive. I’ve always taken pride throughout my career in the ways that I’ve been able to work across the aisle in a bipartisan way to deliver for my constituents — Democrats, Republicans, Independents, or otherwise. We need to get back to that sense of unity and common purpose that I believe has become a little too lost in Washington.