I sat down with Spanberger this summer to talk about all of the issues that Republicans have used and continue to use against her.
Spanberger is facing the incumbent Dave Brat (R), for the 7th district congressional seat this November. We asked her about open borders, Nancy Pelosi, what constituents have been telling her, and more.
Check it all out below.
Why do you think the district has been shifted to a toss-up?
“I think the district has been shifted to a toss-up for a variety of reasons, among those reasons are we have people who are paying attention to who our incumbent is, what his votes are, and how he is or isn’t representing the district. People are motivated to make a change in their representation. We also have an engaged electorate in an area that has been historically seen as conservative, a lot of people who might vote middle of the road or Democratic are realizing that in fact there are a lot more people like them. As the leadership within the Republican party is taking it to a particularly conservative place, a lot of our middle of the road voters are looking at what their other options are and as we saw in the 2017 elections people came out in mass to vote for change. That is why we flipped three seats that fall within the 7th.” This is a reference to the Democrat’s in 2017 overcoming a large Republican majority in the House of Delegates in an unforeseen “Blue Wave”. Republicans held a majority of 66 to 34 prior to November 2017, and they held a slim 51-49 majority afterwards.
“In addition to that, I think overall we are running a campaign that is strong enough and big enough to be able to win the seat and that’s been noticed by a lot of the ratings agencies. It is strong in the staff that we have, in the volunteer force that we have, in the fundraising that we have been able to do. That has really made a significant impact in how people view this race because you need all of those pieces to come together.”
How do you think Republicans and Democrats can work together?
“I think it has to start with wanting to work together. I think it has to start with us talking about what our shared goals and shared values and what it is we prioritize as a community and as a country. We have to stop seeing legislation as a win or a loss and we have to start looking at what are the greater needs of the country and how can we address them. Bipartisanship shouldn’t be a dirty word, working with a Democrat or Republican shouldn’t be a negative-hit against someone. I think it starts with a cultural change.”
Spanberger says that we need to work on legislation that all citizens can benefit from regardless of their political party. One area that she believes there is common ground within the 7th district is infrastructure.
“In the 7th district, we have many counties that have broadband internet access issues. When we are looking at a place where we can agree across party lines on a problem, I think that broadband internet creates an opportunity for cooperation. For rural communities across this country from the left-leaning to right-leaning or in the middle it is an economic issue, it is an educational issue, it is a healthcare issue so I think there should be a broad consensus that this is a place where we should make forward movement.”
Republicans say that all Democrats are for open borders…
“I am not for open borders. I am a former CIA officer, I am a former federal agent, I used to work drug cases and most of the drugs on cases I worked entered this country along the southern border. When I was with the CIA, I worked terrorism and counter-narcotic cases and we put a strong focus on how people entered the country and what risks might be posed by people entering this country. I am certainly not for open borders, but I am for smart legislation and being truthful about what threats we actually are facing. That means what are the issues that we are trying to address and how can we address them completely. That means ensuring our border is secure, but how do we do that – and what are we effectively trying to stop? When we talk about the border are we talking about just the southern border or other points of entry across the country where people are arriving on airplanes. I think the conversation has become oversimplified to this place where it’s open borders or no open borders. I think it is lost, not even nuanced, but lost as far as any actual intelligent thought on how it is we can address border safety and ensure that we are keeping this country safe without making something as fundamental as the security of our country a political punching bag.”
Republicans are accusing all Democrats of wanting to abolish ICE, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency. ICE is the agency at the center of the family separation tragedy at the southern border.
“I do not support abolishing ICE” said Spanberger. However, she recognizes the concern, saying she has been horrified over what has been happening at the southern border, but she thinks the problem is the policy that the agency has been implementing.
“It seems like a natural reaction to get rid of the entity that is taking these horrific actions – it is actually a problem of policy. Under ICE, the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), they do really good work on child exploitation, human trafficking, drug trafficking, and I think that is a component that people don’t talk about. But overall, the egregious offenses that we are seeing on the television – those are policy decisions. We need people who are committed to changing the policy. There might be issues with who is working there as well, but overall, addressing what we have seen in child separation, is a policy questions I think abolishing an entire agency is reactive and won’t allow us to protective our southern border.”
What would your main priorities be when you get to D.C. if you are elected?
Abigail says that her main priorities if she were to be elected would be topics where actual forward progress can be made. “Healthcare is incredibly important to people across this district. I would like to work to stabilize our healthcare market. People are being negatively impacted by increasing premiums and copays. I would be interested in working with broadband internet, this is an area where we should be able to find bipartisan cooperation to try and bring broadband to our larger communities. As an overarching thematic priority, anywhere where we can actually have productive conversations about issues that impact people on a large-scale. My goal is going to be to work towards changing the tenor of the conversation Washington to a far more productive tone.” Spanberger said she wants to bring a more “service and duty focused version” of Representative to the Capitol.
What have you heard from constituents across the district?
Spanberger has been to over 100 meet-and-greets across the district in the past year. She said that the number one policy issues that the constituents of the district bring up is healthcare. “That is because it’s the price of prescription drugs, the price of co-pays and their premiums – it is the uncertainty of what is happening in the healthcare market.”
She also talked about constituents discussing the lack of job opportunities and public education. “Young adults graduating from high school, what job opportunities exist for them? We talk so much about college and apprenticeship programs, but how do we actually get to a place where people aren’t necessarily taking on hundreds of thousands of dollars in college debt only to graduate and not be able to find a job in their field. How do we grow apprenticeship and mentorship programs that have seen a significant decrease across the country when in fact that is what is really needed to ensure our job force is read to take on the jobs that are available.”
Spanberger’s opponent recently said that Democrats want to change Medicare “as you know it”.
“Congressman Brat is not listening on that. Healthcare is the number one concern that people raise. The single-payer bill that is currently before Congress is not one that I currently support, (Brat) says that I do, he clearly is not listening to what I talk about. I think that every american should have access to affordable quality healthcare. Apart from what I consider to be the necessity that people be able to live their lives and not fear that one health incident will put them on a pathway to bankruptcy or make them choose between putting food on the table or buying their prescription drugs. It is also fundamentally important to our larger economy and community. When more people are receiving preventative healthcare access it benefits everyone. Regardless of whether or not someone is on Medicaid, medicare, or an employer program, having people with access to healthcare coverage and preventative healthcare is beneficial to our economy.”
Spanberger says she does support strengthening our current healthcare system. “There is a couple of bills before congress that would even make just tiny tweaks to the ACA program, such as realigning when people can sign up – instead of the December 15th deadline, pushing it to April 15th so that the government administrative tasks are all aligned. There has been research that has shown that that will be beneficial.”
Spanberger told us that she also supports the public option for healthcare, along with the Medicare X bill proposed by Tim Kaine , which is “health insurance that is modeled after the Medicare program, it is built off the same framework – so the negotiated rates that Medicare uses would be the same. There are already Medicare providers in every zip code across this country.”
Spanberger said that the Medicare X health insurance would be beneficial in the sense that it would follow them wherever they go – “Estimates for this program as it is proposed, show the overall benefit would not just be to people who chose to enroll in this program, but in fact all the people nationwide who have employer provided health insurance – because it allows for hospitals to better understand there risk, it mitigates the risk pools that the larger health market is dealing with, and benefits everyone.”
Would you support Nancy Pelosi for Speaker of the House? (Brat said Pelosi 25X during the 1.5 hour culpeper debate in October)
“I would not support Nancy Pelosi for Speaker, under any circumstances.” – Abigail Spanberger
Spanberger is facing Dave Brat (R) and Joe Walton of the Libertarian Party in the November midterms. Stay with us for more coverage of this race.
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