The Democratic challenger for the 6th Congressional District seat in the November mid-term election will be Waynesboro resident Jennifer Lewis.
The 40-year-old upstate New York native, who moved to Virginia after living in North Carolina following her graduation from college, will be on the ballot this Nov. 8 against U
Current U.S. Rep. Ben Cline, R-Lexington, is seeking a challenge for the GOP nomination from Clear Brook resident Merritt Hale, a contest that will be decided by way of a primary election on June 21.
Lewis was the only Democrat to submit the required paperwork for a candidate by this week’s deadline, thereby eliminating the need for a convention in Harrisburg on June 11 if the nomination had been contested.
Lewis is a hospital liaison with the Charlottesville-based Region 10 Community Services Board. She said her job of helping with stability planning for patients who are discharged from state psychiatric hospitals allows her to see first-hand the issues that everyday people face.
“Really, the system doesn’t work for anybody,” Lewis said. “So many things impact our day-to-day lives. The laws are written and legislated in such a way by people who might not have any idea of what that piece of legislation is going to do long term and ripple through the community once its passed.”
Labeling her campaign as the “campaign for justice,” Lewis said she is looking to focus on issues that include environmental justice, workers’ rights justice and criminal justice.
That means finding sustainable renewable energy sources to combat the problems of climate change; supporting an increased minimum wage and universal health care to give workers more freedom in their lives; and addressing mental health and substance abuse issues, she said.
“You might not agree with all of my policies and all of the things I believe in, but the kitchen table issues are what impact your life the most,” Lewis said.
The campaign draws part of its inspiration from the realization that grew among some people during the COVID-19 pandemic that life doesn’t have to follow the work-focused approach it always has, Lewis said.
“When you work so much, it’s hard to let your brain dream about what if I did get to open my own business and what would that look like,” Lewis said. “We really need a real change in this country to get back to family, life and making memories. That’s what’s important.”
Lewis cited better social structures that allow for affordable housing and other kinds of programs as one way of addressing inflation. Reducing dependence on fossil fuels can offset surging gas prices, she said.
Lewis is a supporter of abortion rights.
Lewis is also focused on finding sustainable and renewable energy sources through solar panels or wind turbines while still maintaining the rights of private property owners to do with their land as they please.
“We really need to be thoughtful about protecting our open spaces, whether that’s meadows and field and farmlands,” Lewis said. “And figuring out ways that we can…provide an income for folks who own that land, and then they won’t feel so squeezed to possibly sell it to a developer.”
Lewis favors efforts to equip the Ukranian military with U.S. weaponry and supports recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for managing the still-prevalent COVID-19 pandemic.
Lewis ran against Cline in 2018, winning about 40% of the vote compared to his 60%, and lost a 2019 race for the House of Delegates 20th District seat, representing the Waynesboro area.
The experience of running for Congress in 2018 should lessen the time needed to introduce herself to the 6th District, and the number of votes she received, in a heavily conservative area, was an accomplishment, she said.
“I hope people see that yes I am running as a Democrat,” Lewis said. “But once I’m elected, I’m going to be more like an independent because I’m representing Democrats, Republicans and independents of the 6th District.”
Lewis said Cline is a hypocrite for claiming to support veterans, but then voting against the Supplemental Nutrition Act Program, which some veterans use.
Cline has also voted against the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act and a recent measure to provide funding for the Food and Drug Administration to help with the baby formula shortage, Lewis said.
She made no criticisms of Hale, the other GOP candidate in the 6th District.
An attempt to reach Cline’s campaign manager for a response was unsuccessful.
The U.S. House of Representatives currently has a 221- 208 Democratic majority with six vacant seats. The two parties have a 50-50 split in the U.S. Senate with Vice President Kamala Harris holding the tiebreaking vote.
Recent mid-term elections have often resulted in changes in majority power in one or both legislative bodies.
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