By Maya Lora
Jennifer Lewis is counting on women making their voices heard this election cycle.
“Women are really upset and women are sick and tired,” Lewis said in a studio interview with the Rockbridge Report. “They’re ready to do something.”
Lewis is running as the Democratic candidate against Del. Ben Cline (R-24th Dist.) to represent the state’s 6th Congressional District. The seat is currently held by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), who is retiring at the end of this term.
Lewis, a mental health worker who said she has been active in the Democratic party for 11 years, has never held elected office. But she secured an endorsement from Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.). She does not have an official endorsement from Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), currently running for reelection, but Kaine’s campaign office confirmed his support for Lewis.
Lewis said part of the energy that will motivate women to get loud this year is freedom from the fear of talking about sexual assault.
Lewis has personal experience with women who decide to tell their stories. Her first job out of college was at a domestic violence safe house as a rape crisis counselor. There, she identified one major reason she thinks sexual assault goes unreported: rape kits.
“After being assaulted and raped, you then have to go through an exam, which is very invasive,” Lewis said.
Lewis used her experience to respond to the emerging national conversation on sexual assault during the confirmation process of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. She denounced the way the Senate handled Christine Blasey Ford’s sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh.
“It’s so absolutely necessary that we believe people’s stories as the first step of the investigation process,” Lewis said.
Kavanaugh was confirmed in a 50-48 vote Oct. 6.
Lewis said that there are rare cases where people lie about sexual assault. But she said that problem underscores the need for investigations.
Cline, in his interview with Rockbridge Report during the confirmation hearings, would not say whether he supported Kavanaugh’s confirmation. He said that it is the Senate’s job to confirm nominees and he would not want the Senate interfering with House duties.
A Democrat in a red district
Lewis is running in a district rated by political experts as a solid Republican seat. She has raised $72,778 with a pledge not to accept donations from political action committees, while Cline has raised several times that amount, including money from political action committees representing business interests, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.
In her mission to beat out Cline, who once served as Goodlatte’s chief-of-staff, Lewis is targeting first-time voters.
“There’s a huge segment of the population that we don’t even know how they vote,” Lewis said. “We are focusing on the people who don’t typically show up to the polls or don’t show up every year.”
To garner those voters’ attention in the future, Lewis fully supports a nonpartisan Virginia debate commission. She said it’s important for candidates to get out in front of the voters as often as possible.
“I don’t want anyone blindly voting for either party,” Lewis said.
Lewis said she also supports a third-party, nonpartisan group to oversee court-ordered redistricting in Virginia. She said the current map suppresses the vote.
“We need to make voting as easy as possible,” Lewis said.