By Adam Lamberti
Voters across the nation are focused on a few key issues, such as recession fears and abortion rights, ahead of the November 8 election.
The differences on such key issues will play out in Virginia’s 6th Congressional District race between incumbent Republican Ben Cline and Democrat Jennifer Lewis.
On the economy, Cline has focused on how to bolster the agriculture industry to “provide financial certainty to farmers and our agriculture community,” according to his campaign website.
Lewis is most vocal in her support of Planned Parenthood and abortion rights following the June Supreme Court ruling that overturned the landmark case of Roe v. Wade that legalized abortions, according to her website.
Like most Democrats, Lewis also supports expanded and affordable health care. “For anybody to not have access to healthcare is completely inexcusable,” said Lewis, speaking at Tuesday’s Meet the Candidates forum in Lexington.
On the Republican side, Cline champions the Second Amendment, saying self-defense is an “intrinsic right,” according to his campaign website. At the candidates’ forum, Cline pledged his support for law enforcement. “I will always back the blue,” he said.
Neither Cline nor Lewis returned phone calls requesting an interview for this story.
Republican candidates seem to have an edge in the latest national polls, although the margins are thin. According to a recent New York Times/Siena College poll, 49 percent of voters said they would likely vote for a Republican representative compared to 45 percent who support Democratic candidates. In a Monmouth University poll, 47 percent said they prefer a Republican representative, up from 43 percent in August.
Rae Stephens, an employee at Earth, Fire & Spirit Pottery in downtown Lexington, is voting for Lewis because she can relate to her and her views.
“I think [Lewis] really understands people – she grew up on a farm and understands the political game,” Stephens said. “And the other reason is that she is a woman.”
As for issues, Stephens expressed her concerns over the economy, such as lower starting wages in the Rockbridge area.
“Whether you’re Democrat or Republican, it doesn’t matter. And that’s what this election is going to show. [The economy] affects everyone,” Stephens said.
Democrats currently hold the majority in the House of Representatives with 220 seats to 212 Republican seats. (Three of the 435 total seats are vacant.) The Cook Political Report’s latest projections have Republicans winning the majority with 218 seats.
Virginia is a good example of how people can shift views. Voters elected Republican Glenn Youngkin as governor in 2021 after years of favoring Democrats.
“I didn’t think I would see a Republican governor of Virginia for, you know, 20 years,” said Charlie Moore, a Virginia voter and senior at Washington and Lee University. “My dad has only voted for one Republican president in his life. And it was in the ’80s.”
Yet, Democrats still hold key posts in Virginia. Both U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine are Democrats, and seven of Virginia’s 11 U.S. representatives are Democrats.
According to Washington and Lee University politics Professor Robert Strong, elections have seen increased party flips in the last few years.
“Between 1960 and 1978, there were only three times that one party was able to flip the House, the Senate, the White House, or more than one of those. Mostly, elections produced continuity,” Strong said. “Between 2018, eight out of ten times there was a party flip. We’re flipping all the time.”