Lexington Republican and incumbent U.S. Rep. Ben Cline is up for reelection this year and will be facing two challengers — a Lexington Democrat, Nicholas Betts, and a Roanoke independent, Aaron Luciani.
The race for the 6th District, which includes Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, is one of many on the ballot for November’s election.
At 30, Betts is a first time congressional candidate who has always been interested in public service, he said.
Betts is a law clerk preparing to take the bar exam, and he has worked in construction, landscaping and as a teaching assistant. Originally from Montgomery County in Maryland, Betts moved to Virginia in 2008. He is a graduate of both Virginia Commonwealth University and Washington and Lee School of Law.
“These are tough times for a lot of folks, and I am focused on programs that help people educate themselves, create jobs, and make health care more affordable so that people have more expendable income,” Betts said.
He said the more money residents have to spend, the better it is for businesses big and small.
“I would say I think my policies are helpful to everyday hardworking people, as well as businesses,” Betts said.
He also said other priorities included expanding educational opportunities, broadband service and green sector energy and jobs, in addition to health care reform. He said the COVID-19 pandemic showed the weak points of the health system’s status quo.
“I realize this is a conservative district, but I think there a lot of people who are upset with the way things are going, whether it’s the rising cost of health care, the rising cost of education or the lack of well-paying jobs,” Betts said.
Previously, Betts sought the Democratic nomination for the 24th House of Delegates District in the 2018 special election primary, but lost to Christian Worth. Worth lost to Ronnie Campbell, R-Bath, in the December 2018 special election.
Luciani, who is also 30, runs an IT business in the Star City, and is running as an independent.
“Really, what’s drawn me to politics is that many Americans are asking for change and we’re not really seeing that with our existing two-party system,” Luciani said. “As a lifelong Republican, I see flaws within our own party and flaws on the other side.”
He said he knows voters and friends who have aligned themselves with a party even when they only agree with about half of the party’s platforms.
“I think right now is the time for patriots and Americans to fight for a cause and not specifically for a party,” Luciani said.
Lowering taxes on businesses could rebuild the middle class and improve the economic situation for working families if there was a stipulation where the savings on taxes would have to be redirected to worker pay, according to Luciani.
“I believe we’d have much better paid employees and more money driving into the economy,” he said of the reform.
Luciani said he was in favor of reforming the immigration system by making legal immigration more accessible to try to drive down illegal immigration rates. He is also against abortion rights, adding that the U.S. Supreme Court had made a “mistake” in the Roe v. Wade ruling. Enacting term limits on elected officials is also one of the tenets of Luciani’s campaign, he said.
“We’re seeing really no progress and that’s really disheartening because that’s not what our Founding Fathers had in mind when our democracy was created,” Luciani said.
First-term incumbent Cline said he stands on his and his office’s record of constituent services, such as assisting 6th District residents with receiving veteran and government benefits as well as COVID-19 aid.
“I want to help defeat the coronavirus by helping our drug companies find and produce a vaccine and return our economy to the strong levels that it was showing earlier this year,” Cline said.
He said he would also keep working on priorities before the COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn hit, such as improving Interstate 81, which he called the “economic backbone” of the district, expanding business and employment opportunities in the district, and shifting power away from the federal government.
“To the degree that the federal government can return more power to local decision-making and states and private sector and individual families, that is definitely something I will continue to advocate for,” Cline said.
Between Jan. 1, 2019, and June 30, Cline raised $581,143.76, while Betts raised $10,981.50 between March 5 and June 30, according to campaign finance data from the Federal Election Commission. There was no campaign finance data available for the Luciani campaign on the FEC website Thursday.
Virginia’s 6th Congressional District runs from Warren County to Roanoke and is considered a “Solid Republican” district in the 2020 election by the Cook Political Report.
In other district news, the 6th District GOP Committee elected a new chair, John Massoud, at a convention last week, replacing incumbent Jennifer Brown.
Massoud is a Strasburg city councilman, the former vice chair of the Shenandoah County Republican Committee and Virginia’s 6th District GOP Committee, as well as the outgoing chair of the Strasburg GOP and former leader of the Shenandoah County Tea Party.