Democrat Jennifer Lewis of Waynesboro on Friday announced her candidacy for the seat that represents most of the Shenandoah Valley in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Lewis, 39, said her middle-class income and work in mental health enable her to know better than incumbent U.S. Rep. Ben Cline, R-Botetourt County, the needs of Virginia’s 6th District, which also includes large parts of the Roanoke Valley. This will be her second try at winning the office.
As she anticipates the vote in November 2022, Lewis declared the district’s top need to be more-affordable health care. Federally funded health care from birth, sometimes called “Medicare for all,” is the solution, she said.
Asked if the nation can afford it, she said: “I don’t see how we can afford not to, really, especially during the pandemic as we’ve seen the inequities of health care. I’m in a middle-class family, I struggle with health care costs. I put off getting things done, getting things checked out,” she said.
She has private insurance through her $40,000-a-year job at the Charlottesville-based Region Ten Community Services Board, which she has tapped to address thyroid problems but which does not pay all the bills, she said. In her job, she is a hospital liaison tasked with assisting people being discharged from state psychiatrist hospitals and sees many clients who lack good health coverage, she said.
“Our country is drowning in medical debt,” said Lewis.
An appendectomy personally cost her $20,000 about 15 years ago, she added.
This is her third run for political office. In 2018, she ran unsuccessfully for the 6th District seat vacated by Bob Goodlatte, which voters gave to Cline. She ran for the Virginia House of Delegates in 2019, but voters elected John Avoli, R-Staunton.
She raised about $500,000 during her 2018 run for federal office, when she garnered 40% of the vote, she said she expects to need a larger sum for this campaign.
According to a provided autobiography, her community service has included fighting against the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline, volunteering at a wildlife center, founding a food pantry and serving on boards including that of the Arc of Augusta in Waynesboro, which advocates for people with disabilities.
“I will take all of that passion for serving my community to DC with me,” she said.
A spokesman for Cline did not provide a requested comment by press time.