The following Blue Virginia interview is with 9th CD Democratic nominee Anthony Flaccavento, who is running to replace incumbent Rep. Morgan Griffith (R). As we all know, Griffith is not just misrepresenting his district — severely harming the interests of the very people he’s supposed to be helping — he’s also an outright embarrassment to Virginia. With his outlandish comments, irresponsible rhetoric, and 24/7 shilling for whatever corporations tell him to to, Griffith is the exact opposite of what a representative is supposed to be. He badly, badly needs to go — ASAP!
With that in mind, here’s our interview with the man who hopes to replace Griffith starting in January 2013. If you want to help out, please click here. Thanks.
1. Who are you and why are you running for Congress? To put it another way, why do you think the 9th district needs a change in Congressional representation?
I’m a family farmer and a small business owner. I have a farm outside of Abingdon, where I grow organic fruit and vegetables, and I have a consulting business called SCALE, Inc. We sell our produce at the Abingdon Farmer’s Market, which I also helped to develop, to chefs at local restaurants and to colleges and supermarkets. My consulting work grows out of my time with Appalachian Sustainable Development, which is a non-profit agency I founded that creates jobs and helps expand local businesses in food, farming, forest products and other areas. The focus of my consulting is working with local communities, in both Southwest Virginia and around the nation, to help them build more diverse, locally-based economies.
I’m not a lawyer and I’ve never been in politics. My view of the world and what our government should and shouldn’t do comes from local communities, working people and ordinary folks. I think that perspective is needed in Washington, along with some fresh ideas about how to create jobs and build an economy that is good for people and the environment.
What we don’t need is two more years of someone who hasn’t introduced a single bill to create jobs in Southwest Virginia and whose vocabulary seems to consist only of the word “no.”
2. What “flavor” of Dem are you (progressive, moderate, conservadem, etc.)?
I don’t think any of these one-size-fits-all labels applies to me, though some folks have called me a “practical progressive.” I have some progressive beliefs about fairness, investing to put people back to work, about building a sustainable economy. I also have some ideas about self-help and taking care of our own needs that many would call conservative. I think more than anything, a good Congressman puts his constituents and country first and his party second. I believe in doing the most good for the greatest number of people, and that includes treating everyone fairly, regardless of race, gender, religion, sexual preference or level of wealth.
3. What are the main issues you plan to run on in this election? More broadly, what do you believe this election will be about?
I think this race will be about which candidate has the best ideas and experience for improving lives in the Ninth District, and for that matter, around the nation. For me, that comes back to the idea of “sustainability,” or how do we build an economy that enables people to meet their own needs while sustaining our environment – the land, air and water – for our kids and their kids. This isn’t easy, but it’s what I’ve been working on for the last couple of decades here in the district. More specifically, my core issues for this election include:
· Supporting the real job creators – small businesses, family farms, independent banks and the middle class – first, through investment and more sensible regulations, and secondly, by leveling the playing field: eliminating subsidies and tax breaks for Wall Street, corporations that outsource jobs, and the very wealthy.
· Diversifying local economies by promoting innovation, entrepreneurship, new manufacturing and the development of infrastructure that helps small businesses be both competitive and environmentally sustainable.
· Protecting the rights of working people, retirees, veterans, and vulnerable people, and helping everyone who can to be more independent and self-reliant.
· Getting big money out of politics so that we can have honest, reality-based public debates, and to allow ordinary people to reclaim both our economy and our politics.
4. What are your main lines of argument why Morgan Griffith should be replaced?
In 2010, Mr. Griffith ran on a platform of moving the country in a new direction. Yet he has offered no new ideas regarding the economy, or how to meet the challenges we face. Most folks you talk to say that he is not responsive to the needs of the district. He barely lives here. His policy decisions consist almost entirely of saying “no” and following the party line. He has not demonstrated the leadership, creative thinking or the understanding of the district that the people of the Ninth District deserve in their Congressman.
I also think the Congressman from the Ninth District should be someone who puts his constituents first. Mr. Griffith answers primarily to wealthy donors, both individuals and corporations, and the Tea Party. As Congressman, I will serve all residents of the Ninth District, not just those with the economic means to make campaign contributions.
Perhaps most importantly, the people of the Ninth District and the United States are no better off than they were two years ago. In fact, many are worse off, in large part due to Congress’ inability to proactively address the problems we face. Now is the time for creative solutions and new ideas to improve lives in Southwest Virginia and throughout America.
5. How you plan to win this race in an obviously “red”-leaning district?
While some people would call the Ninth District “red,” in my experience most people are simply pragmatic. They want to see things get done and problems get solved. I have some big ideas, but first and foremost, I’m a pragmatist, working with others to meet real needs and build stronger communities. Former Democratic Congressman Rick Boucher, who recently endorsed my candidacy, served the people of the Ninth District in that way for nearly 30 years before losing his seat in the Tea Party wave that swept across the country in 2010.
I’m reaching out to independent voters and moderate Republicans who are tired of the hyperpartisanship and extremism the GOP has adopted in recent years, usually including Mr. Griffith. Voters want an honest candidate who is committed to the facts and can address the issues we face. And they want someone who has lived and worked here long enough to understand not only our problems, but our unique strengths and assets.
I will provide policy plans and fresh ideas to directly improve lives in the Ninth District, and I think my message will resonate with voters.
6. Anything positive – endorsements, polling, etc. – you can report to us from the campaign trail?
Absolutely. As I mentioned above, I was recently endorsed by former Congressman Rick Boucher. I’ve known Rick and worked with him on local development projects for over 20 years, and we accomplished a lot during that time, so I’m happy to have his support. More recently, I’ve received the endorsement of Tim Kaine and many other outstanding public servants, within and beyond the Ninth District.
I also received last week the endorsement of the United Mine Workers of America. I’ve always been a strong supporter of coal and coal miners, and I’m honored they’ve decided to back my candidacy.
So we’re picking up momentum, politically and on the ground. We plan to continue to earn endorsements and expand our field activity throughout the summer, and I look forward to a good, competitive race.