In Virginia’s 6th Congressional district, Democrat Tom Howarth is taking on 24-year Republican incumbent Bob Goodlatte.
Howarth, a federal government retiree who lives near Front Royal, understands that he faces an uphill fight in a district where Republicans outnumber Democrats 2-1.
Having worked with Tom last year during my own run for the Virginia Senate, 26th district, I was excited to learn that he is now a candidate for Congress. Tom chairs the Warren County Democratic Committee and describes himself as a life-long advocate for those who struggle in American society.
In order to introduce Tom and his campaign to Democrats all over Virginia, I interviewed him recently for Blue Virginia. Here is that interview:
AM: What do you hope to accomplish by challenging a 12-term Republican incumbent in a 70% Republican district?
TH: We Democrats have an important message, and we must get it out there to the voters. We believe compromise is not a bad word; in fact, compromise is essential if we are to get anything done.
And this year, with Donald Trump about to become the Republicans’ nominee for President, my campaign is an effort to help ensure his defeat. After all, someday our grandchildren might ask us, “What were you doing when Donald Trump ran for President?”
I will be able to say that I stepped up to challenge Goodlatte, who endorses Trump. I will work to show the voters that, in supporting Trump, Goodlatte is not representing the voters’ best interests.
As it stands now, the only pressure on Goodlatte is from his right, as he is being challenged for the Republican nomination by a far-right-wing candidate. I hope he will feel pressured by my candidacy to move toward bipartisan solutions.
And whether I win or lose, I believe that over time our message will begin to capture more conservative voters, who will come to see the Democrats as the ones working for real solutions.
AM: If you do win the election, what would you most like to help make happen?
TH: One of my top priorities is to raise the minimum wage. So many hard-working people simply cannot make enough to support themselves and their families.
A full restoration of the Voting Rights Act is also very important to me. With the Republican rollback of key features of the Act, voting by many groups has been suppressed. This has to change.
If elected to Congress, I will work for a comprehensive and compassionate immigration policy. We need a path to citizenship, not deportation of millions of people.
I would also work to make college affordable, so that our young people are not saddled with debt. I want to get big money out of politics, and I would work to combat climate change.
AM: What is your strategy for this race?
TH: I am fully in the race. I am rallying Democrats all over the district, especially in the urban areas. And I will reach out particularly to women. Trump is so misogynistic, I believe that women, even those who typically vote Republican, will say, no, not this year. I believe they will turn to the Democrats, as the ones who really work to solve our problems.
AM: How can people help your campaign?
TH: I am asking people to help get my message out. There are many ways to do this. I am looking for volunteers to help with a variety of tasks, including social media and driving. Specifically, I am looking for someone to drive and to accompany me to campaign events around this very large district.
People can also help by inviting me to speak at meetings of organizations of which they are a member. And hosting fundraisers and meet-and-greet gatherings are extremely valuable ways to help.
And, of course, my campaign needs money. You can donate to my campaign online or sign up to volunteer by visiting my website.
Checks can be sent to: Howarth for Congress, P.O. Box 1649, Front Royal, VA 22630
I asked Tom about his background. A native of Providence, Rhode Island, he and his wife Rea have owned property in Warren County since 2004 and have lived there full-time since 2014.
Tom was the first in his family to attend college, and he has been active in politics since 1970. He served as a legislative representative for the American Federal, State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). He worked in the U.S. Department of Commerce and served as legislative assistant to Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ).
After the deaths of six Jesuits priests in El Salvador in 1989, Tom became active in human rights work and made his first of 21 trips to El Salvador in 1991. After surviving cancer in 2001, Tom devoted the rest of his working life to the poor, working at Jubilee Housing, a Washington, DC ministry of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour, providing affordable housing for low-income families.
In 2005, Tom became director of the Father McKenna Center at Saint Aloysius Church in Washington, DC, serving homeless men with addictions and mental illness, as well as families in need of food, rent, and utility assistance. Tom retired in 2014.
Tom is married and has two daughters and three grandchildren.