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Meet Kai Degner, the Man Who Stepped Up to Challenge Trump-Backing Bob Goodlatte



Democrats in Virginia’s 6th Congressional district are grateful to Kai Degner for stepping up immediately, in the face of the unfortunate news that our previous nominee Tom Howarth suddenly had to withdraw from the race for health reasons.

Degner, a well-known and respected Harrisonburg business owner, will take on the 12-term incumbent Republican Bob Goodlatte in November. A Harrisonburg city council member and former mayor, Degner is no stranger to politics.

I recently interviewed Kai; here is a summary of that conversation:

AM: What do you hope to accomplish by running against a 24-year incumbent in a district where Republicans have a 2-1 advantage over Democrats?

KD: First of all, I am in this to win it.  I am very energized and am giving the campaign 100%.

I believe that at a fundamental level, we are not listening to each other. We—Democrats, Republicans, and Independents alike—are frustrated by the dysfunction of government, frustrated by politicians who put party before country.

Between now and Election Day, my plan is to hold events up and down the district. I will bring together people who are serious about having serious conversations about how to solve problems.

I plan to reach out widely to include at these events even those who will never vote for me. I believe that we must listen to each other better and respect each other more.

In addition, I am morally obligated in this campaign to do all I can to keep Virginia from going for Donald Trump in the presidential contest. Trump’s racism and misogyny are as disqualifying as is his unpreparedness.

And, as I told Bob Goodlatte in an open letter that launched my campaign, “your explicit support for Donald Trump will, in my opinion, be a position that disqualifies your ability to represent Americans equally and without discrimination.”

AM: If you do make it to Congress, what would you most like to help make happen?

KD:  High on my list of legislative priorities is criminal justice reform. We have a moral duty to address all aspects of it.

Also, if elected, I will support middle-class families by working for livable wages, consumer protections, reasonable health care costs, and financial literacy.

I will also work to ensure safety and security by supporting measures that: strengthen police-community relations; avoid Trump’s ill-formed and dangerous foreign ‘policy;’ keep us out of wars; reduce the threat of terrorism; reduce obesity and cancer. And I will work for sensible gun laws.

My other legislative priorities include: curbing climate change; protecting those most vulnerable; protecting property rights; and strengthening the economy.

AM: Tell us about your background.

KD: I was born in Germany and spent much of my youth in Baltimore. I came to Harrisonburg in 1999 and received a Bachelor’s degree in Integrated Science and Technology and a Master’s in Business Administration, both from James Madison University.

My commitment to bringing people together for dialogue is not new. For 13 years, I have been convening community dialogues. Over those years, I have hosted more than 300 forums, panels, and debates on a range of issues with the intent to build understanding among those who disagree.

After working with the Fairfield Center as a facilitator to help businesses and other groups creatively collaborate to achieve their goals, I turned to real estate. I work with Rocktown Realty, and my focus is helping people buy and sell residential properties.

AM: How can people help your campaign?

KD: The most important thing is to believe that we can win this race. I urge people to visit my website, where you can sign up to volunteer, donate, and receive emails from the campaign.


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