Home 2023 Elections SD27 Democratic Candidate Ben Litchfield’s Responses to Blue Virginia’s Candidate Questionnaire

SD27 Democratic Candidate Ben Litchfield’s Responses to Blue Virginia’s Candidate Questionnaire

"We will win the seat by electrifying the Democratic base, activating low-propensity voters, and engaging younger voters."

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Last Thursday (April 27), I sent identical questionnaires to both Democratic candidates – Joel Griffin and Ben Litchfield – running in State Senate District 27 (Stafford/Spotsylvania/Fredericksburg; “purple”/slightly-“reddish”-leaning). The first one I received back was from Joel Griffin (see here); now, see below for Ben Litchfield’s response. Thanks! 

1. Please tell us a bit about yourself. Specifically, what prompted you to run for this office? Also, what in your background and/or temperament do you believe makes you the best qualified of the two Democratic primary candidates to represent the 27th State Senate district? 

Ben Litchfield: I am an attorney in private practice in Washington, D.C.  Prior to entering private practice, I worked as a Staff Attorney in the Regulations and Legislation Division of the Office of General Counsel at the National Credit Union Administration, where I wrote rules and regulations applicable to the nation’s federally insured credit unions in areas such as payday lending, mergers, and corporate operations, and advised on legislation currently before Congress.

I also served as Counsel in the Office of Supervision Policy in the Supervision, Enforcement, and Fair Lending Division of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, where I oversaw agency examinations of some of the largest financial institutions in the world in the areas of student loan, automobile finance, mortgage, and credit card account management.

While at the Bureau, I also drafted and recommended national supervision strategy in those product markets and was responsible for coordinating the agency’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the credit card market. You can read about our findings here.

I served as Chair of the Stafford County Democratic Committee from 2017 through 2021 and am the current Aquia District Representative on the Stafford County Utilities Commission.

I am the best-qualified candidate to represent the 27th District for several reasons.

First, I have experience setting national policy and drafting rules and regulations, putting me in the best position to write laws addressing the problems in our district on day one. Moreover, because the nature of our work in the federal government was nonpartisan, I have experience working with Republicans and Democrats to achieve shared goals which are necessary in a divided state government.

For example, while at the National Credit Union Administration, we had an equally divided board – one Republican and one Democrat – meaning that we needed to find bipartisan solutions to address the problems in the credit union industry. The fact that we had an equally divided board did not stop us from addressing anticompetitive merger practices, making credit more affordable for credit union members, or expanding credit union membership – all regulations that I worked on while in federal service.

Several of the leaders and organizations who have endorsed our campaign, including Delegates Candi Mundon King and Sam Rasoul and the Virginia National Organization for Women PAC, have highlighted my deep policy knowledge and my experience as a federal regulator as reasons why they support my campaign. I have spent my professional career interpreting, drafting, and implementing laws – I’m mission ready.

My experience in federal banking supervision, consumer protection, and macroeconomic policy gives me a deep understanding of how markets work, the sorts of economic pressures facing Virginia families, and how to craft economic policy to address those pressures. When families are still suffering from record-high inflation, unaffordable housing, and income inequality, the 27th deserves a Senator who understands markets to help build an economy that works for all.

Second, as SDC Chair, I won races for Democrats in a part of the Commonwealth where folks have thought we had no chance. Outspent and outmanned, the Stafford Democrats made impressive headway under my leadership in electing strong Democratic lawmakers at the state and local levels. One of the ways we achieved these victories was by actively working to unite Democrats – whether moderate or progressive – around a shared vision for our party.

Third, my involvement in key community issues. During my SDC Chair tenure, I worked with stakeholders such as Equality Stafford, Equality Virginia, Side by Side, and the ACLU of Virginia, to secure passage of the antidiscrimination policy protecting LGBTQ+ students and staff in Stafford County Public Schools even though there was a Republican-aligned School Board. I have also advocated locally for affordable housing. Recently, I have been deeply involved with a group of parents working to push back Republican efforts to dismantle Spotsylvania County Public Schools.

I believe a supporter put it best at a recent meet and greet when they said, “You’ve always been there. When I ask for your help, you always say ‘okay,’ and you are always working to find solutions rather than trying to tear us apart.” I am proud of the community support that this campaign has received from across the political spectrum, particularly among younger voters, including students at the University of Mary Washington, and I believe the broad coalition that we have built will be vital for victory in November.

Fourth, my solutions-oriented approach to politics resonates with voters. I am practical and laser-focused on solutions that work as opposed to talking points and platitudes. Voters want a candidate who will address their issues and meet them where they are. In a district where many folks are struggling to make ends meet, our kitchen table-focused campaign has resonated. I treat no issue that I talk about on the stump like I am merely checking a box.

My platform is modeled after President Joe Biden’s winning 2020 platform. President Biden carried Senate District 27 by a wide margin, and we will do the same by stressing a brand of politics that puts the needs of the community front and center.

Fifth, my background. Just as many of the folks who have endorsed my campaign have talked about my policy experience, they have also talked about my “heart,” which comes from my hardscrabble upbringing in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, a small manufacturing city that experienced significant economic disruption after its major employer, General Electric, left the area.

I was raised by a single mom in a trailer park and have experienced firsthand the economic fallout that happens when there is inadequate community investment. I am focused on motivating participation by those who do not typically vote in off-off-year elections because they feel Richmond does not represent them.

Again, I can draw a comparison to President Biden. On the stump, Biden would often talk about his hardscrabble upbringing in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and how that informed his approach to politics. My experiences growing up in a factory town in Western Massachusetts after all the factories left for cheaper labor overseas has also been a compelling talking point that shows struggling voters that I get it.

Recently, a teacher gave me the last $10 in her pocket and said, “I finally feel like there’s a candidate who hears what I am saying, and because you have been there, I know you will support me.” Another person, who typically votes Republican, is supporting me because I am “for working families.” My lived experience resonates with voters across the political spectrum.

In a district where we need Biden-Youngkin voters to win and we need to galvanize young people to vote, I think that makes me the best person to win this district. 

2. Have you always been a Democrat? If not, what’s been your journey towards the Democratic Party? Also, have you ever supported any Republicans, and if so, why?

Ben Litchfield: I am a proud Democrat and believe in the principles of the Democratic Party.

Before I could vote, I supported Massachusetts Senator John Kerry against George W. Bush and cast my first-ever ballot at 18 for Governor Deval Patrick, Attorney General Martha Coakley, and Senator Ted Kennedy. While in college, I proudly voted for President Barack Obama and celebrated his victory in front of the White House with my classmates from the George Washington University.

During the Great Recession, I experienced a lot of economic uncertainty. I went without meals several times a week and was housing insecure. For example, during my junior year, I lived on a friend’s couch because I had nowhere else to go.

I had to take a leave of absence because I could not afford to feed myself and because the university froze my transcript for not being able to afford the last few hundred dollars of my tuition, preventing me from getting a good-paying job when I needed one the most. The opioid crisis was also picking up back home, and many people that I knew became addicted, and some died. I began to see the government as indifferent and possibly antagonistic and, for a time, considered myself a Libertarian.

While attending law school, I began to unpack these feelings and realized that I (and many people like me) was sold a lie to undercut the social safety net that had for so many years kept us from destitution. I saw how the system was rigged and how conservatives use working-class resentment to push through policies that entrench their own power and make us all worse off.

It was also during this time that I started to learn more about the Civil Rights Movement, the Great Society, and the Poor People’s Campaign of 1968. I also studied Behavioral Economics and Finance, which significantly reshaped my economic thinking and showed that most of the policy proposals made by neoclassical economists are nothing more than political rhetoric masquerading as social science.

That period was one of major growth for me that has allowed me to understand, to some extent, the feelings of some conservatives, even if I do not agree with them. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren has talked about having a similar journey. In her youth, she was a Republican but is now one of the most progressive Democrats in the U.S. Senate.

I enthusiastically supported Hillary Clinton in 2016. I was particularly impressed with her financial regulatory platform, including the recognition of the systemic risk posed by the so-called “shadow” banking system. However, like some other Democrats, I voted in the Republican primary to try to block Trump because I believed, rightly, that he was an existential threat to our democracy.

I voted for Hillary Clinton in the general election and shortly thereafter joined the SDC because I felt called to get more involved in politics due to Trump’s election. I worked hard with my fellow Stafford, Fredericksburg, and Spotsylvania Democrats to elect Governor Ralph Northam in 2017, Senator Tim Kaine in 2018, and President Biden and Senator Mark Warner in 2020.

I served as Chair of the Stafford County Democratic Committee for four years bringing together moderates and progressives to fight Donald Trump and his cronies in the Commonwealth of Virginia. We flipped Stafford County blue for Senators Tim Kaine, Mark Warner, and President Biden. When I started as the Chair, there were 7 Republicans on the Board of Supervisors. Now there are 3. We did that by uniting the Democratic Party behind a cohesive message and building an all-volunteer organization of over 700 volunteers that consistently knocked doors, staffed polling locations, and supported our Democratic candidates.

3. What three issues are you most passionate about and why? Also, what specifically have you done to further those issues?

Ben Litchfield: I am passionate about building an economy that works for all of us. That means addressing the historic lack of affordable housing, which is hurting younger families and seniors, enhancing Virginia’s consumer protection laws to stop unfair, deceptive, or abusive trade practices, and supporting small and micro-businesses, particularly our minority and women-owned businesses.  

Affordable Housing

According to the United Way, 38 percent of Virginia families are experiencing financial hardship. That means that 1,249,723 Virginians had income below the “ALICE” threshold, which is a comprehensive measurement of economic health based on a “survival” budget. One of the biggest costs for Virginia families is housing. Virginia is also the center of one of the worst eviction crises in recent history, with multiple Virginia localities having the highest eviction rates in the United States.

Here in Senate District 27, we have a tremendous need for affordable housing. According to the Fredericksburg Area Association of Realtors, the “months of supply,” which is a measure of housing supply, continue to plummet while housing prices continue to rise. Meanwhile, real wages for working families remain stagnant throughout the region. What this means is that many working families are being priced out of our region and cannot afford to live here. This problem is severe for our “hometown heroes” – firefighters, sheriff deputies, and educators – who cannot afford to live here.

Growing up housing insecure, I know the kind of economic and social stability that safe, affordable housing can provide for families. Homeownership is a catalyst for wealth building, can lead to better test scores and higher rates of high school graduation for children, promotes civic and social engagement, improves physical and mental health, and stabilizes families in crisis. If we want a Commonwealth that provides opportunities for all, we need to tackle the affordable housing problem head-on, including increasing the housing supply in a way that is environmentally sustainable.

We also need to address the role that private equity and venture capital play in the housing market. Private equity firms are using cheap, government-backed loans to buy up rental properties to squeeze them for profit. Because of a historic lack of single-family residential properties, there is no meaningful alternative for renters (i.e., many cannot simply avoid paying higher rents by buying a house), which gives private equity firms significant market power and allows them to raise rents to unaffordable levels. These problems of lack of supply, alternatives, and high demand create a real problem for families.

In 2018, as SDC Chair, I convened a roundtable with local elected officials, including Delegates Carroll Foy and Elizabeth Guzman, Joshua Cole, and the executive director of our local legal aid organization to talk about affordable housing in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Legal aid presented a handful of legislative proposals that Delegates Carroll Foy and Guzman carried in the next legislative session.

One of those bills was H.B. 1898, which amended the Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act to extend the amount of time that a tenant may have an unlawful detainer (eviction notice) dismissed to two days before the writ of eviction is delivered by the Sheriff to be executed if the tenant pays all the amounts claimed in the summons to the landlord, the landlord’s attorney, or the court. This bill, which Jennifer Carroll Foy carried, and Governor Northam signed into law, allows more Virginians to stay in their homes.

Another bill, H.B. 2812, which was patroned by Delegate Guzman, would have required a landlord or managing agent to provide each tenant, on or before the date that the rental agreement is to commence, a clear and conspicuous written disclosure of the remedies afforded landlords and tenants under the Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act and provided tenants the ability to terminate a rental agreement if the landlord or managing agent failed to provide the disclosure. That bill died after significant opposition from landlords.

I have also worked with local affordable housing advocates to push Stafford County to act on affordable housing. Stafford’s comprehensive plan has included affordable housing as a “goal” for several years. For example, Policy 5.1.3 discusses the creation of an affordable housing fund, yet Stafford has yet to establish such a fund. Policy 5.2.1 similarly tasks the County with creating land-use incentives for the private development of affordable housing – this has not yet been pursued. Although our efforts locally have been rebuffed, it is an issue that I remain concerned about and have been involved with for some time.

Consumer Protection

As a consumer finance lawyer, I have seen firsthand how predatory companies take advantage of vulnerable consumers. From mortgage companies that prey upon disabled veterans with unfair, deceptive, or abusive refinance schemes to payday lenders, pawnbrokers, and vehicle title lenders that exploit the economic hardships of working families, consumers need strong protections to ensure that our economy works for everybody. Senate District 27 is littered with these companies in strip malls and old gas stations, especially as you get closer to Quantico.

As the White House’s recent actions to crack down on “junk fees” further demonstrate, bad actors strip astronomical amounts of wealth from working families through unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices including, but not limited to, charging unnecessary fees, finance charges, discrimination, and through outright fraudulent bait-and-switch schemes. These kinds of practices not only harm consumers but they hurt honest businesses that play by the rules and observe typical commercial norms of good faith and fair dealing in their encounters with their customers.

I have dedicated my professional career to protecting consumers. As a Staff Attorney at the National Credit Union Administration, I drafted regulations to make credit more affordable for working families. That rule, which is codified at 12 C.F.R. § 701.21, allows federal credit unions to make payday alternative loans that are more affordable than predatory payday loans. The rule also prohibits rollovers which are one of the most common ways for consumers to get locked in predatory debt traps leading to constant refinancing of the original payday loan.

I drafted several other regulations during my tenure at the National Credit Union Administration, including a rule to crack down on anticompetitive mergers and allow credit union members greater participation in deciding whether to merge with another credit union. I also assisted in agency efforts to advise Congress on the drafting of legislation impacting the credit union industry. I have been involved, in one way or another, in drafting or advising on significant federal legislation and regulations for much of my professional career. The work that I have done has moved markets and impacted the lives of Americans throughout the country.

As Counsel at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, I took a more active role in supervising agency examinations of some of the largest financial institutions in the market. Some of the practices that I helped stop included abusive practices regarding the sale of guaranteed asset protection (“GAP”) coverage, illegal credit card practices, deceptive representations in consumer mortgage documents, and illegal loan originator compensation practices. I was also responsible for coordinating the agency’s response in the credit card markets during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Moreover, as Aquia District representative to the Stafford County Utilities Commission, I have fought for ratepayers while ensuring the safety and soundness of the water and sewer system. For example, when I found out that Glenn Youngkin refused to release $22.6 million in Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program (“LIHWAP”) funds to help families struggling with their water and sewer bills, I worked quickly to raise public outcry and agitate for change.

Supporting Small and Micro-Businesses

Most employers in Senate District 27 are small and/or micro-businesses. Working in the federal government, I saw how those businesses suffered during the pandemic, particularly with the uneven distribution of federal relief through the paycheck protection program (“PPP”). Smaller businesses struggled to obtain PPP loans because they did not have the resources to apply for them or the existing banking relationships with the large financial institutions the government partnered with to administer PPP, meaning that many small businesses could not take advantage of federal relief efforts. Moreover, at the state level, our relief program was plagued with delays.

I am a strong supporter of small businesses and entrepreneurs and want to pass laws to make it easier to form a business but also to stay in business.   I currently serve on the Economic Vitality Committee for Fredericksburg Main Street, a group of small business leaders who are trying to ensure the continued strength of our local small businesses. In that role, I am working closely with business leaders throughout the region and across the country to establish a healthcare purchase cooperative that small business owners can buy into to purchase health insurance for themselves and their employees. The ability to offer reasonably priced health insurance will make our small businesses much more competitive. We’re also working on a business acumen series to provide free training for small business owners on important issues such as state and federal taxation and business law.

4. How would you describe yourself ideologically – “progressive,” “moderate,” “liberal,” or something else?  How does your record of votes, endorsements, and other activities reflect your political ideology? 

Ben Litchfield: I consider myself to be a practical progressive like Representative Jennifer McClellan.

I am endorsed by Democrats across the political spectrum, including Delegates Candi Mundon King and Sam Rasoul, Stafford County Supervisor Tinesha Allen, Stafford County School Board Members Elizabeth Brandon Warner, Maya Guy, and Sarah Breedin Chase, and Spotsylvania County School Board Member Nicole Cole. They support me because I am focused on solutions that move all of us forward.

I am also endorsed by the United Rural Democrats (for my commitment to rural America), Run for Something (because I am a Millennial), and the Virginia Chapter of the National Organization for Women (for my strong stances on the ERA, women’s rights, and LGBTQ+ rights). These individuals and organizations run the gamut from progressive to moderate, which demonstrates my ability to unite the entire Democratic Party behind our principles, ideas, and campaign.

We offer solutions that work for working families without concerning ourselves with whether they are “progressive,” “moderate,” “liberal,” or something else. In fact, if I’m being perfectly candid, a lot of our economic and pro-worker policies, which may be considered more “progressive” by some, are borrowed whole cloth from the Biden Administration. 

5. Are there any specific Virginia politicians you’d compare yourself to, emulate, etc? Also, are there any specific Virginia politicians you particularly find to be antithetical to your values? 

I have a profound respect for Representative Jennifer McClellan. She is a practical, solutions-focused legislator who has an impressive record in the Senate of Virginia, passing legislation under divided government. I aspire to be a lawmaker like her who can bring meaningful change to the Commonwealth regardless of who sits in the Governor’s mansion.

I am deeply concerned that our social safety net no longer works for working families. Just this week, a person reached out to me because he is having problems with the Virginia Employment Commission. It seems that VEC has refused to process his unemployment claim because they cannot verify his identity. The root cause of the problem is that VEC relies on a third-party vendor, ID.me, which has a glitchy and error-prone system that catches people in a Kafka-esque wrangle of trying to prove their own identity.

The Virginia politicians that I find particularly antithetical to my values are Governor Glenn Youngkin, Senator Amanda Chase, and local politicians Matt Strickland and Tara Durant. I deeply disagree with them about the role of government. I believe that a strong social safety net is necessary to protect people and uplift those who are struggling. Glenn Youngkin and his enablers in Richmond believe in dismantling that safety net through tax cuts for the wealthy, privatization of our public schools, and banning reproductive freedom.

6. On transportation and land use, where do you stand when it comes to encouraging “smart growth”/”transit-oriented development” vs putting money into more road and highway construction (aka, “sprawl” development)?

Ben Litchfield: I strongly support smart growth and transit-oriented development. Senate District 27 is one of the fastest growing parts of the Commonwealth of Virginia as more families move here from Northern Virginia to take advantage of our amazing community. We have seen the consequences of “sprawl” development which puts more public dollars into road expansions and highway construction and, as a result, leads to more cars on the road.

One of the core aspects of my platform is to work with FXBGO! to deploy high-frequency electric buses throughout Senate District 27, like the busing systems in Northern Virginia, so that our residents do not need to rely on cars to do their shopping in downtown Fredericksburg, Central Park, or Stafford Marketplace or to get to work locally. Ideally, we would expand VRE service and work with our Prince William County colleagues to extend metro service to Dumfries so we can also alleviate traffic on I-95.

I support working with CSX on the Long Bridge Project to double rail capacity. The Long Bridge Project will construct a new, two-track railroad bridge next to the existing Long Bridge, which will make it easier for freight and passenger rail operations, like the Virginia Railway Express and Amtrak, to move up and down the eastern corridor potentially taking more cars off the road as residents find increased transit opportunities available to them.

Furthermore, I strongly support transitioning the Fredericksburg Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (“FAMPO”) into a regional transportation authority to make the Fredericksburg region more competitive in SMART SCALE. 

7. On gun violence prevention, would you support banning assault weapons? What other measures would you support? Any that you’d oppose?

Weapons of war have no place in our communities. One of my nephew’s first experiences starting kindergarten was an active shooter drill. I remember him telling me how he was huddled under his desk, clutching his Elmo stuffed animal, hoping that he would be okay. I was horrified. These shooter drills are the direct consequence of our repeated failure to address the gun violence epidemic in this country, and I believe it is time for reasonable people to finally say enough.

I would support banning assault weapons, requiring safe storage (including private daycares), prohibiting high-capacity magazines, and banning ghost guns. I would not oppose any efforts to prevent gun violence in Virginia. Our children deserve safe schools, and our residents deserve to live in safe communities. 

8. What are your views on Glenn Youngkin’s assault on (and politicization of) our public schools, on LGBTQ students, on equity, etc? How would you combat this? 

I have led the fight against Glenn Youngkin and the Republican’s assault on our public schools and LGBTQ+ students locally. As Chair of the Stafford County Democratic Committee, I worked with Equality Stafford, Equality Virginia, Side by Side, the Human Rights Campaign, and the ACLU of Virginia to secure passage of an antidiscrimination policy protecting LGBTQ+ students and staff in Stafford County after a local student was left out on the bleachers during an active shooter drill. We passed that policy through a Republican-aligned School Board by building one of the most impressive grassroots responses to Republican bigotry in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

I was deeply involved with strategy and personally lobbied one of the Republican School Board members, who was the crucial fourth vote for the policy.

My work to protect our public schools did not end there. I have worked closely with students, parents, and educators in Spotsylvania to establish a political action committee whose sole purpose is to recruit and train talented candidates for the Spotsylvania County School Board who will fight back against Youngkin’s plan to privatize our public schools, replace them with charter schools, and assert dominion over the information that is taught to our students. Glenn Youngkin has been behind all the local efforts to ban books, destroy our local education associations, and attack teachers. I’m leading the fight against him in Senate District 27.

I was also part of an effort to galvanize the community against his disastrous History and Social Science standards revisions. My work fighting back against Glenn Youngkin and the Republicans in defense of our public schools is one of the many reasons why I have been endorsed by every Democratic School Board Member in Stafford County and Battlefield School Board Member Nicole Cole in Spotsylvania.

9. If you were in the State Senate right now, would you support Glenn Youngkin’s tax cuts that are heavily weighted towards wealthy individuals and corporations? More broadly, do you support a more progressive, fairer tax code?

Ben Litchfield: Working families cannot afford more of the same failed trickle-down Republican tax policies that have hollowed out the middle class and resulted in the worst concentration of income since the Gilded Age. I strongly oppose Glenn Youngkin’s tax cuts. I support a progressive, fairer tax code that puts money back in the hands of working people and ensures that the wealthy and corporations finally pay their fair share of taxes.  

10. What is your vision for Virginia’s energy future and combatting the climate crisis? Specifically, how would you propose to build on the Virginia Clean Economy Act and move Virginia towards a 100% clean energy economy as rapidly as possible?

Ben Litchfield: I envision Virginia as a leader in combating climate change through research and development at our amazing public universities and a center for green jobs in the United States. 

To build upon the Virginia Clean Economy Act, we need to expand shared solar facilities to ensure ratepayers who live in apartments or who lack the means to purchase their own solar energy systems can purchase their energy from renewable sources.

We also need to create more opportunities for school divisions to purchase electric buses. I do have some concerns with legislation that ties programs for electric buses with additional corporate handouts to Dominion Energy and have voiced opposition to those programs in the past, but I am a firm supporter of transitioning school bus fleets throughout the Commonwealth to electric buses as soon as possible and giving incentives for local transportation systems, like FXBGO!, to do the same.

Furthermore, as a stop-gap measure, we can impose carbon fees and dividends. A carbon fee and dividend policy create a tax on corporate polluters based on how much carbon dioxide they emit. Tax revenue from increased carbon prices would then be distributed among Virginians through tax refunds.

If we raise the price of pollution, this will create a meaningful incentive for companies to innovate. Although this does not solve the problem – by a mile – it is a stop-gap measure that will encourage more corporations to be conscious of the carbon they emit. Over three thousand economists, including 13 economics professors employed by the College of William and Mary, have voiced their support of a carbon dividend.

11. What are your views on women’s reproductive freedom, given that Republicans are assaulting those rights, that the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade, etc? What would you do as a State Senator to protect women’s rights and freedoms?

Ben Litchfield: As the next State Senator from Fredericksburg, I will defend reproductive freedom from Glenn Youngkin and the Republicans who want nothing more than to ban abortions and insert government into the private healthcare decisions of millions of Virginians.

Early in the campaign, I made the fight to pass a constitutional amendment codifying Roe and Griswold as part of our core message. As State Senator, I would like to go even further, ensuring not just freedom from the heavy hand of government in the decision about whether to start a family but also the freedom to start a family if someone chooses to do so. Currently, we are seeing an alarming spike in maternal mortality rates due to a lack of access to affordable prenatal care.

Particularly, we must address the even more alarming rise in the Black maternal mortality rate. We need to create incentives for more Black Virginians to enter the medical field by making medical training more affordable and to provide continuing education for those in the medical field to address bias and racism that contribute to the Black maternal mortality rate.    

12. Do you agree or disagree that Richmond is broken in many ways – for instance, the tremendous influence of money and lobbyists on legislation – and needs major reform? If elected to the State Senate, would your general attitude be more “go along, get along” or “shake things up?”  Please be as specific as possible in your answer. For instance, would you support campaign finance reform that sharply curtails the power of corporations, state-regulated utilities (aka, Dominion Energy) and powerful special interests?

Ben Litchfield: I am a practical reformer. If a system does not work, I believe we have an obligation to fix it. I do not believe in “go along, get along” if it means that people do not receive the services that they otherwise should receive.

I want to fix our broken campaign finance system to ensure that corporations, state-regulated utilities, and powerful special interests do not have outsized influence in Richmond.  Dominion Energy obviously has an outsized influence in Richmond but other large companies and their friends in the Chamber of Commerce use their influence to water down worker protections (including fighting the repeal of so-called Right to Work), avoid paying their fair share of taxes, and otherwise rig the economy so that it does not work for middle class Virginians.  We need to reform our broken campaign finance system to restore power to everyday voters.

I also want to repair our broken social safety net. For too many working families, Richmond does not work.  I hear horror stories of delays caused by our government agencies. Just today, a voter reached out to me because he had issues with his state taxes being withdrawn from his account twice – according to the Commonwealth, it’ll take 15 business days to resolve his problem. This is a working person who must wait 15 business days to have access to funds that rightfully should never have been taken from his account.

Talking with voters in Senate District 27, they are tired of politics as usual. They want someone to clean up Richmond. I aim to do just that.  

13. SD27 is considered to be a “purple”/competitive district in November. How do you plan to win this seat, and why do you believe you’d be more electable than your Democratic primary opponent?

Ben Litchfield: We will win the seat by electrifying the Democratic base, activating low-propensity voters, and engaging younger voters.

Our strategy centers around turnout. We know that there are more Democrats in Senate District 27 than Republicans. They have turned out in federal elections for Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, President Joe Biden, and Representative Abigail Spanberger. In federal elections, Democratic candidates win handily against Republicans in this district. We have the votes; we just need to get them to the polls.

It is a serious mistake that will cost us the Senate to focus on appealing to disaffected Republicans, especially if the nominee is Delegate Tara Durant. Republicans like Durant and will support her over any Democratic candidate. We have tried the losing strategy of appealing to so-called “moderate” Republicans before and lost spectacularly. Republicans will vote for whoever is the nominee because it means control in Richmond.

In 2016, many of us hoped that Republicans upset with Donald Trump would vote for Hillary Clinton. While some of that happened, Republicans largely rallied around Trump because it meant that they could enact their policies. They did the same thing with Glenn Youngkin and will do the same regardless of whether the nominee is Strickland or Durant. The bottom line is that we need Democrats to win this election.

The first step in our strategy is to have a message that resonates and electrifies the broadest possible coalition making up the Democratic base. I have seen too many candidates run on a platform that focuses on reasons why not to vote for the Republicans (quite a long list) but fails to articulate a positive vision for this region. There are only so many voters who are willing to show up to vote against the Republicans. They need a reason to vote for our candidate.

This is especially true if we are going to appeal to Independents who were Biden-Youngkin voters. Many of these individuals, who do not identify with either party, voted for President Biden and then voted for Glenn Youngkin because they were upset and anxious about getting their children back to school, and Youngkin appealed to them by talking about education. Now that Republicans have overstepped and are actively trying to destroy our public schools, we need to appeal to this same group of voters for whom messaging is everything.

That is why our campaign is focused on giving voters a reason to vote for us rather than against the Republicans. Central to that message is building an economy that works for everyone. Voters resonate with my platform, which focuses on practical issues that impact their daily lives, such as affordable childcare and early childhood education, supporting small businesses, protecting reproductive rights, fixing our transportation system, and defending our public schools.

We have already seen this strategy work in the primary. Voters are excited to support our campaign. We have had over 15 volunteers sign up to postcard for us just this week, we have consistently had double-digit signups to canvass each weekend, and we have gone through multiple orders of yard signs. We have knocked on over 15,000 doors. As we speak, I have volunteers from the University of Mary Washington canvassing the Fredericksburg region.

The second step is to activate voters who do not typically vote in off-year elections. That has been a big challenge for Democrats across Virginia, but here in Senate District 27, we have made great strides in reaching those voters. We do that by knocking on every door. Every week, I am met by some voter who has never been contacted because they were not on a targeted list. I am a firm believer that if we have the resources, we reach as many voters as possible.

For example, just this past week, I went out to deliver a large yard sign to a family farmer in White Oak, which is a rural part of Stafford County. They had never been contacted by a candidate before and were eager to talk to me about ways to improve their lives and make their work a little easier. At the end of the day, voters like to be asked for their vote, and with low-propensity voters, we need to ask often. That means knocking on every door.

Finally, I am a firm believer that we need to engage younger voters. Our volunteers have worked tirelessly to organize the University of Mary Washington to get those students registered to vote in the district, excited about the campaign, and to encourage the same from their friends. I have been deeply humbled by the support they have given me. University of Mary Washington students have enabled us to silently run one of the most robust field operations in the region.

I am more electable than my primary opponent because I have experience uniting the Democratic Party in opposition to the Republican Party, and I have a track record of winning tough elections here. Our campaign is building momentum each day, and we have inspired voters by giving them something to vote for rather than something to vote against. That will be especially important if the Republican nominee is Delegate Tara Durant, who Republicans like and will support.

Maintaining party unity is also of vital importance because we have an Independent candidate, Monica Gary, who will be looking for every opportunity to attract disaffected Democrats and Republicans to support her. I have already seen her signs outside the houses of Strong Democrats and Strong Republicans, respectively. We need every Democratic vote to win this election. Our campaign is the one that appeals to the broadest possible cross-section of the Democratic Party.

We have support from moderates, progressives, and centrists ranging in professions from small business owners, doctors, lawyers, educators, students, stay-at-home parents, retirees, and veterans. Our supporters represent the Democratic Party writ large, they are excited and eager to vote for us and our positive message of building an economy that works for all, and that is why we’re in the best position to defeat the Republicans in November. 

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