This is the third in a series of conversations with the 2020 Fifth district congressional candidates. Each week, the Rappahannock News will give Republican Bob Good and Democrat Cameron Webb an opportunity to present their views on a single issue. In a continuation of Part III from last week, Webb and Good share their approaches to the concerns of rural voters. Webb accepted our offer for a phone interview. Good did not accept our offer for an interview but sent a written response to questions. Part one, Part two.
On Renewable Energy & Energy Jobs
Webb: Clean and renewable energy is absolutely key to creating the jobs of the future. On the front end, we have to make sure we’re training the workforce to make our district attractive for clean and renewable energy producers to come to the Fifth. And that’s a conversation I’ve had with five out of the six community college presidents here in the Fifth congressional district. We can design our workforce training and educational opportunities to make sure we have the workforce necessary to be a true hub in this space. To do so, we will lean on existing infrastructure, understanding where we can build upon it and what further support we need to grow in the renewable energy industry.
Good: I believe it is sound fiscal and domestic policy to attract any legal business to the Fifth District, including those who research, develop, and/or provide renewable energy. As a supervisor on the Campbell County Board of Supervisors, I supported solar farms in the county and if a county/group of counties feel the renewable energy industry is good for their population, I fully support their right to incentivize companies to locate there.
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On Regulations & Farming
Webb: I was actually at a dairy farm yesterday and ensuring our farms are successful in today’s economy has been on my mind ever since. We certainly have a shared objective of making sure that our farms are successful, especially our smaller family farms. Here in the Fifth congressional district 90 percent of our farms bring in less than $50,000 annually so they’re not operating on huge margins in the first place, which is why we need to work with them when considering environmental standards and regulations. It’s so important to engage with people directly and understand what’s going to be possible in [their] business, in [their] work, so we are working together to meet those compelling environmental goals without undermining small, family farms. So to me it starts with really spending time with our farmers, with agribusiness more broadly, and saying, ‘Here’s the slate of environmental goals, here are the changes that would need to be made in our farms.’ We also need to utilize subsidies appropriately as we’re asking all of our businesses to move in the direction of being safer and more environmentally conscious.
Good: Yes, no matter what side of the aisle you are on, we can all agree that we want clean air and water. I believe we should all be environmentally conscious and take reasonable steps to reduce undue stress and impact on our environment. However, this responsibility should not come at the cost of our economy and quality of life. The continued beautiful rural nature of Rappahannock County is a perfect example of how property owners are the best managers of our natural resources, whether those resources be water, livestock, or crops. I firmly believe that farmers should not be forced to spend their hard-earned dollars on fencing or other methods to control their livestock, especially with the vast amount of technology we have today to ensure our nation's water is clean.
On Foreign Trade & Farming
Webb: Farmers are telling me [Trump’s] approach to trade with China has not been in their best interest. Farmers are very unequivocal about the fact that these tariffs have been tough for business. We need to hold China accountable and exert some pressure on them, but it is important that we do it through multilateral engagement rather than just ‘tit for tat’ the United States going up against China, because it’s hurting our farmers [and] it’s hurting our district. Now that said, on the flip side when you talk about trade, we’ve also made a lot of progress. USMCA has been exciting to farmers in this district. I think that’s a great example of bipartisanship. This is where I say to everybody who argues that it’s a fantastical dream to think we can work together: look at the USMCA. Look how we were able to come together to create a better trade agreement than we had in NAFTA to open dairy markets in Canada to farmers, including those here in VA-05. That’s an exciting reality. These are all things that are possible when Democrats and Republicans work together. It doesn’t mean that Republicans are completely happy with the USMCA or Democrats are completely happy with it -- and that’s what makes it good. Both sides are able to work together to get something done.
Good: Free, fair, and open trade is crucial to our nation's economy and even our national security. Tariffs, such as those found in the President's foreign policy with China, eliminate the lopsided advantage China had over American businesses and remain an effective statecraft tool.
On the Second Amendment
Webb: I am a strong supporter of our Constitution, including the Second Amendment. Gun policy is about upholding our Constitution: life, liberty & pursuit of happiness. We must achieve all three through sensible gun policy. To start, I don't believe any law abiding gun owner should have to worry about their rights. The best way to protect that is to keep guns out of the hands of those who would harm themselves or others. As a doctor, I believe in data-based decision making and that extends to gun policy. So I support common sense protections like keeping firearms out of the hands of domestic abusers, stronger reporting requirements on lost or stolen firearms, and instituting violent history checks. These policies will greatly reduce the tragic and avoidable deaths from guns without at all undermining the rights of law-abiding gun owners.
Good: I will stand strong to protect our Second Amendment rights to defend ourselves. If Biden and Harris were to win, Beto O’Rourke would be in charge of gun policy in D.C. My opponent wants … to further strip our Second Amendment rights. I believe in and support the Second Amendment rights recognized in the Constitution, and do not support any restrictions on law-abiding citizens to exercise those rights. I fully respect our Founder's recognition that the right to keep and bear arms must not be infringed upon, as a check against government tyranny and to ensure we remain a free people.
On the Federal Deficit
Webb: We need to bring down our federal deficit. It will require some tough conversations in the months and years to come, but I’m a big proponent of having a thoughtful discussion around our budget federally.
In terms of specific cuts, places that I look to start are things like the tax bill of 2017, which added nearly $2 trillion to our deficit without positively impacting rural communities or middle-income families or working families; it’s benefits mainly helped corporations and wealthier Americans. So I think we can get those tax dollars back and make sure that we’re using those to serve those very communities to give folks opportunities to succeed. We also spend $750 billion on our defense budget. I am completely committed to ensuring America’s safety, so I will never support funding cuts that jeopardize our safety, but we should look at increasing efficiency in our military spending, like by prioritizing diplomacy and more modern military strategies that can also help cut costs. Overall, we need to look at our country’s financial plans and make sure that our long term goal is to bring down the federal deficit while also looking out for America’s families and workers -- not just the corporate welfare but the welfare of all Americans.
Good: I support a balanced budget amendment and providing the President with line-item veto power. I will not vote for compromise spending bills that do not address the deficit & our national debt. I will not vote to raise the debt ceiling, unless done so temporarily with accompanying reductions in spending to ensure future fiscal survival. I am not afraid of government shutdowns that curtail "non essential" employees & operations. I will vote to eliminate or reduce all unconstitutional spending.