Anthony Flaccavento, who is running for the Democratic primary seat to eventually challenge congressman Morgan Griffith of Virginia’s 9th District, held a Youth Summit Forum on March 17. The event, which took place in Squires Student Center was co-sponsored with the Greens at Virginia Tech and the Young Appalachian Patriots.
The event was conducted to present Flaccavento’s position as he begins his campaign for Congress, as well as to present insights from supporters whose positions parallel those of Flaccavento on a wide range of topics. During the event, Flaccavento answered audience questions and discussed his goals for the upcoming election.
“Whatever you do after today, we do hope that one thing you do is engage with the campaign in a sustained way,” Flaccavento said. “We are looking to register voters like crazy and hoping that people that will be gone for the primary on June 12 will maybe consider voting absentee.”
Responding to audience questions regarding financial support, Flaccavento stated that while he is not taking corporate money, he is hoping to get money from labor unions. He also discussed that his main goal right now is the primary election on June 12.
“Part of our strategy is we want the June 12 primary to be of exceptional big turnout, and that’s only going to happen if everybody in this room and every other place we go help us make that happen,” Flaccavento said. “We want to win on the basis of a lot more people voting than folks expect from a primary (election).”
To accomplish these goals, the Flaccavento campaign is focusing on the use of voter registration through mobile devices.
The event also included a panel discussion with Heather Carlsen, a public schools educator with a master’s in education, Jordan Smith, a political science and civic innovation double major at Emory and Henry College who has worked closely with Virginia Democrats, and Robert Kell, the founder of Young Appalachian Patriots.
Carlsen discussed the broader support needed by schools from the Department of Education, which is an aspect that Flaccavento supports, especially in the form of federal support toward the region of Appalachia. Additionally, she discussed the country’s limiting view of depending only on test scores.
“If I do not prepare students for the test, then they do not perform well and then our scores decrease, which puts us at risk of losing even more resources,” Carlsen said.
Her stance, along with Flaccavento’s, focuses on how the education system could be reshaped to allow for more supportive resources to flow to public schools while removing tests as the sole variable examined.
Smith discussed social and political participation needed from the general public. She emphasized the necessity for political influence to grow from the bottom up, beginning with the local government and eventually influencing the state and federal tiers.
Kell, the third panelist, addressed topics regarding the environment and environmental initiatives in southwest Virginia.
The primary election between Flaccavento and challenger Justin Santopietro is set to be held on June 12 with the general election on Nov. 6.