Democratic candidate for Virginia’s 9th Congressional District Anthony Flaccavento held his 93rd town hall in New Classroom Building at Virginia Tech. The town hall was hosted by the Virginia Tech Young Democrats and was well attended by students and Blacksburg community members.
After defeating Justin Santopietro in the Democratic primary in June, Flaccavento will challenge U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith in November.
Payne Tarkenton, a senior at Virginia Tech and the president of Virginia Tech Young Democrats, introduced Flaccavento.
“(Anthony Flaccavento) is a man who has lived in this district for many, many years. He is a farmer and a small business owner. He understands what it takes to really build up an economy and a society that works for working people rather than just the large corporations,” Tarkenton said. “He’s a man that has wonderful ideas and I’m glad to be able to vote for him in November. Ladies and gentlemen, Anthony Flaccavento.”
Flaccavento was then invited up to give a brief introduction about himself and his policy positions before opening the floor to questions from the community. The main issues discussed were the issues most relevant to southwest Virginia: coal jobs, the Mountain Valley Pipeline and gun policy.
In his opening statement, Flaccavento emphasized the changing job landscape of the coal counties of southwest Virginia. In particular, he told the story of St. Paul, Virginia, a small town with a population of less than 1,000 people, and how it has replaced coal jobs with tourism: outdoor activities, a farmers market, a brewery and a boutique hotel with a farm-to-table restaurant. Flaccavento believes that this kind of rebranding will save many towns.
“(St. Paul) is a little town of 975 people that most folks had given up for dead. Now it’s reinvented itself. That kind of thing in different ways is happening in lots of parts of the 9th District,” Flaccavento said. “When we’re up on this end of the district, we sort of assume that every part of the coal counties is just dying and that there’s not hope. It isn’t true. Things are happening.”
Despite his desires to increase job opportunities in the coal counties, Flaccavento does not believe building the Mountain Valley Pipeline will provide a sustainable alternative to employment. Instead he suggests investing in alternative infrastructure such as broadband, RAM, high-speed rail or a new grid to accommodate renewables.
“It is an opportunity for jobs for some but it’s not, to me, a net gain, so I oppose the Mountain Valley Pipeline. I’ve been against it from the beginning and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline,” Flaccavento said. “It’s harmful to the landscape, it’s harmful to the water resources, and the people on the ground whose land is being transected by the pipelines, very few of them want it.”
During the town hall, Flaccavento touched on gun policy as well and expressed a desire to eliminate the prohibition on using public money to study the causes of gun violence that has been in place since 1996. He believes that this will help the United States figure out why it has more gun violence than other countries and how this violence can be avoided. He also stated that despite his opponent and the incumbent, Morgan Griffith, being rated A+ by the NRA, he has no desire to follow in Griffith’s footsteps.
“I don’t regret not taking donations from the NRA,” Flaccavento said. “I am a gun owner. I believe in the Second Amendment, but what I don’t believe is that the Second Amendment should keep us from doing sensible gun control.”
Flaccavento also shared his comments about Judge Brett Kavanaugh, who was recently voted into the United States Supreme Court.
“Before any of those allegations surfaced, for what it’s worth, I was totally against Brett Kavanaugh for the simple reason that his whole history of his judicial opinions are all about favoring the powerful,” Flaccavento said.
Flaccavento emphasized that this event marked his 93rd town hall while the incumbent Morgan Griffith has yet to host one.
“Tonight is our 93rd town hall meeting. For you math majors, that’s 93 more than my opponent has done. We’ve done them in every one of our 22 counties,” Flaccavento said. “It’s a great way for you all to get to know one of the candidates, which is hard to do in this day when so much of the information is confined to a virtual medium or TV. So, I think it’s been useful for the 5,500 or 6,000 people who have collectively come to one of the town halls. It’s certainly been very valuable for me.”
The election is on Tuesday, Nov. 6. Go to https://www.vote.org/polling-place-locator/ to find where you can vote.
Editor's Note: A previous version of this article mistakenly stated that the election was on Nov. 7, when in fact the election is on Nov. 6.