The University of Richmond College Democrats hosted congressional candidate Herb Jones at their first meeting of the year on Sept. 7. In his speech to the club, he shared how his horror at the Jan. 6 insurrection motivated him to run for Congress.
Jones is a Democratic candidate for Virginia’s 1st District in the midterm elections. His priorities include protecting democracy, women’s rights and the environment for a district that includes land from the Northern Neck to parts of Fredericksburg and Prince William County.
“It was surreal,” he said. “I couldn't believe [the insurrection] was actually happening in the United States. And then, on the same day, my opponent voted to overturn the election results.”
Jones is challenging the Republican incumbent, Robert Wittman, whom he accused of violating the people’s will by voting against certifying the 2020 presidential election. The race is projected to go to Wittman, according to Five Thirty Eight. Despite being an underdog, Jones believes recent redistricting will help him flip the seat, he said.
Alexis Cobbs, the president of UR College Democrats, said she was excited to have such an important guest.
“[He has]the heart and mind of a public servant, and that's exactly what we need,” she said. “He cares about students. He cares. He cares about veterans. He cares about people in Virginia and what's really important right now.”
The club is looking forward to a debate with the UR College Republicans, along with more guest speakers and volunteer opportunities, Cobbs said.
When students had a chance to introduce themselves, many spoke about their passion for politics. With a range of majors and interests, they were united by a commitment to social justice.
First-year Andi Punishill hoped that the club meetings would inspire dialogue, she said.
“I think civil discourse is really important in this club,” she said. “Hopefully, we'll put an emphasis on that.”
During the meeting, Jones spoke about how his background influenced his priorities. He draws resolve from his military service during the Iraq War, an event that he said shaped him as a leader.
“It was very sobering, to have that type of responsibility,” he said. “To be in a position of leadership, it's important that you know you have the best people.”
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Jones said he saw firsthand how soldiers were being exposed to toxic chemicals in the field. Several of the people he worked with were diagnosed with cancer, so it shocked him when his opponent voted against legislation that would have helped treat veterans exposed to toxins, he said. If elected, Jones vowed to focus on the health of those returning from combat and healthcare reform more broadly.
Years after his military service, Jones said he still worried about the fate of the country.
Jones closed the meeting on an optimistic note.
“It makes me feel good to see young folks getting involved in the political process,” he said. “Republican, Democrat or what have you. I just think it's great that you all are keeping involved.”
Contact city and state writer Kalina Kulig at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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