By Ian Munro, contributor
As Republican Ben Cline heads into Election Night as the favorite to succeed U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte in the 6th District, Cline is going on offense with an ad criticizing Democratic opponent Jennifer Lewis’s position on health care.
The spot, called “Priorities,” says Lewis supports a plan that could lead to “eliminating employer-based coverage” thus “putting Washington bureaucrats in charge of our healthcare.”
Lewis has embraced expanding Medicare, the government health care program that covers retirees, to replace the current health care payment system, in which some people have private insurance though employers, while others rely on government programs Medicare and Medicaid to cover health costs. Still others whose jobs don’t come with health benefits have to purchase private insurance on the market themselves.
Lewis has referred to this plan, pushed in Congress by progressives such as Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, as “Medicare for all.”
Cline’s ad, narrated by a female announcer, claims the plan “would double the income tax on families like ours” and hits on the theme that Lewis trusts Washington. The spot also uses images of Sanders and Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi—frequent targets of Republican candidates during this election cycle.
The ad cites a CNN story from Sept. 13, 2017—the day Sanders introduced the Medicare for All Act in a press conference. And it refers to a July 30, 2018, Associated Press article that reported the Medicare for All plan would cost $32.6 billion over 10 years.
Lewis has faced questions about the cost. In a town-hall style event at JMU on Oct. 10, a student asked Lewis how she proposed to pay for expanding Medicare.
“Closing the corporate loopholes, ending corporate welfare, like the bailouts, and repealing those tax cuts … that went to the ultra-wealthy,” Lewis said in response.
Cline and Lewis are running to replace Republican U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte of Roanoke, who is retiring after being in Congress since 1993. Race-trackers and analysts have placed the 6th District, which runs from Strasburg to down to Roanoke, in the “solid Republican” category, according to Ballotpedia.org. But facing a tough ad in a district that already favored Republicans because of its historic voting record hasn’t deterred Lewis.
Josh Stanfield, Lewis’s campaign manager, said he sees it as a sign that Cline’s internal polling has Lewis trailing closer than Republicans would find comfortable. Stanfield also pointed to the timing of Cline’s $27,000 polling expenditure made public in recent Federal Election Commission report.
The Cline campaign and the Republican Party of Virginia over the last week didn’t return multiple phone calls and emails requesting an interview about the race.
Overall, Cline has raised more than $725,000 through September from more than 900 donors, according to Cline’s report with the Federal Election Commission.
Lewis’s FEC report shows she raised more than $330,000 from 854 sources in that span.
Heading into the home stretch, Cline still had more than $235,000 in his campaign war chest compared to more than $90,000 left in Lewis’ war chest.
Lewis’ campaign also is refusing helps from corporate donors and energy companies, such as Dominion and ApCo. Lewis opposes the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines.
The Atlantic Coast pipeline is a proposed pipeline that runs between central West Virginia through Highland, Augusta, and Nelson counties down to southern North Carolina. It is a joint project between Dominion and several other large energy companies. The Mountain Valley Pipeline is another proposed pipeline that would run also through central West Virginia to
Dominion donated $2,500 while Chevron Employees Political Action Committee from California gave Cline $1,000.
The House Freedom Fund, a group of some of the most conservative U.S. House Republicans, has given Cline’s campaign $30,771. The House Freedom Fund supports the tea-party faction of the Republican wing such as Mark Meadows (R-NC), Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Dave Brat (R-VA). Jordan’s congressional campaign also donated $2,000 to the Cline campaign.
One of Lewis’s most prominent donors was Bobby Goodlatte, the son of the incumbent. The younger Goodlatte made good on his Twitter announcement this summer supporting Lewis by donating $2,700 to her campaign.
Lewis also has received funds from Democratic political groups, such as former congressman and gubernatorial candidateTom Perriello’s leadership political action committee New Virginia Way and U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine’s Common Ground PAC
Another aspect of Lewis’ campaign approach is to not accept money even from groups who endorse her, such as labor union AFL-CIO and environmental group Sierra Club.
Conversely, Cline has received money from various nationwide groups such as the National Rifle Association and the Family Research Council.
Other local industry PACs that have donated to the Cline campaign include poultry and car sales.