Virginia Democratic congressional nominee Jack Trammell responded to questions from msnbc's Krystal Ball about his policy views and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's primary defeat. This Q&A was one of Trammell's first with the national press.
Q: So, you jumped into this race out of the blue a little over a week ago. You were nominated in a conference call Sunday night. What made you wake up and decide you wanted to run for Congress?
A: Well truthfully, I’ve been thinking about running for several years but really committed to the idea a few months ago as I watched the dysfunctional politics of Congress continue to hurt Virginians. I’m running to give Virginians a leader who will get Congress focused on the priorities that matter to our community.
Q: We know you’re a history professor at Randolph Macon College. Your opponent Dave Brat is also a professor at Randolph Macon. (I guess faculty meetings are about to get a bit awkward!) Do you know Professor Brat? What else should we know about your background and your beliefs?
A: Professor Brat is a casual friend, meaning we know each other, and talk on occasion. We might have even played a game or two of basketball together! Although we do know each other, my beliefs drastically differ from those of Professor Brat. I think it’s important for people to know that I am a very active member of my community, so I’m very connected to the issues that are important to our community.
Q: Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s loss to David Brat was obviously a stunning upset that next to no one predicted. Did you expect to face Cantor in the Fall? To what do you attribute his loss?
A: Part of me did; part of me believes in the unpredictability of politics. I believe his loss is just another indication that Virginians believe as I do that it is time for fresh ideas and new leadership in Washington.
Q: Have you spoken with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee? Will they support you?
A: Right now, I am working with my 7th District committee leaders, as well as the state party, to put as many pieces into place as possible in a reasonable amount of time. We’re focused on building our campaign and reaching out to Virginians to share our message.
Q: David Brat’s campaign against Cantor was animated by his opposition to what he calls amnesty for undocumented immigrants. Do you believe that the Dream Act, which would grant citizenship to the children of undocumented workers, or comprehensive immigration reform represent amnesty? What would you look to do on immigration?
A: I think immigration reform is a perfect example of how partisanship derails progress. We have to work together in order to enact change and move forward in the right direction.
Q: Virginia’s approach to health care reform has also made a lot of news this week with The Washington Post reporting that Republicans pressured a Democratic state senator to resign in order to prevent Democrats from moving forward with Medicaid expansion. Do you believe Virginia should accept federal government dollars to expand Medicaid to all those under 133% of the poverty line?
A: I am in favor expanding Medicaid. Here in Virginia alone, 400,000 people could benefit from doing so.
Q: What are your views on the president’s health care law more broadly? Would you change it? Repeal it?
A: The status quo wasn’t working for middle class families or our country’s bottom line. The only people who liked the status-quo were the insurance companies and the politicians they fund. The law isn’t perfect and I believe in remaining vigilant over time to monitor and improve any aspects of that law that need strengthening. We should fix what’s not working and keep what is.
Q: Sadly school shootings and gun violence have continued to dominate headlines this week. Would changing our federal gun laws help to prevent these sorts of tragedies?
A: My views on this issue are shaped by my life experience as both a teacher who would not want guns in my classroom, and as a rural resident with many friends and neighbors who are safe and responsible firearm owners. Generally, I would take my cues from law enforcement officials – but gun violence is a problem that has no easy, one size fits all solution – we need a complete approach that addresses mental health, education and a careful look at the legislation.
Q: Finally, Majority Leader Cantor was a very conservative member of Congress and was still ousted by forces even further to the right in the Republican Party. Is that hard right ideology typical of the 7th Congressional District? What does your path to victory look like?
A: It is certainly not typical, meaning that it doesn’t represent everyone’s views, by any means. In spite of the way the district was drawn, there is a wealth diversity in its demographics. As I meet new people and connect with those I already know, I’m reminded of this. There are so many issues affecting our community that cross party lines. The people of the 7th District deserve a leader who can work across those lines, stand up to the reckless dysfunction in Washington, and get results on the issues that matter to us.