Virginia’s two candidates for U.S. Senate, and the six candidates vying to represent parts of Prince William County in the U.S. House, appear most deeply divided about the Affordable Care Act and whether women should retain the right to have an abortion.
But despite those disagreements, all say migrant families should not be separated at the border, and most see possible legislative fixes for climate change and gun violence – even if they disagree on which policies will help.
In an effort to break through partisan stereotypes, the Prince William Times sent five-question surveys to all four incumbents and their challengers on the ballot in the upcoming Nov. 6 midterm election in hopes of revealing both differences and areas of agreement.
We received responses from all but Rep. Barbara Comstock, the Republican incumbent in the 10th District race.
What about health care?
National polls suggest health care is top-of-mind for voters, and the candidates are divided along party lines about what to do about the Affordable Care Act, parts of which were scaled back by the federal tax-reform law approved last year.
There’s no longer a tax penalty for not having health-care insurance, sometimes called the “individual mandate,” and federal subsidies to insurance companies have been scaled back since the law first took effect.
Democratic candidates say the changes have amounted to undermining the health-care law. They are calling for the ACA to be restored and improved by adding a public option, such as Medicare, to the health-care insurance exchange so people under the age of 65 can buy into the federal health-care insurance program as the elderly do.
“I … believe we should do more to expand access and improve quality, which is why I've proposed a plan called Medicare-X, which would allow all Virginians to have access to a plan similar to Medicare,” Kaine said.
Williams said the law should include an expanded Medicare option that would include both vision and dental coverage.
Kaines’ Republican challenger, Prince William Board of Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart, said he favors a return to a time when government played a smaller role in health care.
“I strongly favor health savings accounts, as well as the restoration of short-term and low-cost ‘no-frills’ plans,” Stewart said. “We should allow insurance plans to be sold across state lines (more competition is healthy). Ultimately, we need a free-market, consumer-driven health care system that puts the needs of patients first.”
Wittman, the five-term Republican incumbent in the 1st District, who is defending his seat against Williams, voted against the Affordable Care Act more than 50 times in recent years. But he says he favors reforms that would preserve coverage for pre-existing conditions.
Wittman voted in favor of the House replacement for the ACA in May 2017, which critics said would have made health insurance more expensive for those with pre-existing conditions. The measure failed in the Senate.
“We need a healthcare system that empowers individuals and families to make decisions for themselves based on what best fits their needs and budget,” Wittman said. “I support a path forward for repealing and replacing the ACA with patient-provider centered reforms that expand choices for consumers, increase access to care and reduce healthcare costs, all while preserving coverage for folks with pre-existing conditions.”
“I would personally like to see is a less bloated piece of legislation like the ACA was with lobbyists and special interests being served,” Dove said.
Meanwhile, Connolly said ACA has made great progress in bring down the number of Americans who lack health-care insurance. He called on both parties to work together to improve the law to "bring down healthcare costs for our families."
On immigration, all eight candidates said they oppose the Trump Administration’s temporary move last spring to separate migrant children from their parents as they were prosecuted for illegally crossing the border under the president’s “zero tolerance policy.” Most also described the nation’s immigration laws as “broken.”
Earlier this year, Kaine backed a bill to provide $25 billion for border security while providing a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants without a criminal records. He said he would continue to “fight for comprehensive immigration reform that secures our border and treats immigrants humanely and fairly.”
Stewart’s campaign spokesman Nathan Brinkman, meanwhile, said Stewart supports the presidents’ zero-tolerance policy on border-crossers but also agrees with the administration’s move to stop separating families.
“Nobody wants to see families divided,” Stewart said. “We must discourage illegal migration to begin with – that’s why I favor building a real border wall and enforcing our nation's immigration laws.”
Reach Jill Palermo at firstname.lastname@example.org