Leslie Cockburn


Why are you running?

There has never been a more critical time to stand up and fight for good government. I am deeply worried about the hatred and division coming from Washington. The 5th district of Virginia needs someone in Congress with proven experience in holding Washington’s feet to the fire. I was an investigative journalist for 35 years, exposing corruption in Washington and on Wall Street, and I have covered six wars. I’ve lived on a farm in Rappahannock County for the last 19 years and was on the board of the Piedmont Environmental Council for 10 where I fought to protect our our air, water and soil. I am the right candidate for the 5th district because of the skills and knowledge developed over my career both here and abroad. A journalist knows how to identify problems and solutions, how to find and expose corruption and how to get to the root cause of a problem. I never imagined myself running for office, but I feel an obligation to serve my neighbors in these most difficult of times.

How well do you think Congressman Garrett has represented the 5th district during his term so far?

I have put 40,000 miles on my car going to every corner of this district and the number one message I hear about Garrett is that he does not listen and that he does not care. I have spoken to many conservative groups that he refuses to meet with. I have not found one person in this district who thinks that he has an open door or an open ear. Not only will he not hold real town halls, but he is also inaccessible to constituents who want to meet with him. I view this as a dereliction of duty for any public servant and find it completely unacceptable. The people of the fifth district have a right to have their voices heard in Washington.

Millenials make up roughly one third of the voting age population. In what way(s) can your policy proposals help millennials?

I support two years of free community college, a $15 an hour minimum wage, and medicare for all. These policies are not just popular with millennials, but they also address three of the biggest challenges millennials face: college affordability, making ends meet with entry-level jobs, and having access to healthcare while they may be struggling to find better jobs. Millennials are full of great ideas to move our economy forward, but these challenges get in the way of entrepreneurship and innovation. Let’s change that.

The University of Virginia has been the epicenter of a debate over the limits of hate speech. To what extent should hate speech be regulated, especially on college campuses like UVA’s?

As a journalist, I know the power of words and the importance of free speech. Our Constitution guarantees certain rights, but the Supreme Court has ruled time and time again that our Constitutional rights do not allow us to infringe on the rights of others and can be regulated. Hate speech threatens the safety of a community and does not have a place in an educational environment. Universities should be allowed to ban or limit hate speech, so that every student can learn without fear.

Strategy-wise, do you think Democrats should focus more on turning-out existing Democratic voters, persuading Independent and Republican voters, or do both equally?

Here in Virginia we have seen firsthand that Democrats win when turnout is high. Democratic turnout in the 5th has been low in every Congressional election since Tom Perriello lost this seat in 2010, while Republican turnout has been more consistent. We need to make sure that every Democrat goes out and votes, especially millennials. We also need to be registering new voters who may have only realized in the last year that voting indeed makes a huge difference.

Many of the candidates running for this seat share similar policy positions. However, you may prioritize these issues differently. What is your top policy priority if elected?

Healthcare is clearly the number one issue in the district. Protecting the ACA and working towards universal coverage through Medicare for all will be my top priority.

Jobs and the economy are consistently top priorities for voters. How do you intend to use your position in congress to grow jobs and pay, specifically in the 5th District?

One of the fastest growing industries in the US and right here in the 5th district is renewable energy, especially solar energy. There is a need for skilled labor, but there are not enough workers trained to do these jobs. I will fight for federal funding to expand skilled-labor training programs, including apprenticeship programs. I will also work to protect and improve the farm bill to better support local farmers.

The 5th district, unlike areas in NoVA or Hampton Roads, does not depend as much on federal funding. Do you think making the 5th a destination for federal funding should be among our top economic priorities?

Yes. There are many areas like job-training, subsidizing growing local industries, ecotourism, and expanding public transportation that all could benefit from federal funding and bring more jobs to the 5th.

If there comes a time when your own personal opinion differs from that of your constituents, how will you vote: in line with your conscience, or in line with your constituents?

I will always put my constituents first because I will be in Congress to serve them. However, I will stick to my core principles trusting that my constituents elected me knowing what I stand for.

In one sentence, why should voters come support you at the upcoming caucuses?

I am the right candidate to take on Tom Garrett because of my experience as a journalist, my record defending the environment, the grassroots network my campaign has built, and my commitment to progressive values.