WINCHESTER — With less than three weeks to go until the Nov. 3 election, incumbent U.S. Rep. Jennifer Wexton, a Democrat, and her Republican challenger Aliscia Andrews are reaching out to voters to make the case for why they should be elected to represent the 10th congressional district.
Although both candidates say they have the best interests of the voters, they have different ideas on how to lead the 10th district, which includes all of Loudoun, Clarke and Frederick counties and parts of Fairfax and Prince William counties.
Wexton: 'I've been very busy'
Wexton said the novel coronavirus — both its impact on the economy and its impact on healthcare — is the top concern among voters. She said many people are out of work and most of those who lost their jobs during the pandemic have also lost their employer-sponsored healthcare. To address the coronavirus, Wexton said there needs to be leadership "from the top."
"Before it even came to America, President Trump knew it was deadly, it was dangerous and it was coming," Wexton said. "But he did nothing."
In March, Wexton voted to pass the bipartisan Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, a stimulus bill that provided citizens and businesses help with financial struggles spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic. She said another stimulus package must be passed to aid small businesses, prevent further layoffs and provide mortgage relief to landlords and tenants.
Wexton said Congress needs to provide more personal and protection equipment [PPE] to workers, teachers and students and to make COVID testing more widely accessible.
“We cannot have a homelessness crisis on top of everything else,” Wexton said.
She believes masks should be required in all public spaces to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
“I do believe in a mask mandate,” Wexton said. “I believe that wearing a mask is something that is so simple and makes such a difference. We know from public health experts that it’s the easiest way to slow or stop the transmission of this virus. And if more people wore masks, we would be able to knock this virus out in no time. So I think it’s a very small inconvenience with a very big benefit to keep yourself and others safe.”
Wexton said she will continue to fight for affordable healthcare and to combat the opioid crisis.
"It’s even gotten worse overtime with the coronavirus," Wexton said. "More and more overdoses. More and more fatalities as people continue using and more often are using alone. We can’t ignore the fact that the heroin opioid crisis continues and rages on.”
In May, the House passed the HEROES Act, a $3 trillion stimulus bill to provide further emergency relief to those impacted by COVID, but the Republican-controlled Senate did not approve the act. Wexton criticized the Senate for prioritizing the appointment of Amy Coney Barrett “in record time” to the U.S. Supreme Court over providing relief to Americans. She said there is “so much on the line” with the Supreme Court, the Affordable Care Act, same-sex marriage and abortion rights being on the line. She said all of these issues are on the ballot in the November presidential election.
The May 25 death of George Floyd sparked nationwide protests against police brutality and systemic racism. Wexton said “systemic racism needs systemic solutions.” Earlier this year, she co-sponsored the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which would ban chokeholds, demilitarize the police and include grants for crisis intervention and deescalation training.
Wexton, who was elected to Congress in November 2018, said she has more government experience than her opponent. She previously represented the 33rd District in the state Senate for five years. As a state senator, she served on the Governor’s Task Force on Prescription Drug and Heroin Abuse. She served as assistant commonwealth attorney in Loudoun County from 2001-2005. She went into private law practice after her second son was born in 2005.
“My entire career has been spent fighting for kids and families in Virginia as a prosecutor, as an advocate for abuse affected kids,” Wexton said. “As a state senator and now as a member of Congress, I have always, always always fought for kids and families. And I’ve delivered results. In the state Senate I passed 40 bipartisan bills, many of which improved the lives of Virginians and a lot of which have saved over 200 lives now, getting NARCAN into the lives of more people. In the House of Representatives, I have been extremely open and responsive to my constituents. I’ve held 18 town halls during my term. My constituent services are second-to none. My team and I have been working around the clock to get relief to constituents who need it. We have successfully resolved over 3,000 constituent cases and returned over $4 million to taxpayers in the district. I have worked across the aisle in Congress as well and passed five bipartisan bills through the House of Representatives. I’ve been very busy.”
Andrews: 'We are fighting'
Andrews, a Marine Corps veteran and national security expert, said the biggest concern she has heard from voters is that they are worried about an economic recovery after COVID-19.
“Small businesses want to get back to work,” Andrews said. “We want to make sure that their businesses are essential. If some of these big box stores are open, they want to be open too. They want the opportunity to thrive.”
She said access to healthcare is another concern of voters. The Affordable Care Act is "a broken system" she said, but rather than completely eradicating it, Andrews wants several improvements made. She wants to lower prescription drug prices, provide adequate funding for mental health, advocate for more telemedicine, eliminate several FDA regulations and increase access to public health facilities — especially in underprivileged areas.
Andrews says she is a “strong supporter of law enforcement.” In regards to racial unrest and protests against police brutality, Andrews said that “every American has the right to feel safe” regardless of the color of their skin. However, she has been critical of the riots and looting that have occurred during some of the protests.
“But the worst part about this is, we paint law enforcement with a giant brush when we shouldn’t,” Andrews said. “The majority of law enforcement officers are wonderful, God-fearing American patriots who do the right thing. They answer the calls in most dire times. The ones that are the bad apples in the orchard deserve to be taken to task and deserve to pay for it to the extent of the law. And I fully support anyone who breaks the law to be held accountable.”
She describes herself as a strong supporter of the Second Amendment and supports Virginia counties declaring themselves Second Amendment sanctuaries in response to efforts to increase gun control. She also supports Trump's efforts to build a wall at the U.S./Mexico border. She said she supports the president's policies "when it helps my district" and feels the president "puts America first."
Andrews accused Wexton of not healing division among Americans and failing to lead bipartisan efforts.
"She’s focused completely on supporting her party at all costs," Andrews said. "And when it comes to leading a bipartisan effort, she votes 100% with [Speaker of the House] Nancy Pelosi. She has no interest in working on a bipartisan effort.”
She said Wexton doesn’t have the capacity to be a leader, but simply follows the Democrat party line. Andrews said that as a marine, she’s a leader and a fighter.
Andrews said that Congress needs to ensure that the coronavirus relief bills are helping those who are hurting and most in need. She criticized House Democrats and Senate Republicans for trying to add partisan wishes into their stimulus proposals not directly about COVID-19.
“That’s the biggest challenge we have on both sides,” Andrews said. “Not just with House Democrats, but with Republicans as well, so many people in America are tired. They are tired of seeing these relief bills come out that have so many special interests associated with it and none of those special interests include our interest. Jet fuel has nothing to do with the people of my district who don’t know where their next meal is coming from.”
Andrews does not support a mask mandate.
"I do not support a national mask-wearing mandate," Andrews said. "States should have the ability to make their own decisions. If businesses want to mandate masks, then that is their right as well. What works for South Dakota doesn't always work for Virginia, and government closest to home governs best."
She said her campaign is a grassroots effort.
“I can tell you that we are out with the people and Jennifer Wexton isn’t,” Andrews said. “And I can tell you that we are fighting with each and every vote. And I’m confident that people want a representative who is going to fight for them.”
In 2010, Andrews deployed with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit for the maiden voyage of the USS Mesa Verde. After her deployment, Andrews worked to provide analytical support to her installation when Osama Bin Laden was killed.
Andrews has also worked as a contractor with the FBI, ODNI, and Customs and Border Protection, specializing in national security policy and strategy.