Tim Kaine, Leslie Cockburn hold campaign meet-and-greet with University Democrats

The candidates spoke about the importance of students being engaged in upcoming elections

KaineCockburn

Sen. Tim Kaine and Leslie Cockburn pose for a picture with members of the University Democrats. 

Geremia Di Maro | Cavalier Daily

U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine began a three-day campaign swing through Virginia with a stop at his regional campaign office in downtown Charlottesville Friday afternoon for a meet-and-greet with members of the University Democrats. Kaine was also accompanied by Virginia’s Fifth Congressional District candidate Leslie Cockburn where they spoke about the importance of students being engaged in the upcoming statewide elections. 

Kaine, who is running for re-election this November against Republican candidate Corey Stewart, announced that he will be campaigning with Cockburn to show a united Democratic ticket this fall. Cockburn is running against Republican nominee Denver Riggleman in what Kaine and Cockburn said is one of the state’s most competitive races in the 2018 midterm elections.

“One of the things that’s exciting about Virginia is Leslie and others who are running,” Kaine said to the crowd of about 30 to 40 people. “Virginia can be very meaningful in flipping the House from red to blue ... We’ve got not only four very strong democratic incumbents, but we’ve got seven fantastic challengers. Six of them are women, five of the seven first-time candidates.”

Democrats currently need to flip 23 seats in the House of Representatives to regain the majority, which they haven’t held since the first part of former President Barack Obama’s first term. As the national spotlight turns to Virginia — a swing state that has been trending blue in recent election cycles — Democrats feel they have a chance to take control of the lower chamber.

An analysis by Sabato’s Crystal Ball, an electoral forecasting group at the University’s Center for Politics, showed the House tilting past 50-50 odds in favor of the Democrats taking it back this November.

“We are in a district that was regarded as very red,” Cockburn said in an interview with The Cavalier Daily, referring to the area’s Republican partisan lean. “Now we’re being called neck-and-neck. Some of the polls even have us slightly ahead. This is incredible, but it could be one vote — we could win or lose by one vote.”

During the one-hour campaign event, Kaine and Cockburn talked to students and community members, listened to their concerns and encouraged them to continue their efforts to help elect Democrats to regain control of the House.

“What you do in voting, what you do in registering people, what you do in canvassing, what you do in calling — in a state where the elections are often so very close — what you do makes a huge difference,” Kaine said. “You can be the deciding factor in who’s going to represent you, and whether you’re going to be proud of your state when the dusk settles on election night.”

A poll released last Tuesday by the University of Mary Washington shows Kaine leading Stewart 49 percent to 30 percent among all respondents. Libertarian candidate Matt Waters received five percent.

In an interview with The Cavalier Daily, third-year College student Mary Alice Kukoski, president of the University Democrats, said Kaine and Cockburn’s messages of equality and hope will encourage undecided students who attended the meet-and-greet to be more involved in the political process. 

“Hearing it in person I really think resonates more with people than seeing an ad on TV or reading about their platforms online,” Kukoski said. “Hearing it in person really has a profound impact, especially for the students that were there today.”

In the months leading up to the elections, the University Democrats have also been registering students to vote around Grounds before the Oct. 15 deadline. Additionally, the organization has conducted phone banking for Cockburn, Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) and Stacey Abrams (D-Ga.), according to campaign chairman and third-year College student Jackson Samples.

“Every issue that is important to people at U.Va. — whether it’s equal pay, whether it’s women’s reproductive health, whether it’s criminal justice reform, whether it’s — there are a whole series of issues — whether it’s climate change,” Cockburn said. “All of these things, if you don’t act now and vote now then we are just going down the tubes here.”

Kaine also praised the performance of young voters, who came out in historic numbers and overwhelmingly cast their ballots for the Democratic candidate for governor, Ralph Northam, in the 2017 Virginia gubernatorial election.

Kaine and Cockburn are both running on the progressive platform centered around “basic equality issues,” according to Kaine. 

“Charlottesville knows this better than most because of the horrible white supremacy rally here last year — commitment to equality,” Kaine said in an interview. “This is an issue on which I think my opponent and I dramatically differ. I condemned that rally and the anti-Semitism and white supremacism there, and my opponent is very connected to some of the people who were part of the rally.”

College Republicans at U.Va. issued a non-endorsement of Stewart in June after “surveying sentiment from many of our members.” Stewart endorsed anti-Semitic congressional candidate Paul Nehlen after Nehlen shared content from a white nationalist who praised the violent rally in Charlottesville.

Kaine added that he wants to push for comprehensive immigration reform that includes increased border security and the protection of DREAMers and Temporary Protected Status recipients, while creating a path to citizenship for people who are willing to pay taxes and undergo criminal background checks. 

DREAMers — undocumented individuals who entered the U.S. as children   — are currently protected under the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program enacted by the Obama Administration which allows for these individuals to temporarily live, work and study in the U.S. 

Stewart has vowed to work side-by-side the Trump Administration to terminate DACA, ban sanctuary cities and deport all immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally, according to his campaign website.

Kaine said Stewart boasted his stance on immigration policy at a debate between the two in Madison County Thursday night, in which Stewart cited the apprehension and deportation of 8,000 undocumented immigrants by Immigration and Customs Enforcement from Prince William County, where he serves as the chairman of the Board of Supervisors. 

“[Stewart] was bragging last night in an event of all of the people that he was able to get deported from his [Prince William] county,” Kaine said. “If you take your law enforcement and you make them just immigration folks … It takes time away from going after [murderers], going after arsonists, going after rapists, going after burglaries.”

Polling places will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Election Day, Nov. 6.

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