Fifth District Democratic candidate Leslie Cockburn addresses University Democrats

Cockburn spoke about the campaign, shifting priorities in Washington and bipartisanship

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Cockburn is running against Republican candidate Denver Riggleman in the Fifth District Congressional race.

Chandler Collins | Cavalier Daily

Leslie Cockburn, the Democratic candidate for Virginia’s Congressional Fifth District race, spoke to the University Democrats Wednesday night in Nau Hall. Cockburn’s speech focused on her campaign and the need for accountability in Washington. 

Prior to entering politics, Cockburn worked as an investigative journalist for 35 years. She worked as a “60 Minutes” CBS News producer, a “Frontline” PBS correspondent and is a published author.

“[It is] very unusual for someone like me to go into this job, running for this congress, but I really think we are at the most critical time in this country in my lifetime,” Cockburn said. 

Cockburn said she considers this election to be very different from any other recent election in Virginia. She noted how some Republicans have expressed concerns with President Donald Trump’s policies, which has altered the dynamics of this election. 

“We have to make change and this is something that many people in both parties agree on,” Cockburn said.

Cockburn spoke about support for raising the minimum wage, decriminalizing marijuana, changing rules related to student debt and preserving the conditions of the Affordable Care Act. Affordable housing and transportation were other areas she touched on. 

Cockburn also emphasized accountability and fairness and said her main focus is shifting priorities in Washington from corporations to people.

Cockburn is among six other female democratic nominees in Virginia who had careers in fields other than politics. Despite potential obstacles or setbacks, she encouraged students in attendance to get involved in politics.

“It’s a very rough game, politics, but I really hope that some people in this room will do it, because if you don’t do it … then we will absolutely lose control of anything in this country,” Cockburn said.

Mary Alice Kukoski — a third-year College student and president of the University Democrats — commented on how Cockburn’s visit gives students a chance to engage with the fifth district candidate and inspire action in the last few weeks of the campaign. 

“It really just helps — especially now we’re like 35 days out until election day — and so having our candidate come here and speak to us, and speak about what she’s seeing on the campaign trails — it really just fires everyone up to knock those extra doors, make those extra calls, register some more voters,” Kukoski said in an interview.

Cockburn added that it is both difficult and important to fight back in the current political system, referencing Trump’s mockery of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford following a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing related to Ford’s sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

“I think that I wake up every morning like you waking up every morning, and I see an enormity after enormity,” Cockburn said. “Everybody needs to be able to come forward without being ridiculed, certainly not by the president of the United States.”

Fourth-year College student Sophie Punke said she supports Cockburn’s progressive policy platform and asked the candidate how she plans on building the bridges necessary not only to pass policy reforms, but to sustain them in the long run.

“My platform is built from conversations within the district,” Cockburn said. “There are many issues which are already bipartisan … decriminalizing marijuana, that’s bipartisan. So you’d be surprised on how many issues are there that work together.”

Cockburn said that with a greater balance in representation between the parties in the House, there would be a better environment for cooperation. 

“Let’s say the Democrats don’t take the House but come close, just having more equal numbers means there’s a much better atmosphere for negotiation,” Cockburn said. “If it’s this lopsided there will never be negotiation.”

Cockburn is running against Republican candidate Denver Riggleman. Election Day is Nov. 6. 

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