Democratic gubernatorial candidate and former Congressman Tom Perriello held a town hall March 23 at the Haven in downtown Charlottesville in which over 200 people poured into the former church to discuss the issue of health care.
The event began with comments by Perriello’s policy director, Leah Greenberg, who is also a co-author of "Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda,” which embraces grassroots organizing against President Donald Trump. She praised Perriello for fighting to pass the Affordable Care Act when he was in Congress and told the audience that a vote for Perriello is a worthwhile vote.
“We need people who will stand up no matter the cost, and that’s why Tom Perriello will make the finest governor Virginia’s ever seen,” Greenberg said.
Amy Laufer, who is seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination for a seat on the Charlottesville City Council, followed Greenberg with a personal story about her child’s battle with glaucoma and epilepsy. She applauded Perriello’s support of universal healthcare.
Dr. Paige Perriello, a Charlottesville resident and sister to Tom Perriello, spoke after Laufer and told her brother’s electoral story before introducing her brother.
Perriello outlined the many ways in which he thinks the American Health Care Act, the recently-failed replacement bill for the Affordable Care Act proposed by congressional Republicans, is inferior to its predecessor. He cited statistics from a Congressional Budget Office report which states 24 million people will their lose health insurance by 2026 should the AHCA pass. He also emphasized the AHCA is a $600 billion tax cut for people with incomes exceeding one million per year, which could leave the middle class with higher premiums.
“This is a massive tax increase for the middle class in order to kick poor people off their health insurance,” Perriello said.
In an interview with The Cavalier Daily, Perriello also said he would support state-sponsored alternatives to the AHCA, should it pass and eliminate key aspects of the ACA.
“We will look for whatever options are available to protect those gains at the state level including the possibility of the exchange,” Perriello said.
Following Perriello’s remarks, the audience was given the opportunity to ask questions. The first question posed to Perriello was about his decision to run in the gubernatorial race.
“Why do you want to engage in a primary campaign which will eat up a lot of funds ... why not just run against Tom Garrett in 2018?” Jerome Handler, a senior fellow at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, asked.
Perriello outlined the ways he thinks his progressive agenda would lead the Democrats to a gubernatorial win this fall.
“I give Democrats the best chance to win, and I’m not going to watch Democrats make mistakes with a wrong strategy,” Perriello said.
The rest of the audience hit other issues facing the country including women’s rights, medical marijuana, gun control, education and climate change.
After he was asked a question regarding his stance on gun control, Perriello said he supports “sensible gun reform,” citing universal background checks, smartphone technology and closing the gun show loophole.
Perriello also discussed the issue of the student loan crisis and how it affects younger Americans who are struggling to afford health care in an interview with The Cavalier Daily.
“Obviously there is a broader problem with student debt and what that means for folks, and that’s why we’ve been looking at continuing to promote college affordability,” Perriello said.
Perriello closed the event by giving advice to young college graduates seeking to find jobs in the public sector. He encouraged students to get experience in other countries if government jobs are eliminated by the Trump administration, and said those jobs would eventually return.
The Democratic Party primary for the 2017 gubernatorial election will be held June 13, in which Perriello will be competing against current Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam for the party’s nomination.