Two Democrats recently announced they are joining the race to represent the Fifth Congressional District of Virginia in 2018. Adam Slate, a University alumnus and senior business analyst for the University Health System, announced his candidacy May 26 and Charlottesville attorney Andrew Sneathern entered the race May 30.
Slate and Sneathern will vie alongside Roger Dean Huffstetler for the Democratic nomination, seeking to challenge incumbent Rep. Tom Garrett.
Slate graduated from the University in 1986 and has lived in central Virginia for over 30 years. Slate said his years of working, volunteering and raising a family in the district make him qualified for the position.
“I’ve been active in the community,” Slate said in an interview with The Cavalier Daily. “I am the incoming president of my congregation and … I’ve done a good job of being in roles where everybody isn’t like me, where I’m listening to folks who aren’t like me.”
He said he wishes to reach out to all members of the community and the Fifth District.
“When I say reach out to everyone … what I mean is reaching out across the political spectrum to people who maybe don’t have the same issue positions as I do but finding the shared values around which we can begin a conversation about how to address problems,” Slate said.
Karen Ransom, president of the Board of Trustees for the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church - Unitarian Universalist, where Slate attends, also commented on Slate’s interest in reaching out to diverse groups and engaging all audiences.
“He wants to bring diverse groups of people together to work on common causes,” Ransom said. “He’s very engaged.”
Ransom said she thinks Slate’s values are central to his campaign and how he is bringing those values to a broader audience. She also said he has a tendency to get things done.
“He doesn’t want to just talk to people, but he really wants to find solutions and move forward to help people,” Ransom said.
Slate is focusing his platform on four main areas — economic opportunity, income inequality, universal healthcare, education and job training.
Slate said he is concerned with retaining jobs in an economy that is changing rapidly in terms of the impact of automation and globalization — particularly rural economies. He also said he wishes to address the significant income disparity in America and access to affordable healthcare for all citizens.
In terms of education, Slate is a proponent of free community college as well as free job training for individuals who do not plan to attend college to prepare them for a modern economy. For those who do attend college, Slate wants to make it more affordable.
“You’ve got to come out of college not totally burdened in debt,” Slate said. “So we really need to find a way to make four-year college education affordable and be able to finance it better for our younger folks.”
Sneathern was a city attorney in southeast Missouri and the prosecuting attorney for Mississippi County, Missouri before moving to Charlottesville in 2004 where he opened his own law firm. He said his experience comes from his years practicing law and serving in his community.
“I spent my more than 20-year legal career representing the needs of my community,” Sneathern said in an email to The Cavalier Daily.
Sneathern has also worked as a civil rights attorney in the General Counsel's Office of the Department of Agriculture and was the special prosecutor for domestic violence and sexual assault in Spotsylvania County.
“We need good people who will take a stand against hateful ideology,” Khan said in a press release. “I support Andrew Sneathern because we know he will stand up for those who do not have a voice in the Fifth District.”
Sneathern said he believes leaders have not been listening to their constituents and he wants to change that.
“I want to be an honest broker and I am going to start by listening,” Sneathern said.
Sneathern said he is focusing his campaign on job growth and equal prosperity throughout the whole district. He said he believes many parts of the district have not experienced the same growth as Charlottesville and Albemarle County and many individuals still suffer from a lack of a living wage or affordable housing.
“I am going to focus on bringing jobs back to all of the [Fifth District] and making certain that everyone in the Fifth District is able to experience the type of prosperity shared by Charlottesville and Albemarle,” Sneathern said.
Slate and Sneathern are running alongside another democratic candidate, Roger Dean Huffstetler. Huffstetler, who announced he was running in April, said he embraces new candidacies.
"I welcome all candidates to the race and I look forward to a robust discussion of the issues facing 5th district voters,” Huffstetler said in an email to The Cavalier Daily.
Patty Haling, chair of the Albemarle County Democratic Committee, said she is also aware of some other people who are considering a run for the party’s nomination.
“We’re welcoming anybody who is a strong candidate who wants to run for this seat,” Haling said.
The general election will be held Nov. 6, 2018.
Garrett’s office did not return a request for comment.