Ben Cullop, a Democratic candidate for Virginia’s Fifth Congressional District, held a public meet and greet at C’ville Coffee Tuesday to discuss his campaign platform and goals. Approximately 20 people were in attendance at the event.
Cullop is currently vying for the party’s nomination at a convention that will be held in May in the Fifth District. Cullop’s opponents for the nomination include Lawrence Gaughan, Leslie Cockburn, Roger Huffstetler and Andrew Sneathern. Whoever secures the nomination will run against incumbent Republican Rep. Tom Garrett in the midterm elections this November.
Cullop graduated from the University in 2005 and received an MBA from Darden in 2011. He currently serves on the U.Va. Children’s Hospital advisory board, the Albemarle County Police Foundation Board and previously the Charlottesville Retirement Commission.
Cullop said that his campaign would focus on the issues that are most important to his constituents.
“My main campaign priorities are healthcare, jobs and education,” Cullop said. “I believe that we win when we talk about issues that matter to people and those issues right now are healthcare, jobs and education.”
Another priority for Cullop’s campaign is accessibility to the people of the Fifth District, which is something that he believes that Garrett has failed on.
“Tom Garrett is not listening to his constituents,” Cullop said. “He’s not holding town halls, he’s not going and seeing his voters face-to-face, and that’s a major liability, come November.”
Campaign manager Jeff Allen said Cullop has pledged to hold a town hall in every locality in the Fifth District during his first year in office — 23 in total.
“This is a really diverse district, and you need someone who really understands it, who’s got deep roots here,” Allen said. “Ben is the only candidate in the race who was born here, raised in Virginia, is raising his family here. He’s the only candidate who in my mind has taken really active measures to try and go beyond talking about issues and try to be a model for leadership and being accessible.”
Cullop also emphasized that he will not be accepting donation money from corporate sponsors in a gesture of loyalty to his potential future constituents.
After Cullop addressed attendees at the event, he spent 25 minutes answering questions. Three people asked about gun regulation in light of a mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla. last week that killed 17 people.
“We’ve been thinking about school safety as a gun question, and I think we need to acknowledge that we may be able to move faster on some school safety issues than we are on gun control issues,” Cullop said. “That’s me just trying to be realistic about where we are politically right now.”
Ethan Tata, who was in attendance at the meet-and-greet, said that he was looking for the most broadly electable Democratic candidate.
“The most important thing to me is not that I agree with them on every single issue but that they are electable in the broader Fifth District,” Tata said. “Charlottesville is a mere part of a much bigger district, and I want to see which Democrat has the best approach to winning over the whole district and representing the whole district.”
Correction: The article previously contained a source who stated that they supported Ben Cullop's for his stance on single-payer national health insurance. Cullop actually supports Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine's Medicare X proposal, which continues Medicare for all while offering new coverage, such as for pediatrics and maternity care.