Fifth Congressional District candidate, Democrat Leslie Cockburn, held a rally Sunday evening at the Jefferson Theater in a last-minute push for voter registration before the Virginia deadline Monday. Cockburn was joined by her daughter, actress Olivia Wilde, and Wilde’s fiancé, actor Jason Sudeikis.
Cockburn, a former investigative journalist and first-time candidate, is running against Republican Denver Riggleman, a former Air Force intelligence officer and craft distillery owner, for the seat currently occupied by Rep. Tom Garrett (R-Va.). Garrett
Also present were various local musicians, representatives from community organizations and former Fifth Congressional District representative, Tom Perriello. The array of guests primarily emphasized the importance of voter turnout to the midterm election while also discussing female empowerment, veterans’ issues and civility on Capitol Hill.
While the focus of the rally was voter registration, speakers similarly encouraged people to get involved on the campaign trail by canvassing, donating or posting on Facebook.
“This is kind of a scary time to be alive, but it’s also an opportunity to really make a difference,” Wilde said in an interview with The Cavalier Daily. “What’s so exciting about elections is that this is our chance to shine as citizens.”
During the interview, Wilde underscored young people’s role to contemporary politics — a central theme to the event.
"[Politicians] underestimate you guys so much,” Wilde said. “It’s this opportunity to surpass all expectations. They really underestimate young people — at their own risk.”
Cockburn said in an interview with The Cavalier Daily that young voters are integral to her campaign and to midterm elections.
She said students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who have been protesting gun violence after 17 individuals were killed in a shooting February at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., and the young members from Indivisible Charlottesville exemplify the influence of youth in American political discourse.
“A young person’s role is very important,” Cockburn said. “Whether it’s the kids from Parkland, whether it’s the base of Indivisible in Charlottesville, it’s all young people.”
Lucinda Guinn, vice president of campaigns for , an organization dedicated to electing pro-choice Democratic women to political office, spoke during the rally about female leadership, reproductive rights and Cockburn’s ability to represent the Fifth Congressional District. She further said Cockburn’s history as an investigative journalist, along with her plans for an open-door policy, will allow constituents’ voices to be heard in Congress.
“It’s not about representation for representation’s sake,” Guinn said. “When we elect progressive women with diverse backgrounds and different stories to the governing table to sit down and make our laws, we get better and more progressive policies.”
Sudeikis, who was born in Fairfax, Va., elaborated on the sentiment that Cockburn hopes to make her constituency heard if she is to be elected, adding that the Fifth District candidate has been assiduously meeting and talking with voters along the campaign trail. Sudeikis was met with laughs and cheers from the audience when he added that “tweeting is not leading,” in reference to President Donald Trump’s controversial Twitter presence.
“She’s in the opposition of apathy and cynicism,” Sudeikis said. “She’s in opposition of that dangerous cocktail that is now running our country that is ignorance and arrogance.”
Following Sudeikis, Perriello focused once again on the centrality of voter participation to the November elections. He encouraged audience members to turn to social media and to their friends in order to spread the word about the upcoming election.
“It’s not just important what the outcome of this election is,” said Perriello. “It’s important who got to have a say in the outcome of this election.”
Like Guinn, Perriello alluded to Cockburn’s background as an investigative journalist, stating that her experience on the frontlines of government controversy as a reporter has prepared her to do the same on Capitol Hill.
“We need that kind of attitude that is going to go after the truth … and that is not going to cower in front of the powerful because she is going to be a voice for the people like you,” Perriello said.
Cockburn appeared on stage during the final minutes of the event, praising the audience for the “power” demonstrated on the campaign trail and reiterating her main policy standpoints — namely her stances on public transportation, prescription drug prices and student debt. She said she hopes to expand public transportation in the Fifth District, negotiate prescription drug prices with large pharmaceutical companies and address the mounting student debt crisis.
The focus of the event returned once again to voter participation as the event speakers joined Cockburn on stage for a few final words — most emphasized the critical nature of registering to vote either online or at a booth present at the event.
Sudeikis expressed a similar sentiment in an interview with The Cavalier Daily — that midterm elections present a critical point for the country’s politics, especially for its youth.
“Stick your marshmallow on the stick, get it into the fire,” Sudeikis said. “That’s now. That’s not the future. Get into it now.”
Election Day is Nov. 6.