Dr. Cameron Webb, a University graduate and current Director of Health Policy and Equity at the University’s School of Medicine, is running as the Democratic candidate to represent the VA-05 Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Voters in the Fifth District — which includes the City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County — will choose between Webb and Republican candidate Bob Good on the ballot for the Nov. 3 general election. Both vie to fill Republican Denver Riggleman’s seat in the House. From July 1 to Sept. 30, Webb raised around $2.7 million in fundraising, a record high in the District. As of Sept. 30, his campaign has received over $4 million total.
After graduating from the University in 2005, Webb went on to earn degrees in Medicine and Law at Wake Forest University and Loyola University Chicago, respectively. Under both the Obama and Trump administrations, Webb served as a White House Fellow focusing on healthcare policy. He returned to the University in 2017 as a general internist at U.Va. Health and to his current position as Director of Health Policy and Equity in the School of Medicine. As an assistant professor in the Public Health Sciences department, Webb also teaches classes at the University.
On Aug. 7 of last year, Webb launched his campaign for office, and on June 23 he won the Democratic primary against three other candidates, receiving 68 percent of the vote.
Endorsements have come in from prominent Democrats and groups, including former President Barack Obama, Senator Mark Warner, the Human Rights Campaign and the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, the largest coalition of labor unions in the U.S.
“My true north is equity and justice — that’s what my entire career has been built around,” Webb said in an interview with The Cavalier Daily.
Emphasizing his background and experience in medicine, Webb advocates for affordable healthcare for all. He believes public health insurance should be an alternative available for anyone, with the option to still remain with private insurance.
“It's going to be important for folks to have both the public option and other private options available to decide what best meets their family's needs — that choice is important to a lot of Americans,” Webb said. “The goal is that no matter what … it should be affordable.”
Lowering prescription drug costs — an issue he worked on in the White House under President Donald Trump — is another priority for Webb, which would arise through intervention from Medicare and more thorough barriers against monopolizing behavior among drug companies. He foresees bringing more generic drugs to the market as another way to lower prices.
“We still want to make sure that we preserve innovation in our prescription drug space and I say that as a practicing physician, knowing that the development of medications has been both life prolonging and life saving for my patients,” he said.
The COVID-19 pandemic is at the forefront of issues representatives are expected to handle. Every week, Webb has hosted a weekly COVID-19 update livestream on his Facebook page, where he discusses latest updates and COVID-19-safe practices and answers questions from viewers. His platform has a three-layered approach for COVID-19 recovery that involves bolstering individuals, the healthcare system and businesses — particularly small businesses — throughout the crisis. For individuals, Webb advocates for direct stimulus payments and protection against eviction and student loan defaults, among other plans. Expanding on existing COVID-19 healthcare practices, he looks to increase testing, funding for hospitals and medical resources and contact tracing as methods to increase preparedness for a potential second wave of infections. Webb also supports increasing the amount of emergency loans offered to small businesses and introducing new policies to oversee responsible usage of funds by corporate entities.
On the education front, Webb looks to promote equity among students of diverse backgrounds. He specifically mentions low-income students and older adults without higher education as groups disadvantaged by existing barriers to obtaining a degree. One of the biggest ideas he pushes is making two-year colleges and public colleges and universities free for low-income individuals, which he envisions being implemented through reforms to the Higher Education Act and grants and subsidies.
Related to lowering barriers to higher education is access to broadband, or high speed, internet — a significant factor in the digital divide among students. Webb deviates from opponent Bob Good’s approach of incentivizing private internet companies in that he wants a public-private partnership where government funding plays a larger role in expanding broadband availability.
In rural areas where broadband is particularly hard to come by, private companies would find it difficult and not cost effective to take the extra effort to make sure everyone gets covered, Webb says. This is where he believes federal funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture or Federal Communications Commission could support that effort, or through state intervention with the Virginia Telecommunication Initiative and local broadband initiatives.
“We all agree we need to have broadband access,” Webb said. “It’s not a partisan issue. It’s a matter of who can actually get to do the advocacy necessary to deliver on that.”
Webb also addresses the issue of affordable housing and long lasting effects of redlining in Charlottesville, a topic he has explored in his own class with students called Place Matters. In order to make housing more accessible for lower income individuals, Webb stresses the importance of investing in first time homeownership through grants and incentives.
“The idea of homeownership is one that unlocks intergenerational wealth and stability,” Webb said. “By creating grants that are available for first time homebuyers … it’s the key to making sure that we’re opening up opportunities for folks and navigating some of the existing dynamics.”
Incentivizing builders to construct affordable homes is another method Webb hopes to implement to secure housing for lower income communities.
Underlying much of Webb’s platform is the idea of bridging the divide between different income brackets. A major step towards reaching this goal, he says, is raising the minimum wage to $15.
Webb aims to steer the U.S. towards setting a standard of 100 percent clean energy, but he does not support the Green New Deal, which he calls “aspirational.” He cites reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that call for a longer timeline to reach zero carbon emission by 2050. Manufacturing, construction and transportation are three areas on which Webb wants to concentrate on placing new standards. A mix of carbon pricing caps and trade policies, he says, would gradually dial back carbon emissions as the country prepares to take on clean renewable energy as the primary source of power.
“This is a job creator,” Webb said, pointing out Charlottesville and Lynchburg as centers for clean energy.
In the realm of gender equality, Webb supports the individual’s right to choose abortion. Increased funding for Planned Parenthood and access to reproductive care continue his plan to establish women’s bodily autonomy across the country. Webb promises to push for the passing of the Equal Rights Amendment across the country and to reenact the Violence Against Women Act along with new policies designed to protect sexual and ethnic minorities. Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the ERA on Jan. 27.
Webb acknowledges the work the International Rescue Center has done in Charlottesville to support refugees. “Humane” is the keyword he uses for the reform he wishes to enact in immigration policy. Ultimately, Webb wants to clear a fair pathway to citizenship for newcomers to the country.
“Yes, we want to have security at our southern border, and I’m not suggesting otherwise,” Webb said. “But I’m suggesting that that process has to look like our values as a nation — I think right now it’s falling short of that.”
As of Oct. 20, Sabato’s Crystal Ball characterizes this race as a toss-up. The Cook Political Report reaches the same conclusion, but Inside Elections says the race tilts Republican. An Oct. 4-8 poll conducted by the Global Strategy Group places Webb up over Good by 2 percent. According to previous polls by this group, Webb has only recently managed to pull ahead of Good as of late September. VA-05 has a history of voting Republican, with only one Democratic candidate having been elected to office since 2000.
CORRECTION: This article has been updated to reflect that Dr. Cameron Webb supports making two-year colleges and public colleges and universities free for low income individuals.