Wednesday, Oct. 14, Rep. Elaine Luria engaged students in a virtual conversation regarding her reelection to the House of Representatives. In the event hosted by the College of William and Mary’s Young Democrats, Luria spoke on the productivity of her past two years in office, answered questions and stressed the importance of voting in ‘an election of a lifetime.’
Luria first gained her seat in the House representing Virginia’s second congressional district in 2018 after a close race against incumbent Republican Scott Taylor. Now in 2020, Luria will run against Taylor for a second time, this time as the incumbent.
Anna Fridley ’20 introduced the congresswoman. Fridley, who was a sophomore when she volunteered on Luria’s first campaign, is a field organizer working with the congresswoman’s reelection bid. Fridley expressed her pride in having a representative like Luria in Congress, especially after growing up in a conservative district before attending college, where she felt her values were not always reflected.
Luria then described some of her accomplishments while in office. Of the House’s 435 members, Luria ranked third for the number of bills signed into law. She serves on the House Armed Services Committee and the House Committee of Veteran Affairs, chairing the subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs.
Luria’s focus on veterans’ rights stems from her twenty years of service in the U.S. Navy and she pledged a continued effort towards veterans’ health care and disability rights.
“We passed some landmark legislation this year for Vietnam era veterans called ‘Blue Water Navy Veterans,’” Luria said. “These are veterans who served off the coast of Vietnam and were exposed to Agent Orange but had never previously been eligible for VA healthcare. This was obviously four to five decades overdue.”
Aria Austin ’21 conveyed her appreciation of Luria’s work for veterans.
“She is doing a lot of great work for the 2nd district and especially for veterans,” Austin said in a written statement. “I am a military child, so the work she does for service members in our country is very important to me.”
“A public option will provide an option similar to Medicare, so a federally administered system that people could choose to buy into. It wouldn’t get rid of anybody’s option if they wanted to buy private health insurance.”
Other areas of focus Luria mentioned during the event include reauthorizing funding for the Chesapeake Bay area, enhancing economic drivers in Hampton Roads, promoting net neutrality, decreasing offshore drilling and addressing climate change.
When asked about her vision for healthcare, a particularly relevant question during the pandemic, Luria acknowledged the flaws of the Affordable Care Act and pointed to a lack of competition in the marketplace, while advocating to preserve and improve act.
“What I’m in favor of is a public option,” Luria said. “A public option will provide an option similar to Medicare, so a federally administered system that people could choose to buy into. It wouldn’t get rid of anybody’s option if they wanted to buy private health insurance.”
Luria’s election two years ago coincided with the Democratic Party’s success in flipping the House majority. With all 435 seats up for election Nov. 3, Luria emphasized the importance of maintaining their majority.
“This is a tough seat to win, a tough seat to hold onto, it’s one of the seats that made the majority in the House and if we think about it in our current political situation, if we didn’t have the majority in the House right now I feel like we would truly have no check in the checks and balances on the current administration,” Luria said.
Along with moderating the current administration, the Democratic majority has allowed the House to pass many bills, but according to Luria, most bipartisan efforts stop upon reaching Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s desk. Many of the more than 300 bills on McConnell’s docket pertain to universal background checks, cutting prescription drug costs, helping Dreamers through the Equality Act, and passing the Voting Right Restoration Act and Justice and Policing Act.
“This is a tough seat to win, a tough seat to hold onto … if we didn’t have the majority in the House right now I feel like we would truly have no check in the checks and balances on the current administration.”
“There’s so much that we have been able to advance and pass in the House that reflects our values as Democrats that has not gone anywhere, so that shows just how important this election is,” Luria said. “If we have more friends on the other side of the building, as well as Joe Biden in the White House, we would see a lot of important things that are still left to be done.”
Austin added that the voice Luria brings to Congress is distinctive.
“This year she was ranked the 3rd most effective legislator in the House and the bipartisan support she receives in Congress is very impressive to me,” Austin said. “I think we need more of that in Congress overall to get things done.”
Following a brief question and answer session, Luria turned her attention back to voting. She highlighted some ways to get involved in her campaign such as phone banking, texting and ‘Lit’ drops door-to-door.
Selene Swanson ’22 concurred with Luria’s spotlight on voting.
“We need to produce margins too large to deny,” Swanson said.
Luria concluded by issuing final appeal to voters, including ones at the College.
“Every vote matters,” Luria said. “Especially in the time of the pandemic, we need to make sure that every voter that can get out, will get out and support the democratic ticket, so that’s Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, we have to reelect Senator Warner, and if you live in the 2nd District, I would love to count on your vote for Congress.”