RICHMOND (WAVY) – Whether it’s abortion, guns, or the environment, the platforms of the two candidates could hardly differ more in Tuesday’s special election in the Fourth Congressional District.
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The district stretches from Richmond south to the state line, and in our region includes areas of Surry and Sussex counties and Emporia.
The special election follows the death in late November of Rep. Donald McEachin, just three weeks after he had been re-elected.
“I am pro-life and pro-Second Amendment, and I believe that we should honor our rights given from God and not from government,” said Leon Benjamin (R), a Richmond-based pastor.
“I’m for expanding access to healthcare and addressing climate change and I’ll take that 18-year record with me to Congress,” said State Sen. Jennifer McClellan (D), who has spent those 18 years first as a delegate and then succeeding McEachin in his state Senate seat when he was elected to Congress in 2016.
Benjamin’s stance on the environment: initiatives such as wind and solar are largely the work of special interest groups.
“Taking away the essentials, our fossil fuels, our nuclear, natural gas, and just going to solar and wind, that’s not even applicable to today,” Benjamin said. “Electric cars – most people can’t afford electric cars, the average family can’t.”
On the issue of abortion, McClellan wants to expand rights, while Benjamin cheered the reversal of Roe v. Wade. McClellan wants a Virginia constitutional amendment enshrining the right to an abortion in the state.
“All healthcare decisions, including whether or not to have an abortion, should be between patient and their providers based on the medical standard of care,” McClellan said. “When politicians insert themselves into these decisions, they don’t know the specifics of what’s happening in that case, and they shouldn’t be a part of that decision.”
Benjamin is calling on his experience as a pastor when asked about abortion.
“I’m not afraid to tackle abortion. That’s all in the Bible,” Benjamin said. “Seeing the overturning of (Roe v. Wade) lets me know that the community is ready to turn back to civility and common sense, especially in the Black community. The misnomer is that Blacks want to kill their babies, Black women. No, that’s not true.”
They also discussed mass shootings and the availability of guns.
“The right to bear arms is something that is given to all American citizens,” Benjamin said. “That should be unquestionable. Chicago and many areas have the strictest gun laws, but the highest crime rate.”
McClellan said she is in favor of tighter gun laws.
“We should reinstate the assault weapons ban,” McClellan said. “These are guns that were intended for war. One that might have helped in (the Richneck Elementary shooting) was requiring guns to be locked and inaccessible to children in the home.”
The special election happens Tuesday, Feb. 21 in the Fourth District.