Waynesboro’s Jennifer Lewis, the former Democratic candidate for the 6th Congressional District, officially announced Saturday her campaign to replace retiring Del. Richard P. "Dickie" Bell and win the 20th House District seat for the Democrats.
Bell, a Republican, has represented the area since 2010. Former Staunton Mayor John Avoli is seeking the GOP nomination.
“I’m excited,” said Chris Fury, secretary of the Roanoke Democratic Committee. “I think she’s got a chance.”
Fury, 46, traveled from Roanoke to attend the campaign kickoff.
“I’m proud to be here to support her,” he said. “I believe she brings a refreshing voice of change that we need in our legislature.”
Lauren Thompson, 30, of Ivy, was also at the official kickoff to support Lewis.
“She’s so motivated and driven, but also down-to-earth; it’s hard not to support her,” said Thompson, who is running against Augusta County activist Jenni Kitchen for the Democratic nomination to challenge Del. R. Steven Landes, R-Weyers Cave, in the 25th House District., which covers parts of Albemarle, Augusta and Rockingham counties. Landes has said he will decide on a re-election bid after the General Assembly session ends.
Although Lewis lost to now-U.S. Rep. Ben Cline, R-Rockbridge County, Lewis received about 40 percent of the vote — 113,133 votes to Cline’s 167,957.
In Waynesboro, Lewis won almost half of votes, losing by 35; in Augusta County, she received about 28 percent, and in Staunton about 56 percent.
“This is a winnable seat,” Lewis said.
“She did a lot of groundwork in her congressional race that laid the foundation for her to be elected and make a difference,” Thompson said.
On Saturday, Lewis began by telling the 65 people who attended her campaign kickoff that she still opposes the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
“My No. 1 issue, surprisingly enough to all of you, is going to be stopping the Atlantic Coast Pipeline,” she said, which was greeted with cheers.
The proposed pipeline impacts the entire 20th House District, which covers Waynesboro, Staunton, Highland County and parts of Augusta County and Nelson County, Lewis said.
“We need to make sure we are fighting with our neighbors and the counties fighting this horrible project,” she said.
If elected, Lewis also promised her supporters she will fight to strengthen the property rights of landowners.
“I appreciate all the work she has done to fight the pipeline, which is a huge tragedy,” Fury said. “The fact she is anti-pipeline and this district is pipeline country is going to be a big advantage for her.”
Lewis also talked about spending more on education.
“Our high school is crumbling,” said Lewis, referring to Waynesboro High School, which is being renovated. “We need more money for the infrastructure upgrades that our schools need.”
Lewis’ infrastructure plan also includes making broadband more accessible for those living in rural areas.
“I don’t know if all you know, but some areas of our district don’t have reliable internet at their homes,” she said. “That needs to change.”
Lewis also supports raising the minimum wage in Virginia to $15 an hour. She said that an individual needs about $11 an hour to meet their basic needs. The minimum wage in Virginia is $7.25.
“The average worker who is making minimum wage is a single woman in her mid-30s with one dependent,” Lewis said. “So don’t tell me this is some high school kid flipping burgers at McDonalds, because it’s not true.”