Fifth District candidates debate

 By Brian Carlton and Connor Thompson 

The K-V Dispatch 

For Gloria Witt, it just doesn’t make sense. The President of the Amherst County NAACP and newest candidate for Virginia’s 5th Congressional district doesn’t understand why business and public schools aren’t working closer together. 

“We’ve got to tie economic growth, public school education and business together,” Witt said. Speaking at a debate held Monday, March 18 at the Drakes Branch Firehouse, Witt argued companies need to see a ready workforce. 

“Some of our communities don’t have businesses that pay a living wage, so we’re struggling,” Witt said. “We’ve got to get our workforce ready, so when they leave high school, when they leave college, they’re ready.” 

But again, it’s not enough to just bring in a business, Witt said. It has to be willing to actually invest in keeping its employees. 

“We’ve got people ready to be employees, but I think especially here in rural America, we need more manufacturers willing to pay a living wage,” Witt argued. 

She also points to a housing problem here in the region. It’s something Lunenburg officials and those from neighboring counties have discussed in length before. If you want younger families and more people in general to move in, they have to be able to afford the housing options. How do you do that? What are the options? Witt said she wanted to explore all available avenues to help. 

MAKING AN INTRODUCTION 

Witt was one of two Democratic candidates on the night basically introducing themselves to voters, as we head toward the June 18 primaries. Democrats have four candidates running for the 5th District seat, while Republicans will choose between incumbent Bob Good and current Virginia State Senator John McGuire. 

But this was a debate set up for just the Democrats, one of two that will be held in the region this spring. In addition to Witt, current Lynchburg City Schools teacher Toby Johnson was on hand. Defense contractor/U.S. Army veteran Paul Riley and Gary Terry, the CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of Danville, weren’t available. 

Johnson is actually in the race because of a challenge. 

“I’ve been teaching my students the ins and outs of government,” Johnson said. “They challenged me, when I started talking about some things that have gone wrong. They said ‘well, why don’t you do something about it? And here I am.” 

Johnson said he’s seen the incumbent, Bob Good, talk a lot, but hasn’t found much he’s actually done. 

“He has not done a gosh darn thing to help this district,” Johnson said. “Not one thing.” 

He asked those in attendance if they had ever experienced a Congressman who actually supported them. 

“Have you ever had government behind you?” Johnson asked. 

He believes you can fix many of this country’s problems by a couple changes. First, Johnson wants to turn the attention from big business to small operations. 

“I’m not going to invest in big businesses on Wall Street,” Johnson said. “They’re doing great without me. Sometimes we should focus on the money of the little folks who make all of this happen.” 

Second, Johnson believes a wide range of problems can be fixed by funding things like schools, to provide the correct training; by finishing the broadband project, so it gives people more options. 

He also just doesn’t see why people focus more on attacking parties than getting results. 

“I’m not a person who wants to vilify conservatives,” Johnson said. “It’s not about Ds and Rs. It’s not about fighting each other. It’s about finding common ground and moving this country forward.” 

CANDIDATE FORUM COMING UP 

At the end of April, all four Democratic candidates will be on hand to talk about their platform and answer questions. That’ll be held on Saturday, April 27, beginning at 3 p.m. at the New Flame Church of God in Christ. That’s located at 308 S. Virginia Street in Farmville.