By Brandon Martin
Navigating the nation through the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic and civil unrest surrounding police brutality will take leadership, and former Rappahannock Supervisor John Lesinski, thinks he has what it takes to unseat incumbent Fifth District U.S. Rep. Denver Riggleman, R-Nelson, in November.
Lesinski said his leadership on the Rappahannock Board of Supervisors and school board, combined with his military-driven values and business background, make him perfect for the district that includes parts of 21 counties and cities.
Currently, Lesinski said there are approximately 40 million people unemployed due to the coronavirus and he plans to lean on his 35 years of business experience to help “get our economy going again.”
This lines up with one of Lesinski’s biggest goals if elected–infrastructure.
“We need an almost Marshall Plan type of investment in our infrastructure,” Lesinski said, adding that “fixing the inequalities between broadband access” is also integral to his plan.
One thing the pandemic revealed was the need to bring manufacturing jobs back to the area, according to Lesinski.
“It revealed that we rely on other countries for too many things like” Personal Protective Equipment, said Lesinski. “These are things critical to our national security and we probably should be producing them here.”
Along with bringing overseas manufacturing jobs back, Lesinski said a jobs plan in renewable energy also is necessary to combat climate change.
He said these jobs include careers in wind and solar energy, as well as battery technology. Along with creating jobs, Lesinski said the move will help the nation “wean ourselves off of fossil fuels.”
Lesinski said “we must lower the atmospheric temperature and stop the ice caps from melting” and “move to be carbon neutral by 2050” in order to prevent predicted losses from climate change.”
This would take a combined effort by the manufacturing, transportation and agricultural sectors, he added.
Getting some of these proposals through will require working across the aisle, which Lesinski said he is capable of doing. His experience in local government over largely rural and republican-controlled areas, gives the potential Democratic candidate an advantage in the race.
According to Lesinski, he is not the man to fix the inequalities that Lesinski sees running across many spectrums in the state.
“We need an investment on the federal level to tackle these issues and that isn’t a commitment that I’ve seen in Riggleman,” he said.
One inequity is in healthcare, which Lesinski said “many people of color and low income don’t have access to.”
He said that if elected, he plans to build on the Affordable Care Act and introduce a public option so healthcare isn’t dependent on employment status.
Lesinski said he supports a program that would establish a Healthcare Corps to provide individuals training in testing and tracing methods, and create jobs in those fields. He said this and other job creation initiatives would function similar to already existing programs for public servants, such as teachers, who can qualify to have student loans forgiven.
By creating these types of public sector jobs, the individuals would also participate in the public insurance option that Lesinski envisions helping alleviate lack of revenues from healthier individuals who may choose to stay with potentially cheaper, privately held health insurance.
Lesinski said he also hopes to bring “integrity, loyalty and honesty,” that was instilled in his 26 years of combined active and reserve service with the Marine Corps, to Washington and hold other elected officials accountable.
“It’s just a way of governing,” he said. “A way of looking at all things. If there are ethical issues then people should be held accountable.”
Part of that goal is making sure the government is transparent, according to Lesinski. In that vein, he said he supports a 28th Amendment that would have Congress in charge of funding elections.
“Grassroots funding with limits is perfectly acceptable,” he said. But in some cases, there are programs in which large contributors, or those with “the most money influences politics.”
Lesinski lives in Washington, V.A., with his wife Heidi. The couple have two adult children: children Dan, 34, and Emily, 31.
Lesinski is one of four candidates seeking the Democratic party’s nomination to challenge Riggleman, against contenders that include Roger Dean Huffstetler, Claire Russo and Cameron Webb.
Bob Good also is seeking the Republican nomination.