Ben Cullop says healthcare top concern in 5th district
Ben Cullop isn’t surprised when residents of Virginia’s 5th congressional district tell him their biggest concern today surrounds healthcare.
Three years ago, Cullop’s daughter was born severely premature, spending the first two months of her life at UVA Children’s Hospital in Charlottesville, not far from his Albemarle County home [he now serves on the UVa Children’s Hospital Advisory Board]. Thankfully, his daughter got better, but Cullop said his heart goes out to those families in Virginia who are forced to declare bankruptcy when faced with similar medical emergencies.
“Healthcare is the first thing out of people’s mouths” on the campaign trail, Cullop said in an interview with the Rappahannock News in Flint Hill, where he made a campaign stop in recent days. He’s one of four Democratic candidates vying to win his party’s primary in early May [likely May 5] and then go on to face incumbent Republican Rep. Tom Garrett in the Nov. 6 midterm election.
“Premiums have doubled, tripled,” Cullop said. “Deductibles have quadrupled.”
A fourth generation Virginian and Charlottesville investment associate, the candidate said he remains in favor of a federal-run “public option,” such as the current Obamacare.
“If you’re buying private insurance through the exchanges right now, and you want to continue to do that because that’s best for you, I’m absolutely fine with that,” he said. “But I think for those who are not getting their insurance through their employer, and can’t afford insurance otherwise, there should be a public option available on the exchanges.”
Besides healthcare, Cullop said the second most important issue he hears about is “jobs and the economy, followed by education, and then a local issue: In some parts of the district that’s agriculture, in other parts it’s urban sprawl.”
Not surprising. The 5th congressional district, which includes Rappahannock County, is Virginia’s largest — bigger in size than New Jersey — stretching from the border with North Carolina to 10 miles west of Dulles International Airport.
But it is because of the district’s tremendous size, and therefore its breadth of diversity, that Cullop said it is essential that its representative on Capitol Hill spend more time visiting and hearing personally from constituents. Something he said Garrett to date hasn’t done.
“People want to see their congressman. They don’t want to see a young aide,” said the Democrat. “Tom Garrett has flat out said he doesn’t show up in some of these places like Charlottesville because they didn’t vote for him. What’s been interesting, though, he’s also not showing up in the red [Republican] part of the district, and people there are knocking him for it.
“So this is a real weakness he’s got as we go into the elections. People just don’t know the guy. He’s doing these telephone town halls. That’s a glorified conference call, that’s not a town hall. A town hall is sitting in a chair on a stage in front of your constituents and letting them share their concerns with you.”