This week's Election 2012 candidate profile focuses on the 9th District Congressional race.
The 9th district is located in the southwest portion of the state and includes Montgomery, Pulaski, Giles, Floyd, Craig, Carroll, and Grayson Counties, along with parts of Henry and Roanoke Counties.
WDBJ7 Anchor Jean Jadhon with Democratic candidate Anthony Flaccavento.
Jean: "He lives in Abingdon and is a family farmer and business owner. In 1995, Mr. Flaccavento founded Appalachian Sustainable Development, which has since become a national leader in sustainable economic development. In 2009, he founded SCALE, a consulting firm dedicated to developing and supporting sustainable regional economies and food systems. Also in 2009, he was selected by Blue Ridge magazine as one of central Appalachia's most important agents for positive change. Welcome Mr. Flaccavento. Thank you for joining us this morning."
Flaccavento: "Delighted to be here, Jean. Thank you."
Jean: "We have a lot to talk about this morning."
Flaccavento: "We do."
Jean: "My first question is why did you decide to run for Congress?"
Flaccavento: "Well, we've been doing some pretty interesting work over the last 27 years that I've been in the district. A lot of it is focused on what I call building a 'bottom-up economy,' an economy that's built on community strengths and assets and the successes we've had there. And then doing some of that work in other parts of the country led me to think, 'You know, if we had public policies coming from the federal government that supported this type of small business-friendly, family farm-friendly, bottom-up development, we would get an even better impact than we've already had - faster development, more comprehensive around the 9th and other parts of the country.' So I've been motivated by the small but important successes we've had."
Jean: "As you know the biggest issues this campaign season are the economy and jobs. Tell us what you will do if elected to create jobs for people in the 9th District?"
Flaccavento: "So, it's a very clear contrast between my plan and my opponent's plan. The other side has been part of what we generally call a 'trickle-down' economic approach, where you give a few small breaks to folks at the top and then you hope that prosperity trickles down because they turn around and invest. We haven't seen that. That just simply hasn't happened over quite a number of years. Our appraoch is the opposite. It's the idea of bottom-up economic development, by which we mean freeing up the independent community banks to invest capital into small businesses, mid-size businesses, new manufacturers and entrepreneurs, family farmers and infrastructure. Very critical in our district is the kind of infrastructure that helps farmers and entrepreneurs add value to their products, helps them gain access to markets. I believe that for very minimal, smart investments from the public sector, we can really grow these local, diverse economies."
Jean: "And that, you believe, will be what creates jobs."
Flaccavento: "Oh, absolutely. Because actually dollar-for-dollar, you get many more jobs from a family farmer than you do from a big agrobusiness. From a small business compared to a multi-national, the same amount of dollars invested or dollars of sales of a product or service, you tend to get more jobs with that. Not only more jobs, but more lasting jobs. Because you're not going to outsourse local companies the way you sometimes do with te bigger companies."
Jean: "And you mentioned, we mentioned a little bit earlier about what the district covers. It is large. Your district includes the coalfields of Southwest Virginia. Recently hundreds of coal miners were laid off from Alpha Natural Resources and Consol. What is your plan to keep the coal industry alive?"
Flaccavento: "Yeah, I think that the layoffs that we've seen recently are part of the sort of cyclical nature of the coal industry. In fact, it's pretty clear that a big chunk, a big proportion of those layoffs come from the downturn in the economy overall, that when you're not making as much stuff here and overseas, you don't need as much steel. And with less demand for steel, it particularly hits Southwest Virginia's coalfields hard because we have more metallurgical coal than steam coal. So, one thing we need to do, is we need to do everything we can to re-stimulate our economy, because when we're building more things, we'll be using more materials, including steel, and that will drive demand for metallurigal coal. That's our most valuable coal that we have. Now, in the meantime, what we need is we need to work with the coal companies, and I would say challenge the coal companies to invest in the cleanest, best coal technology that we have. Right now, it's sort of been painted as an either-or situation, but actually, if we truly invested in the cleanest burning and in the most, the best mining practices, we would have more jobs rather than less jobs. To do the job right, clean coal will take a few more employees. So I think we can keep more people employed by working on the cleanest possible coal technology. That's what we need to do right now. We also need to make sure that the miners' safety and health is protected. We've been skimping on that. And, again, I feel like my opponent's party has been all too quick to skimp on mine safety, black lung and whatnot. I think we need to absolutely fight for those things so that not only are miners working, but they're protected while they're working."
Jean: "Okay. We've shadowed all of the Congressional candidates this year on the campaign trail. Recently, WDBJ7's Joe Dashiell followed Anthony Flaccavento on a swing that carried the 9th district challenger from Galax to Christiansburg."
And where do you live? Abingdon, just outside of Abingdon our farm is like three miles out of town, so basically the greater Abingdon area.
On a Saturday in September, Anthony Flaccavento was introducing himself to voters in Galax.
So we want to see you get elected, we really do. I want to see that too.
He found an interested audience at the Grayson LandCare Expo, where he explained his vision for an economy built from the bottom up.
Flaccavento: First of all, what we're doing as a society as a whole, economically, politically isn't working. if what you believe is we should have widely shared prosperity, for people now and the possibility of prosperity for our kids and grandkids and their grandkids, what we're doing with trickle down economics, what we're doing with so-called free trade that really isnt free, what we're doing with that economic model just isn't working and it's time to start a new way of thinking about our economy.
Flaccavento: Probably the biggest surprise has been how consistently people have galvanized around that core of issues, a stronger healthier economy that we can build ourselves, that we're not so dependent on you know sort of the whims of the international market or whatever sort of thing there. People are almost uniformly around that, regardless of where they are in the district.
A major challenge, Flaccavento admits, is building his name recognition.
Good Afternoon, y'all. I appreciate the opportunity to be here.
When he visited Old Town Baptist Church, he found the humor in a name that's tough for some to remember, telling the story of a recent bus trip with a group of union miners.
Anthony Flaccavento: And one fella had never met me, and he said now how do you say your name again. and the guy behind him said, just think sack a pintoes . LAUGHTER. so there you go. so if you can't remember Flaccavento think sack of pintoes. they're pretty close.
He says his travels throughout the district are beginning to pay off.
Flaccavento: We've had a tremendous, tremendous expansion of knowledge of who I am, what I've done as a farmer, small business owner and consumer advocate, and most of that growth in terms of people knowing me and that I'm an alternative choice, has been in the last couple of months, so we're really seeing a tremendous uptick. More people when we call on the phone know. We're getting bigger crowds when we go to speak.
At the church, he fielded questions about health care reform, and the needs of the nation's veterans.
A lot of times the guys, they've got a lot of problems, they don't let the people, they don't even let their families know, but they have a problem. Then when a veteran gets sick or gets hurt in order to go to the veterans administration then they want to give them a hard time.
Well, I'll tell you what, one part of a strong defense and a proud military is that you take care of the people after you come home. APPLAUSE
Campaigning from one end of the Fightin' 9th to the other has been challenging, Flaccavento says, but also exciting.
And despite the fact he's facing an incumbent Congressman, he says Rick Boucher's 28 year tenure demonstrates that a Democrat can win.
Flaccavento: Of course we need Independents and moderate Republicans along with Democrats and a lot of those folks after they hear me talk and they'll say things like you don't sound like a typical Democrat to me or they'll say I ususally vote Republican but I'm interestesd in voting for you. And I think it really just comes down to one thing which is getting tens of thousand s of more people to know who I am, what I've been doing the last 30 years, and what sort of priorities I take to Congress. If we can do that well enough and quickly enough, we win.
Jean: "Do you feel like you're able to get that message out?"
Flaccavento: "Yeah. The message has been really well-received all across the district. Our district's incredibly diverse, really, when you think about the different ways people have made a living, the different resources that we have in different parts of the district."