Anthony Flaccavento hopes to level the playing field for the working class and address the unfavorable economy young people face if he is elected into the Ninth District congressional seat this November.
Flaccavento visited the University of Virginia’s College at Wise on March 8 to address his vision for southwest Virginia to students and locals. Specifically, he spoke about how he plans to create jobs for college graduates and the potential benefits of creating new regional industries.
Flaccavento is a second-time Democratic challenger to Republican four-term incumbent Morgan Griffith, who has held the seat since 2011. He ran against Griffith in 2012 and lost by 22 percent of the vote.
“We need to give students more options than to work in fast food or at Walmart,” Flaccavento said. Limiting job opportunities for young people is a “double whammy” because they have accumulated student debt and are not making enough income to cover their bills.
“One thing we need to do is invest in entrepreneurship,” Flaccavento said, because it would spark creativity and create new jobs for young people. Some examples he lists are website graphic design, cybersecurity, energy efficient household, food and farming.
A strategy to create local entrepreneurs is what Flaccavento calls a co-worker space. It would be a physical area with, “really good wifi, access to peers and the brainstorming of ideas.”
In order to address the current problems with student loan debt, Flaccavento advocates for the “Paye Act,” which essentially means that students can structure their repayments based on their income.
Flaccavento feels that this election will be different for three different reasons, the most important being that he had an early start. In 2012, Flaccavento he entered the congressional race in May, but this time, he began last October.
“People all over the district want change,” Flaccavento said of his run. “They feel that Morgan Griffith is not doing anything.”
One of Griffith’s major promises, along with President Donald Trump, is that they will bring back jobs in the coal industry, which has been steadily declining.
A December 2017 article by Newsweek stated that, despite Trump’s claim of creating 45,000 coal-related jobs since the beginning of his presidency, “just 1,200 coal-mining jobs have been created.”
Finally, Flaccavento said that voters are realizing that there is not a war being waged on coal. His intentions are not to entirely eliminate the coal industry, but to provide alternative sources of energy and jobs.
“Most of the coal we have left is metallurgical, a key ingredient in the steel industry,” he says. “Coal jobs are not coming back,” because there is not enough coal left in this region to provide a booming industry.
He asked, “Which is better: to lie to people in coal communities or to say we have to create new job opportunities for you and your children?”
Flaccavento said the district has other development opportunities, including, “Manufacturing, downtown businesses, breweries, tourism and recreation.”
Flaccavento has an extensive background in farming and economics. He obtained a degree in agriculture and environmental science from University of Kentucky and completed a master’s program in economic and social development at the University of Pittsburgh. He advocates for bringing sustainable agriculture for the region so local farmers and businesses can thrive once again.
“Let’s bring in some home-grown manufacturing,” he said.
Flaccavento said that, in order for people to understand his mission, he hopes to create forums in the coalfields alongside forums on new businesses and industry. This would show coal miners that their wide variety of skills can be used elsewhere, so retraining would be minimal.
“People would rather see it rather than hear it,” he said.
The deadline for voter registration for the Virginia general election is Oct. 15. The general election date is Nov. 6.