What you need to know about Virginia's 6th District House race

Jennifer Lewis, Ben Cline are on ballot


Midterm elections will be held nationwide for all 435 districts that make up the U.S. House of Representatives.

One of those elections is for Virginia's 6th Congressional District. This district contains Amherst, Augusta, Bath, Botetourt, Highland, Page, Rockbridge, Rockingham, Shenandoah and Warren counties, as well as parts of Bedford and Roanoke counties. The cities of Buena Vista, Harrisonburg, Lexington, Lynchburg, Roanoke, Springwood, Staunton and Waynesboro are also in the district.

Currently, that seat is held by Bob Goodlatte, a Republican, who was first elected to office in 1992. Last November, Goodlatte announced he would not seek re-election.

That opened the race on both sides of the political spectrum.

On the ballot will be Democrat Jennifer Lewis and Republican Ben Cline.

A newcomer to running for political office, Lewis describes herself as a “bold progressive” and has spent her life fighting for causes as a mental health worker and grassroots organizer. She has been one of the leaders behind the anti-pipeline movement in Augusta County.

She grew up on a small farm and says her background working on fixing problems prepares her for a seat in Congress.

She wants to get money out of politics. She's said she's not taking any special interest money or money from corporations for her campaign. She believes more people in America are asking their politicians to go this route.

“I think the tide is changing,” she said. “It resonates with people.”

She said she will she will represent the people of the 6th District and not simply follow the leaders of the Democratic Party.

Cline, an attorney from Rockbridge, has represented the Lexington area in Virginia’s General Assembly since 2002 and says his 16 years in Richmond show he stands up for conservative values.

“I'm the conservative with a record of success down in Richmond fighting the fights on behalf of the people of the 6th District,” he said.

He believes many parts of the political system are broken and wants to make sure the government is working for the people it governs. He says he will take to Washington the values of the 6th District: faith, family, community and hard work.

Cline says his voting record in Richmond shows that he deviates from the views of the Republican Party if he feels they don’t align with his district’s. Specifically, the issue of transparency -- like recording votes in subcommittees in the Virginia General Assembly -- is something he's fought for against the leaders of his party.

Candidates' stance on various issues:


The two candidates disagree about the Trump administration’s moves to raise tariffs.

Cline wants to lower tariffs overall but agrees with the Trump administration’s decisions because he thinks America should confront nations he feels have unfair trade practices with the U.S.

“I support free-trade policies. I want to see the lowest possible tariffs across the board,” he said.

He supports President Trump’s decision to lower tariffs through negotiations.

“That's a different approach than I would take but I'm hopeful that at the end of the day we end up with lower tariffs across the board. I think that's something that everybody wants no matter where you stand on how we get there,” he said.

Lewis does not approve of the Trump administration's decision to increase tariffs.

“He's not consulting with the experts,” she said. “These tariffs are definitely going to impact the farmers of our district. They're growing soybeans. They're growing corn. Those are the tariffs that are going to be directly impacting our farmers,” she said.

Additionally, she hopes farmers can have more diversity in their crops, which is why she supports the legalization of hemp and marijuana farming.

Lewis has been a strong pipeline opponent since the announcement of the Virginia projects. Cline supports projects like pipelines that bolster America’s energy infrastructure.

Lewis spent years opposing Virginia pipeline projects at the grassroots level. She is the president and founder of Friends of Augusta, an anti-pipeline group, and she’s an elected member of the Headwater Soil and Water Conservation Board.

She said the pipelines' threat to water quality and the use of eminent domain to take people's property are the main issues she has with the projects.

She thinks the pipelines will not benefit the communities through which they pass. She believes the projects ultimately will not have the approval needed for the companies to finish them.

Cline said he supports projects that bring down energy prices for families.

“I'm a supporter of American energy independence so I'm an 'all of the above' energy policy guy,” he said.

He said he’s a strong supporter of private property rights and would consider legislation at the federal level that would guarantee that eminent domain would only be used if it would be necessary for the government to provide an essential service.

He said the pipeline projects need to be completed safely and believes that there should be more public input in the federal agency approval process.

Evaluating Rep. Bob Goodlatte

Cline praised Goodlatte's service and how he responded to constituents. He said, with his time in the General Assembly, he has more experience than Goodlatte did when the representative first took office in 1993.

Lewis said if elected, her time in office would be a change from Goodlatte’s.

"Overall I'm very disappointed in Congressman Bob Goodlatte," she said.

She said she will do a better job of talking with constituents.

Interstate 81

Both candidates agree that there should be many improvements to Interstate 81, including an increase in the distance of on and off ramps and getting more tractor-trailers off the road by putting their cargo on rail.

Lewis breaks from Cline’s view on the prospect of adding a third lane. She does not believe all of Interstate 81 should be widened to three lanes because she worries about the government using eminent domain to take people's property against their will.

She doesn't think the studies prove that widening the interstate to three lanes will bring enough of a benefit to warrant taking people's land.

“I really hesitate to talk about widening the entire I-81 because then we get into eminent domain and private property rights, which is a huge issue and a big passion of mine,” she said.

Lewis believes that if elected she can secure federal funding to help increase safety, but she also believes safe driving is an issue of personal responsibility.

Cline said he's been fighting for improvements on Interstate 81 since he took statewide office and is proud that a third lane was added in the Rockbridge area.

He believes that, along with widening I-81, it needs interchange improvements and more officers and troopers patrolling.

“We need to fix that and address those bottlenecks and those problems on 81. I'm best positioned to do that,” he said.

Cline is eyeing the six-year highway transportation bill that’s coming up for renewal in Congress next year and said Virginia needs to make sure that the proposal includes funding for I-81.

Opioid epidemic

Both candidates believe there’s more work to be done to fight against the opioid addiction crisis. Cline points to oversight of prescriptions and Lewis is asking for drug companies to shoulder some of the blame.

Cline said that during his time in the Virginia General Assembly the Commonwealth has tried to address the issue through looking at how prescriptions are issued and the number of pills that can be prescribed at one time. He would encourage more action from Congress.

“We see legislation moving in a similar vein at the federal level to tackle interstate trafficking of opioids and I would encourage additional measures at the federal level to tackle this growing problem.” he said.

Lewis believes pharmaceutical companies have been over prescribing medication and the money in politics from special interests and corporations is one reason why they haven’t been held accountable.

“I think that that's a big reason why we have the opioid crisis right now -- the influence and the power that the pharmaceutical companies have on our elected officials currently,” she said.

Health Care

Cline blames the problems in America’s health care system on the Affordable Care Act while Lewis believes so-called Obamacare was the start of a good strategy for the country. She favors so-called Medicare For All proposals while Cline criticizes them.

Lewis believes all Americans should have access to health insurance. She supports proposals to give all Americans access to Medicare and believes that would help provide treatment for those suffering from an addiction to opioids and would help solve many other health care problems. 

Cline said America's health care system is broken. He said the Affordable Care Act led to fewer choices, higher prices and meant fewer people were covered.

He said the expansion of Medicaid has put a squeeze on the budget and could cause taxes to increase.

“What we need to do is to repeal Obamacare, replace it with a system that's more market-based that enables insurance companies to offer different types of policies for different types of people,” he said.

Cline said if Republicans who campaign on repealing Obamacare would all vote for repealing it, Congress would be able to move forward.


Cline has a pro-business view, while Lewis believes solving issues in health care can be the spark the 6th District needs. Both pointed to energy initiatives that could create jobs and help the district move toward renewable energy.

Cline said he wants to make sure Virginia continues to have policies that attract businesses. He believes improvements to Interstate 81 will help bring companies to the area.

He wants the 6th District to become more energy independent and said the district should explore investing in many different energy sources to help lower the cost of energy and bring more manufacturing jobs to the area.

Lewis supports proposals to give all Americans access to Medicare. She believes that expansion will add health care jobs.

She believes America should work toward having more renewable energy, a goal which would also bring new jobs.

“If we're thinking about what's the next generation of jobs it's definitely renewable energy,” she said.

Lewis supports free community college to increase vocational opportunities and said, in some places in the 6th District, jobs are open but companies can't fill them.


Cline is in-line with the Republican stance on immigration and supports the changes the Trump administration has made to America’s immigration policies while Lewis does not support that position or those changes.

Cline said America's system doesn't do a good enough job of keeping people safe.

“Our immigration system is broken,” he said. “We do need to build a wall. We do need to make sure our system is merit-based instead of just a lottery-based system,” he said.

He believes the current system opens the door for drug and human trafficking, among other issues. He said he'd like America to create visas based on the skills needed in the country and he wants to end the practice of sanctuary cities.

Lewis made strong comments in opposition to the current U.S. policies and practices, specifically the separation of parents from children.

“I'm absolutely appalled by the Trump administration's changes to immigration policy,” she said.

She believes the Trump administration's plan to build a wall along America's southern border is unnecessary and racist and she questions how the country can pay for it.


Cline believes Congress should have a hands-off approach to overseeing education. Lewis is against voucher initiatives and is in favor of increasing teacher pay.

“6th District schools are best when the decisions are made in the 6th District,” Cline said.

He wants localities to be able to make decisions on education through their school boards.

Lewis wants all government funding to go to public schools and not to vouchers or charter schools and she supports increasing teacher pay.

“We need to respect our teachers,” she said. “We're seeing a teacher shortage.”

She'd like to see more money go to school infrastructure improvements, like building repairs.

Gun Violence

Cline has an endorsement from the National Rifle Association while Lewis supports many gun control measures offered up by Democrats.

Cline approves of Congress’ decision to appoint a committee to study what can be done to improve safety in schools.

He supports the 2nd Amendment and doesn't think additional gun control measures are what America needs.

“I constantly defend our constitutional rights to defend ourselves and our families and our home and our communities. That's what the 2nd Amendment was put in place for,” he said.

Lewis believes there's a role Congress can play in helping to fight against gun violence. She believes young people are afraid and politicians should listen to them.

She said she grew up hunting and respects hunters’ rights.

“But no one is going to go hunting with an AR-15,” she said.

She doesn’t think Americans should be able to own so-called assault weapons or bump stocks. She’s in favor of proposals that address background checks and so-called gun show loopholes.


We'll continue to update this page to include both candidates' views about more key issues.


About the Authors: