RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — For the second straight election, Democratic U.S. Rep. Donald McEachin is being challenged by Republican Leon Benjamin. But this time they are running to represent Virginia’s new 4th Congressional District.
In 2020, McEachin received nearly 62% of the vote when he defeated Benjamin to reclaim Virginia’s 4th Congressional District seat.
McEachin, a Richmond native and former Virginia state lawmaker, is seeking a fourth term in Congress. Benjamin, a Richmond native and Navy veteran, is the senior pastor of New Life Harvest Church in Richmond.
8News spoke with McEachin and Benjamin about their platforms, the top issues voters are talking about and their previous matchup.
A closer look at Virginia’s new 4th District
The city of Richmond still has the largest share of voters in the 4th Congressional District, but the new boundaries moved west to include Brunswick County.
An analysis of the district from the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP) shows a wide Democratic advantage based on estimates of previous statewide elections.
- Localities added to new 4th District: Brunswick
- Localities no longer in the 4th District: Cities of Chesapeake and Suffolk
On the issues
Top issues for voters
8News asked Rep. McEachin and Benjamin about the key issues voters and residents of Virginia’s 4th Congressional District are talking to them about on the campaign trail.
“People are concerned about the loss of the rights of people to be able to make their own reproductive decisions,” McEachin said, starting off with abortion rights following the Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade.
The U.S. House passed legislation to codify Roe v. Wade and ensure abortion protections, but the measure is unlikely to pass the Senate. McEachin said advocates will press on despite what happens next, adding that Democrats would help “start to put reasonable-minded justices on the courts across this land.”
“They’re concerned about inflation,” he continued. “They’re concerned about democracy and whether or not we’ll be able to hold onto it and keep it in the face of all these election deniers.”
Benjamin mentioned crime in Richmond and education, raising concerns over students “who may have lagged behind” following the unprecedented shift to virtual learning in response to the pandemic. But he first noted the economic issues facing the country.
“What we’re hearing is the kitchen-table issues. Talking to a lot of people about the economy,” Benjamin said. “They recognize the high prices, the high gas prices.”
When addressing the economy, Benjamin blamed “radical spending” and the impact it has had on the nation’s workforce. He called for the U.S. to “get back energy independence,” claiming a push towards green energy has restricted natural gas businesses from thriving.
McEachin lauded the U.S. economy’s recent 2.6% annual rate of growth from July through September, saying it would help with high inflation and wages. He also noted legislative moves made by Congress, but said that more work needs to be done.
“Do we still have inflation in our grocery stores, yes, we do,” McEachin told 8News. “But we’ve taken action. We passed the Inflation Reduction Act which will cap drug prices, particularly the price of insulin. And we did that without any Republican help.”
The congressman also pointed to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, telling 8News that it will help the 4th District’s ability to improve its waterworks. He said the district has lead-filled pipes, asbestos-filled pipes, wooden pipes and some “we don’t even know where the the pipes are” that need to be replaced, repaired and located.
“When I surveyed my district, the biggest problem we have is water,” McEachin said. “How we transport water. The mechanisms by which we do it.”
In August, McEachin made headlines when he said he would not debate Benjamin unless he acknowledged the results of the 2020 election.
Benjamin sent McEachin a letter on Aug. 8 to set up two debates. McEachin wrote back to Benjamin on Aug. 15 informing him there wouldn’t be any debates unless Benjamin accepted that he lost in 2020 and that President Joe Biden defeated former President Donald Trump.
“It is incredibly frustrating to have to debate someone who just makes stuff up. When you can’t even agree on what the facts are in order to begin to talk about what the solutions are,” McEachin told 8News months later.
The day McEachin sent his letter, 8News spoke with Benjamin and asked him several times whether he thought Biden and McEachin had legitimately won in 2020. He declined to answer and refused to answer again in October.
“I’ll tell you what, if McEachin wants to get in the room with me and talk about that, we can talk about that together in a debate,” Benjamin said when asked if Biden and McEachin won in 2020.
8News asked Benjamin if he felt Virginia’s elections are fair and if he would concede to McEachin if he loses.
“We just want, from my perspective, fair and transparent elections. If they are fair and transparent by all means yes,” Benjamin responded. “But the American people deserve to know and have the right to question if there are deliberate things being done to put a shadow and a shame on our electoral process.”
Who is winning the money race?
Rep. McEachin has raised nearly $868,000 and Benjamin’s campaign has brought in almost $309,000 for the election, U.S. Federal Election Commission records show.
According to VPAP, records show that $1,133 has been used on anti-McEachin mailers, and $38,950 has been used for pro-Benjamin advertisements.
Early voting in Virginia started in September and runs until Nov. 5. Election Day is Nov. 8.