This article originally appeared in The News Virginian on December 20, 2018.
STAUNTON — Despite losing here to Democratic rival Jennifer Lewis, Republican Congressman-elect Ben Cline made one of his post-election town hall stops in Staunton on Wednesday at American Legion Post 13.
Cline, who was elected to the House of Representatives in November, was greeted by a full house, composed of supporters and detractors alike. While there were many different issues that were raised by the audience, the one that drew the most attention was healthcare.
One audience member, a former advisor for Republican officials, said his own life had been saved on two occasions by the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare.”
While Cline’s main priority is repealing the ACA and replacing it with something more in the hands of the private sector, he says he does support including treatment for those with pre-existing conditions.
“I think that if you have some options for folks to purchase across state lines, you can go to some states where they’re allowing policies that may be more affordable, more accessible,” Cline said.
Many in the audience, however, were opposed to any government involvement in healthcare.
“I think the individual, all of us, should be more responsible for our own health, take care of ourselves and not depend on anyone else to take care of us,” said Reagan Shaner, 76, an audience member and small business owner. “The federal government has no place in healthcare. They need to get the heck out of healthcare and leave it to the insurance companies.”
A woman in the audience identified herself as a physician argued the healthcare industry does not respond to market incentives in the same way industries do. She referred to a study that claimed to show an increase in the number of medical doctors in an area did not result in a decrease in prices.
Lewis was also in attendance, and challenged Cline on several issues that she had run her campaign on.
“Part of my campaign was anti-corruption,” Lewis said. “I would love to challenge you to stop accepting money from Dominion, the NRA and other private corporations and corporate PACs, and only take money from private citizens.”
The Center for Responsive Politics lists the National Rifle Association as giving Cline a total of $3,000 during his campaign in three different payments. Dominion Energy (under the designation “Dominion Resources”) donated a single payment of $2,500. Cline’s biggest donor was the House Freedom Fund, which gave $56,542 in 75 payments.
Only $1,416, or .32 percent, of the money that Lewis spent came from political action committees. Most of her fundraising was through individual contributions.
Audience member Amy Darby, a Ben Cline supporter who worked on his campaign and sported a red baseball cap with “USA” on it, was overall pleased with the meeting.
“I thought that the turnout was good,” Darby said. “It was a really positive town hall meeting with lots of topics. It was good to hear the conversation.”
Other communities Cline visited Wednesday were Roanoke, Harrisonburg and Lexington.