- Dr. Cameron Webb, the director of Health Policy and Equity at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, is the Democratic nominee for Virginia’s 5th Congressional District.
- Webb, a first-time candidate, is a medical doctor and an attorney.
- As a White House Fellow from 2016-2017 under then-President Barack Obama and President Donald Trump, Webb focused on healthcare policy.
- The 5th District contest between Webb and Republican Bob Good has emerged as one of the most competitive House races in the country.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
On some days, Dr. Cameron Webb campaigns for Congress and then works a night shift treating coronavirus patients as an internal medicine physician.
Webb, the 37-year-old director of Health Policy and Equity at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, is the Democratic nominee for Virginia’s 5th Congressional District, which stretches from exurban Fauquier County in Northern Virginia to academia-centric Charlottesville to rural Southside Virginia.
A graduate of the University of Virginia, Webb earned degrees in Medicine and Law from Wake Forest University and Loyola University Chicago, respectively. After completing his residency in Manhattan, he served as a White House Fellow in 2016 and 2017 under the administrations of then-president Barack Obama and President Donald Trump, focusing on healthcare policy.
Webb returned to the University of Virginia in 2017, where he teaches classes as assistant professor of medicine. He announced his congressional run in August 2019 and won the Democratic primary in a landslide over three other candidates this past June.
The Republican-leaning 5th district, which is larger in area than six states, hasn’t been represented by a Democrat in the House of Representatives since 2011. Its current GOP congressman, Denver Riggleman, was defeated in a June party convention by Bob Good, a former county supervisor and self-described “biblical conservative.”
Throughout his campaign, Webb has focused on expanding access to healthcare, something he says is a universal issue throughout the district.
“We’ve expanded Medicaid here in Virginia, but I always hear about the cost of care,” he said. “People are really focused on the cost of prescription drugs and long term care for their parents or grandparents who are aging.”
If elected, Webb would be the first Black physician to be a voting member of Congress.
In early October, Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics, the noted nonpartisan forecaster, moved the contest from “leans Republican” to “tossup,” a sign of the race’s increased competitiveness.
Webb recently spoke with Business Insider about his campaign. Below are edited excerpts from that interview.
Q. As a physician who treats COVID-19 patients, what have been some of your biggest observations about the disease?
A. This pandemic has been eye-opening for so many people. Coronavirus affects people of all ages, races, and socioeconomic status. We’ve really had to lean into science as it has been accumulating so that we can serve our patients well.
At the same time, I’m seeing the economic pressures that force people into spaces where they can possibly get sick. It’s been interesting having that dual perspective both of the clinical side and the economic side of this from my vantage point as a doctor.
Some people are hesitant to take a coronavirus vaccine when it becomes available because they question its safety. What would you say to people with those concerns?
Some of the concern has to do with the way that some of our science-based organizations have been undermined. I would tell people to focus on the science. If we’re seeing that a vaccine is developing, let’s keep our eye on the FDA [Food and Drug Administration] process for approving the vaccine. Is that process consistent with the process we used to approve the flu vaccine or pneumonia vaccines or some of the vaccines that we’ve been administering for years? As health professionals, once those conditions are met to our satisfaction and we can see how the vaccines were developed, we’ll gladly say that it’s a good idea. We’re keeping a close eye on it.
If elected, you would be representing one of the most rural districts of any House Democrat. What are some of the issues that you would be advocating for?
I live in Charlottesville now, but I’m from Spotsylvania County [Va.] and my wife’s from Appomattox County [Va.] so we’re from relatively rural spaces. That helps with having insight into what folks face in a district like this. On the economic front, rural broadband is a key issue. You’re seeing the impact of rural broadband on education play outright now in the midst of this pandemic and the digital divide is making it harder for kids to learn. We need to have more post-secondary options, like job training, vocational tech programs, and apprenticeships. Rural healthcare access is huge — there have been 15 rural hospital closures across the US so far in 2020. If you are losing the hospitals, not only are you losing the local economic issues, but also the option for people to get the healthcare that they need.
If the Green New Deal was put up for a vote during your first days in Congress, would you support it?
I don’t support the Green New Deal in terms of the 14-page aspirational document that we’ve looked it. To me, I just lean into the science. What does it tell us? We need to reduce carbon emissions by 45% by 2030 and completely decarbonize by 2050. I say we can do that in the manufacturing, construction, and transportation sectors. This is not just about the moral importance of preserving our environment, but it’s also an economic conversation. I like framing the conversation in those terms. Clean and renewable energy technologies are cheaper now than fossil fuel technologies.
What kinds of policing reforms could be implemented to improve relations between members of the community and police departments?
We need reform across our criminal justice system in order to achieve that idea of justice and public safety for everybody. That’s policing, prosecution, adjudication, sentencing, corrections, and reentry. At every step, there are disparities along the way. That’s where I’d like to give a nod to the Trump administration — the First Step Act was a step in the right direction. The law addressed issues in sentencing, corrections, and reentry, but it’s not comprehensive and doesn’t solve everything, so we have to continue the work. I don’t support defunding the police. I think it’s merely a political wedge that people are trying to use in a crisis moment for our country, at a time where we need to be bringing law enforcement and our communities together to face our challenges.