Primaries: Democratic candidates stress Medicaid expansion during forum hosted by party committee

Tom Brock, seeking the Democratic nomination to the 21st Virginia House District, speaks during the forum at the Virginia Beach Central Library. Seen behind him are Kelly Fowler, who also seeks the nomination in the 21st District, and Dave Belote, chairperson of the city party committee. [John-Henry Doucette/The Independent News]

VIRGINIA BEACH – Candidates seeking the Democratic nomination in the Tuesday, June 13, primary elections for two Virginia House of Delegates races say Medicaid expansion is a major concern for their campaigns.

Candidates Kimberly Anne Tucker and Nancy Carothers, seeking to run in the 81st House District, and Tom Brock and Kelly Fowler, seeking nomination in the 21st House District, spoke during a forum held by the Virginia Beach Democratic Committee on Monday, June 5, at Meyera E. Oberndorf Central Library.

Committee chairperson Dave Belote, who moderated the forum, asked the candidates about their most pressing legislative issue.

“Expanding Medicaid is low hanging fruit because it’s something that is right there, ready to happen,” Brock said about a safety net that might help 400,000 Virginians. It has been supported by the McAuliffe administration yet was rejected in April by the GOP-led General Assembly.

“I hate to be a copycat,” Carothers said, “but my number one issue is expanding Medicaid and ensuring healthcare for all.”

Tucker, too, agreed that this was a priority, adding that issues with affording care impact “working people who are doing the right thing every day.”

“I agree,” Fowler said, giving an example of a parent with children who qualify but may not qualify for care themself. 

“This is a big stressor and worry and fear for a lot of parents,” she said.

Candidates, some of whom were motivated, in part, to seek office in response to the result of the 2016 general election, said the Trump administration has been a rallying factor for Democrats to get involved and seek gains.

“It has absolutely brought out the best in us,” said Brock, who founded a political action committee to help elect progressives.

“Donald Trump is a danger to democracy,” Carothers said.

Tucker, who said she was “distraught” by Trump’s election, had not previously considered running, though she had become active and founded a Facebook group, Indivisible 757. “I am the only person who knows me who is surprised I’m running,” she noted.

Tucker said she wanted to do more than “drive around with signs” in her car, noting that those concerned about the shape of government should join it to effect change.

Belote also asked questions, including at least one submitted by an audience member, that acknowledged tension in the 21st House District contest between Fowler and Brock. Brock has been criticized for past offensive posts on social media, including some that used racial stereotypes and misogynistic language, and the Virginia House Democratic Caucus called for him him to drop out.

Brock has apologized for some posts and said others were taken out of context. As The Independent News reported last month, Brock vowed to remain in the primary race and let voters in the 21st House District make the decision.

Belote asked whether candidates would support those who earn nominations through the primaries. Fowler noted she had told Brock in February that she would do so, though it was before the social media issues arose. It wasn’t clear whether she would do so now.

“I will support every single Democrat running in the commonwealth,” Brock said.

In comparison, Carothers and Tucker each said they would support one another, and they described their campaigns as cordial.

“I will very enthusiastically support her,” Carothers said.

Tucker said divisions were needless. “We helped each other get petition signatures,” she noted.

Belote read a question from an African American person to Brock: “Can I trust you to represent me in the General Assembly?”

Brock, who has said he is committed to equality, said she could. “My entire goal is to support a strong set of Democratic values,” he said, encouraging those in the audience to look at his statements and real priorities.

Tucker spoke about Brock. “My experience with Tom Brock is he is a man of integrity who will fight. I refer to him as my bone-headed friend.” Some chuckled. “I could trust Tom Brock to stand and fight for me in Richmond.”

Fowler said she was focused on her campaign and efforts to help women, minorities and families and work on related issues. “The only thing I will not tolerate is intolerance,” she said. In earlier remarks, she also said “I believe you are your most genuine self when no one is looking.”

The Independent News published Q&As with the candidates for Republican and Democratic primaries in the 21st House District and the Democratic primary in the 81st House District on Friday, May 26. Those Q&As are available online via

© 2017 Pungo Publishing Co., LLC

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