Goodlatte opponent calls for change in 6th District

EDINBURG – Kai Degner, the Democratic candidate for Congress in the 6th District, told his fellow party members Thursday that he was ready for a fight with U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Roanoke.

Degner, a real estate agent and city council member from Harrisonburg, who entered the race as a last-minute replacement when an earlier prospective candidate fell ill, said he has raised $100,000 since early June and called on party members to find more donors to fund his campaign.

Degner spoke to an audience of more than 100 Shenandoah County Democrats at their annual dinner.

He criticized Goodlatte for his role as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, blaming Goodlatte for holding up reform legislation pertaining to immigration and campaign finance reform. He also accused Goodlatte of opposing criminal justice reform, despite the committee’s bipartisan approval of a package of 11 bills covering areas such as reduced sentencing for certain crimes and rehabilitation of offenders in and out of prison.

“This is the most important House race in the country if you care about criminal justice reform, immigration reform or anything else that’s being held up by Bob Goodlatte in the Judiciary Committee,” Degner said. “It doesn’t matter who’s in the White House. It doesn’t matter who’s in the Senate if Bob Goodlatte is in the Judiciary Committee and keeps killing these bills.”

Degner also said Goodlatte, a 24-year veteran of Congress, has held his office too long and should be replaced. He noted that Goodlatte supported term limits when he was first elected to Congress in 1993.

Goodlatte could not be reached for comment late Thursday night.

Another speaker, Del. Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Springfield, said she was exploring a run for lieutenant governor. She said in an interview that she was postponing a decision until after this year’s election.

In the meantime, Filler-Corn said, she is touring the state and talking about some of the issues she has been working on in Richmond – domestic violence, campus sexual assault, education and people with disabilities.

Filler-Corn won a special election to the House of Delegates in 2010 after being coaxed into the race by Anne Holton, the wife of U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, the Democrats’ vice-presidential candidate.

“I try to be deliberate,” Filler-Corn said. “I try to think things through, but once I make my mind up, I’m all in.”

Lorne Seay, secretary-treasurer of the Virginia AFL-CIO, delivered a fierce attack on a referendum that would make the state’s existing right to work law part of the Virginia constitution.

Right to work laws allow workers to opt out of joining a union and paying dues in unionized workplaces.

Seay drew repeated rounds of applause as he shouted his denunciation of the referendum. He said right to work laws amount to a requirement that unions represent all workers “free of charge.”

“What organization gives you full rights and benefits, but by law cannot expect anything in return?” Seay demanded.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com