Last weekend, I had the privilege of attending a candidate forum focused on foreign policy featuring four Democratic candidates vying to replace Rep. Barbara Comstock in VA-10. The candidates, Lindsey Davis Stover, Dan Helmer, Alison Friedman and State Senator Jennifer Wexton, are all supported by JStreetPAC. Going in, I knew each candidate to be talented, eloquent and passionate — so I expected the forum would be energizing.
The first thing I noticed was how packed the forum was. I have always thought it sad that foreign policy is so rarely discussed during campaign season, but the VA-10 forum gave me real hope that this is changing. Co-sponsored by Foreign Policy for America, J Street, AAPI Victory Fund, NIAC Action, Latino Victory Fund, EMGAGE and the Council for a Livable World, it brought almost two hundred people together for a substantive conversation about America’s role in the world.
Even more exciting for me was that it featured a robust discussion about Israel, the conflict and the Iran nuclear deal. Each candidate expressed thoughtful and sound positions on issues ranging from a two-state solution to anti-BDS legislation and Iran sanctions.
The first topic covered was Iran, where Dan Helmer discussed how his tours of military duty in Iran and Afghanistan inform his commitment to diplomacy-first foreign policy:
Later in the event, I asked a question about the two-state solution and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Alison Friedman reiterated her strong support for a two-state solution and lambasted President Trump for actions he has taken that will only thwart peace. State Senator Jennifer Wexton offered her perspective on anti-BDS legislation, stating that despite her own opposition to BDS, she strongly believes that people should have a right to hold dissenting political views.
Finally, we returned again to the Iran deal, where the other candidates were given a chance to voice their views. I was struck by Lindsey Davis Stover’s critique of Trump’s attempts to undermine the nuclear deal.
I left the forum feeling incredibly hopeful about our political future. Each of the candidates recognized the importance of a measured, diplomacy-first approach to foreign policy and US leadership in the Middle East. While pushing back against the Trump administration’s daily outrages can be exhausting and depressing, the VA-10 candidates painted a bright and promising picture of what Congress can look like if we win big in 2018.
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