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Actor, activist challenging Rep. Robert Hurt in 5th Congressional District

Friday, Jun. 27 | By Jonathan Hunley
Lawrence Gaughan
As an actor, Lawrence Gaughan has portrayed a number of characters, including a Secret Service agent on HBO's popular "Veep," but these days he's focusing on another role: congressman.

Democrats in Virginia's 5th Congressional District on May 31 chose the Charlottesville native to challenge incumbent Rep. Robert Hurt, a Republican.

Gaughan, who relocated to Danville to focus on campaigning, said last week that he wanted to run for Congress because various factors have brought America to the point at which the nation "almost no longer has a functioning democracy."

The 47-year-old noted recent Supreme Court decisions shattering campaign-finance regulations as well as what he termed the low "productivity" of lawmakers.

"More than ever, we're seeing a Congress that's failed," Gaughan said in a telephone interview.

So he's been hitting the road in the 5th District, which includes most of Fauquier County.

The 5th is the largest of Virginia's 11 congressional districts, stretching from Fauquier to the North Carolina line.

But Gaughan said that he can identify with many of the seemingly disparate demographic groups in the region.

As a member of the motion picture industry, for example, he toiled with everyone from Ivy League-educated directors to Teamsters and other working-class folk handling some of the more laborious tasks on set.

And, of course, he pointed out that he's not a "career politician."

"I believe people are sick and tired of career politicians," said Gaughan, who has, however, raised money for political candidates.

He also founded Gov360, a nonprofit that promotes civic involvement in government.

It aims to reach non-voters, and Gaughan said that low turnout at the polls is another problem plaguing the country.

When citizens don't even bother to cast a vote, he said, it sends the message that incumbents are doing a good job, regardless of whether they are.

In terms of issues in the district, Gaughan identified two familiar subjects: jobs and education.

The Democrat said the government needs to provide incentives for companies to locate and expand in the 5th District rather than shipping jobs overseas. As it stands now, it's often more advantageous tax-wise for businesses to export jobs.

Gaughan proposes raising the minimum wage to $12 an hour, as well, according to his website.

Regarding education, Gaughan said more funding should go to early childhood learning.

When students are better prepared in their first years, they prosper in school later, which, in turn, makes the job of teaching easier, he said.

In addition, Gaughan said he would work to reduce student loan rates to make higher education more affordable.

And on other matters, he said he supports Virginia's uranium-mining ban, comprehensive national immigration reform, equal pay for women, and diplomacy in foreign policy.

It's these stances and others that Gaughan hopes will attract a coalition of voters to help him defeat Hurt on Election Day, Nov. 4.

In the meantime, he'll continue to travel a road that also binds the 5th District together: U.S. 29.

The highway connects many of the major parts of the district, Gaughan noted.

"It's like a string of pearls," he said.

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