Leslie Cockburn in The Plains

Leslie Cockburn, Democratic congressional candidate for the 5th District, met with potential voters Thursday at a "Party Before the Polls" event at Happy Creek Coffee & Tea in The Plains. She was joined by Ronnie Ross, left, who is running for the Democratic Party nomination in 2019 for the 27th District state senate seat now held by Sen. Jill Vogel.

Candidates are making good use of the remaining days to sway voters before next Tuesday’s election. 

Leslie Cockburn came to The Plains on Friday morning for a meet and greet at Happy Creek Coffee & Tea. The Democratic candidate for the 5th District seat in Congress, which includes most of Fauquier County, was wrapping up 16 months of campaigning by holding “Party Before the Polls” events across the district from Thursday through Monday.

Denver Riggleman, Cockburn’s Republican challenger, planned to be at the Fauquier County Republican Committee’s campaign headquarters at 98 Alexandria Pike in Warrenton at 9:30 a.m. Friday. 

White House Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is expected to attend in support, his campaign announced.

Riggleman has been endorsed by President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. 

Cockburn on Thursday noted she was just endorsed by former Sen. John Warner, a Republican, and singer John Legend, who she said is an advocate for criminal justice reform.

The Cockburn-Riggleman race is considered close. A New York Times and Siena College mid-October poll put Cockburn just 1 percent ahead.

“We’re running neck and neck. We could win by one vote,” Cockburn told the coffee shop gathering. “That conversation you have on the doorstep could win this race.”

The remark was a nudge for her supporters to keep knocking on doors, making calls and doing what they can in the final days to get more Cockburn voters to the polls.

“I’ve not seen the canvassing, volunteering and spirit that I’ve seen in this campaign,” said David Roos, a member of The Plains Town Council.

“Fauquier County has seen her dozens of times, I count her as a Fauquier resident,” Roos said. Cockburn lives in neighboring Rappahannock County.

“The campaign is now sending canvassers down the district and we’re going farther down the state in numbers that are the highest I’ve seen. It blows me away and I’ve been involved with politics for 40 years,” Roos said.

The 5thDistrict is vast, including part or all of 21 counties to the North Carolina border plus the cities of Charlottesville and Danville.

Ronnie Ross is running for the Democratic Party nomination in 2019 for the 27thDistrict state senate seat now held by state Sen. Jill Vogel, a Republican. He came to the coffee shop to see Cockburn. He said her “boots on the ground” campaign is something he as a candidate is learning from.

“I love the way Leslie has run, putting boots on the ground and meeting with voters where they are. That’s really important in a district as big as it is,” said Ross, who is a teacher at Highland School in Warrenton. “I’ve learned that the ground game matters.”

Ross said he likes Cockburn’s stands on health care and the environment. She would also serve “as a check on who’s in power,” he said.

“I think she’s been running smart. Fauquier County is about as red as you get,” said Cal Hickey of Warrenton, a retired Air Force colonel who was at the coffee shop to see and hear Cockburn. Hickey is a member of Vets for American Ideals, a group dedicated to countering Islamophobia, protecting refugees and preserving the special immigrant visa program for interpreters who aided the U.S. military.

Hickey said he was bothered by the rhetoric and tone set by President Trump.

“If you set the wrong tone, unit cohesion goes out the window,” Hickey said, drawing on his military background. “It can also give people the license to do what happened at the Tree of Life and the mail bombs,” a reference to last weekend’s mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue and homemade bombs addressed to prominent Trump critics but safely intercepted before they arrived.

Cockburn said this year’s mid-term elections “will determine the future of our country.”

“I have children and grandchildren,” she said. “I wanted to be able to say that in 2018, I was part of that movement to bring democracy back to this country.”

Reach James Ivancic at jivancic@fauquier.com.

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