John Lesinski of Rappahannock County says that he has attributes that distinguish him from three fellow Democrats running for the 5th District seat in Congress: leadership skills, a business background and the ability to get results working with Republicans.
The election isn’t until 2020, but on Sept. 5 Lesinski joined Roger Dean Huffstetler, Kim Daugherty and Cameron Webb as announced Democratic candidates. The seat is held by Republican Denver Riggleman, a freshman legislator elected last year.
The 5th District is vast, covering all or part of 21 counties and the cities of Charlottesville and Danville. It includes part of Fauquier County.
Lesinski’s four-year term on the Rappahannock County Board of Supervisors ends in December. Before that he was chairman of the Rappahannock County School Board for four years. He’s a member of Virginia Veterans Services Foundation, which supports veterans and their families, and the Virginia Board of Veterans Services. He served in the Marine Corps for four years and for 22 years in the reserves.
“Public service is in my DNA. It’s been a big part of my life,” said Lesinski. “We really do need to get the right people into office in order to make a change, make a difference.”
As the only Democrat on the board of supervisors, he’s had to work with four Republicans who hold the majority.
“I’ve had to work across the aisle to get things done,” Lesinski said.
Rappahannock County has much in common with the 5th District as a whole, he noted.
“Rappahannock County is a major Republican District and that translates to much of the 5th District. And it’s predominately rural,” Lesinski said.
“We need leadership. I got my leadership skills from the Marine Corps. You have to earn the respect of those you lead. I’ve got that leadership dynamic,” he said. “I’m the only businessman running. I understand the day-to-day challenges of being profitable,” Lesinski said. He’s been a real estate broker since 1985. He started his company and worked on developing industrial properties. He now works for Colliers International, brokering deals involving industrial and manufacturing buildings.
Huffstetler attended Harvard Business School and previously led a technology startup. Daugherty is a lawyer and Webb is a physician.
Lesinski listed infrastructure improvements as a key issue he would address – not just roads and bridges, but broadband.
“We’re not investing enough dollars to bring broadband the last mile” to those who need it. The issue “doesn’t sound particularly sexy but it cuts across so many aspects of life – the ability to attract business, schools, rural health care and telemedicine. I’ve traveled the district and heard the same stories,” Lesinski said.
It’s an issue that divides people between “haves and have nots. It’s the rural electrification issue of our day,” referring to the federal effort to bring electricity to rural areas.
“I’m not a big government guy. I’m a proponent of public-private partnerships,” he said.
Though the Virginia General Assembly approved funding for broadband initiatives, Lesinski said it falls short; it was just $19 million and not the $50 million the governor requested.
The candidate sees a role for federal government in broadband expansion through an infrastructure funding bill.
Lesinski said he advocates a public service requirement for high school and college graduations, perhaps offering a reduction of college debt as an inducement.
“We’ve lost that coming together for the common good of the Greatest Generation,” he said of those who served during World War II.
He said he’ll continue to be an advocate for military veterans.
“We’re going to need people in Congress who keep the hopes of our veterans alive,” he said.
Lesinski and his wife, Heidi, have two children. They live in the town of Washington. More about him can be found on his campaign website at johnforva.com.
Reach James Ivancic at firstname.lastname@example.org