Abingdon farmer and small business owner Anthony Flaccavento will take a second swing at unseating U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith.

Flaccavento, a Democrat who opposed Griffith during the congressman’s first re-election bid in 2012, announced Wednesday he will seek the Democratic nomination for Virginia’s 9th Congressional District.

This go-round, Flaccavento, 60, is launching his campaign five months earlier and plans to reach out to voters outside the Democratic Party, especially independents and moderate Republicans who are frustrated with the current political climate.

When Flaccavento previously ran for the 9th District seat, he earned 39 percent of the vote, which is 11 points better than any Democrat who has run in the district since.

Flaccavento is critical of the Democratic establishment because as he sees it, the party has abandoned working people, especially in rural areas.

“I am going to shout at the Democrats the whole way through this campaign because that needs to change,” he said.

Flaccavento argues that progressives should not ignore rural communities. He launched a website called Rural Progressive Politics this summer to help make his case.

His platform stresses that land, livelihood and community shape the way rural voters see politics and the world, and his campaign will focus on fostering healthy local communities. Flaccavento is an organic farmer, and much of his message stems from his consulting work devoted to growing healthy, sustainable regional economies.

“When we invest in local communities, when we invest in small, independent businesses and mid-size businesses, when we invest in innovative manufacturers, we get much, much, much more bang for the buck than the corporate giveaways that have become the foundation of most state and local economic development policies,” he said.

Vigorous local economies means fewer tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans and lower taxes for small businesses, instead of significant tax breaks for major corporations that can afford to pay them, Flaccavento said.

Flaccavento doesn’t expect much support from the party establishment for his congressional bid, but he plans to pursue grass-roots backing by signing up 1,000 campaign volunteers and hosting 100 town hall meetings throughout the district before the 2018 election.

Griffith, R-Salem, has repeatedly denied requests for town hall meetings, saying he would rather hold informal discussions with community members. Town hall meetings are an excuse for theatrics, and not a chance for substantive discussion, Griffith has said .

In his campaign announcement at a labor union office in Christiansburg, Flaccavento criticized Griffith for not being visible in the 9th District, which includes 26 jurisdictions and is larger than the state of New Jersey.

“I’m sick and tired of a congressman who is not a representative,” Flaccavento said.

Although he has no plans for a formal announcement, Griffith called it a “pretty safe bet” that he will seek re-election next year. Griffith is a lawyer and former majority leader of the Virginia House of Delegates who defeated 28-year congressman Rick Boucher, D-Abingdon, in 2010.

Griffith called Flaccavento out of touch with 9th District voters, but said he looks forward to spirited debate during the campaign. Griffith has nearly $200,000 in cash for his 2018 re-election bid, according to the latest campaign finance reports.

Flaccavento supports the Affordable Care Act and believes lawmakers should be shoring up the health policy instead of tearing it down. He also supports Medicaid expansion and universal health care. Griffith has supported Republican plans to repeal and replace former President Barack Obama’s signature health care legislation.

Flaccavento also wants to break away from the “War on Coal” narrative that has pitted environmentalists against coal miners. Instead, progressives should involve coal communities in the conversation instead of regulating and restricting the industry to the point where workers can’t earn a living.

“The 9th District isn’t perfect, the Appalachian culture isn’t perfect, the United States of America isn’t perfect,” he said. “But let’s be honest, what we have is a region and a country with so much to build on and we’re just going in the wrong direction on so many different things.”

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