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Open letter to Bob Goodlatte questions Trump support, campaign money

kai degnerThe following is an open letter from Sixth District Democratic nominee Kai Degner to incumbent Republican Congressman Bob Goodlatte.


Dear Mr. Goodlatte,

I trust you received my first letter from two months ago, when I joined this race.  With 99 days until Election Day, I have some updates, questions, and invitations.

First, some updates for you.  I am traveling throughout the district, meeting patriotic voters at barbecues, picnics, parades, police-community panels, and marches for peace.  Of course, I have attended vigils for murdered police officers, African-Americans, and gay club-goers in Orlando.  And, I’m meeting with labor leaders concerned about wages and jobs, small business owners chasing the American Dream, and conservative land owners afraid of a pipeline putting a scar over their land.  Driving throughout this large district and meeting my fellow voters and neighbors is a privilege and an honor.

Also, between June 8 to July 31, I raised about $50,000 from voters interested in a leadership change.  That total, of course, pales in comparison to the more than $1,000,000 you have on hand.  It is difficult and time-consuming to raise money, especially when only 1% of Americans ever donate to a political campaign, but I’m heartened that my funds are mostly from individual donors within the 6th congressional district.  

Perhaps when you first ran for office in 1992, you also received most of your support from small donors, but I see things have changed.  Just like your last campaign, almost 70% of your support is not from Virginia’s 6th congressional district and 40% is not even from Virginia.  I also noticed only 2% of your contributions are small donations, meaning 98% of your support comes from PACs and big donors, not average voters.  (Source:

This leads me to my first round of questions.  Can you understand why everyday voters question whether you are keeping them foremost in mind when 98% of your donations come from Political Action Committees and large donors who don’t even live here?  Do you think it is appropriate that, after 23 years in office, your campaign is mainly funded by special interests and big donors that do not live in our district?  The questions are rhetorical, of course, but they are being asked by many of the people I meet.  Perhaps we can discuss them at our debates.

Moving away from your out-of-district financial support, I would like to revisit your support of Donald Trump for president.  I respect your right to support any candidate you like – and, of course, I understand many people in our district are considering voting for Mr. Trump.  Here is my question: do you believe your reasons for supporting Mr. Trump are the same reasons our neighbors support him?  I don’t, and let me explain.

In the primary election, Trump voters rejected incumbent, establishment, politically-correct, career politicians, but don’t your 23 years of dedicated allegiance to one party’s establishment put you in this category?  Trump voters want to see change, and they want to see congressmen solving problems not repeating party talking points.  Trump voters are tired of partisan bickering creating gridlock in Washington, but you’ve been identified as the new “Guardian of Gridlock,” standing in the way of immigration reform and many other issues.   What problems will you solve in years 23 and 24 of being in congress that you couldn’t solve in the first 22?

Trump voters do not want politically-correct leaders, but your boiler plate politically-correct statements frequently just repeat the party’s political talking point of the day.  Trump voters do not want more trade deals that take away good-paying manufacturing jobs, but you have not spoken out against trade deals like the TPP.  Trump voters want progress on immigration reform, but your committee just keeps delaying decisions and causes the problem to remain unsolved.  Trump voters do not want unneeded wars, but you voted for the Iraq war – and you put your balanced budget ideals aside to pay for that war with a trillion dollar debt.  Trump voters want action after your party establishment decided for 8 years not to solve problems but to play political games with the Affordable Care Act rather than improve it.

But, this is where it gets extra confusing for me: knowing you are a patriotic public servant, there are a number of values that I believe you hold dear that Trump disrespects.  I assume you support our veterans and former POWs, but Trump disrespected Senator McCain’s service – and you have not spoken out against Trump’s disrespect of veterans.  I assume you support Gold Star families and parents of fallen soldiers, but Trump has disrespected a couple that lives in nearby Charlottesville – and you have not denounced this disrespect of grieving families.  I assume you believe in freedom of speech, equality, and religion, but Trump pledges to violate these constitutional protections by shutting out the press, marginalizing Mexican-Americans, and banning Muslims – and you have not stood up against these Constitution injustices.  I assume you support our military leadership who denounces the use of torture and targeting family members of suspected terrorists, but Trump has suggested both – and you have not denounced these dangerous statements.  If you have spoken out against any of this, please correct me.

So, I’m left with this: you do not support Trump for the same reasons Trump supporters do, and Trump does not support your American values and Constitution protections.  Your support of Donald Trump, then, really must boil down to being politically correct: rather than believing in his leadership, you are simply saying what will appease your voters and help your party.  You seem comfortable violating some of your own core principles and the Constitution in order to support party establishment politics.  As one of the tax payers who have been paying your salary for more than two decades, I am disappointed.

Lastly, and despite our differences, I would like to extend to you, your supporters, and Trump voters five invitations.  As part of my campaign, I am hosting a series of citizen assemblies designed to bring together voters throughout the district – including those that will disagree with me – so we can have a civil dialogue.

These summits are designed around the American values identified in our founding documents, including the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.  Too often, our work to become a more perfect union is lost in D.C.’s partisan bickering – and these events are a way for citizens to come together in a way congress has proven unable.  

Congressman Goodlatte, thank you for reading this long letter and for considering this personal invitation to any and all of these citizen assemblies in the Founding Principles Series.  I list the events below – you can register online for free (but small donations are accepted to cover the cost!).


Kai Degner
Candidate for Virginia’s 6th Congressional District

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