By Debbie Hall
Anthony Flaccavento, also known as “Flacc,” is seeking his party’s nomination to challenge incumbent Ninth District U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith in November.
In Stuart Saturday, Flaccavento addressed the more than 50 people attending the event that included a town hall meeting — one of 100 he plans to hold throughout the district.
An Abingdon Democrat, organic farmer, author and community activist, Flaccavento and Justin Santopietro, also of Abingdon, will square off in the June 12 primary.
If he is successful in gaining the nomination, Flaccavento, who challenged Griffith in 2012, said the timing is right for a different outcome in what would be his second congressional bid.
“There’s been a shift in the ways people think, and the current congressman has not been real engaged with the district. People are frustrated,” Flaccavento said before the event got underway.
He anticipates jobs and the economy, healthcare, education and foreign policy will emerge as the biggest issues in November.
“I’m running to help level the playing field” for rural areas, he said. “I don’t know about you all, but I’m tired of this. We give more money and more power” to certain elected officials “in hopes it trickles down to us. Trickle-down economics don’t” trickle down, he said.
“But the good news, and the other reason I’m running is there really are alternatives,” Flaccavento said. “I’ve been working on these alternatives for 30 years. Alternatives that are better for us, better for communities and better for the environment.”
Flaccavento said he has three decades of experience in working on diverse projects, and he is convinced that building the economy from the bottom up works because true growth occurs from investing locally.
For instance, a home ownership program Flaccavento worked to help start 28 years ago provided 200 homes that were sold to those with low incomes. He worked with community housing groups and contractors on that project.
During the 1989 Pittson Coal Strike for worker’s rights, Flaccavento said he spent the better part of a year on the picket line. A successful outcome was reached.
He has worked to start farmer’s markets and also started a food hub for tobacco farmers in 1999-2000, he said. “It’s not a huge enterprise, but a $3 million a year business,” he said of the hub.
And in St. Paul, the town where he first lived after moving to Virginia, a hotel is scheduled to open soon, Flaccavento said of the hotel that will include a farm to table restaurant. He said those businesses will be accompanied by the opening of a new brewery.
Plans also are in the works to build an ecological campus around the Clinch River, he said.
“This is what can happen when you invest in people, communities, schools and infrastructure. When we invest locally, we get much more return on our dollar,” Flaccavento said, adding he has built relationships with local, state and economic development officials in several jurisdictions over the last three decades.
According to his bio, he has engaged with dozens of local food and community initiatives, helping establish Farmers Markets and other sustainable enterprises in localities from Kansas to Australia. These experiences contributed to his 2016 book, “Building a Healthy Economy from the Bottom Up: Harnessing Real-World Experience for Transformative Change.”
If he wins the nomination and goes on to secure a win in the November election, Flaccavento said he will spend his first term building on those relationships, and work on “getting all the federal resources we can get and then spending them wisely.”
He said bipartisanship isn’t always needed to find a middle ground, but noted it is possible to build allies among both parties. He has worked with a number of Republicans in the past. “They know me as a guy who has worked in their communities” and know his reputation, Flaccavento said. If he emerges victorious in November, “I hope that will percolate up to D.C.”
Flaccavento and his wife, Laurel, a retired teacher, have a blended family that includes three adult children. Flaccavento received a degree in Agriculture and Environmental Science at the University of Kentucky, and completed a Master’s Degree in Economic and Social Development from the University of Pittsburgh.
Organizers of Saturday’s event said Santopietro is expected to visit Patrick County in the future.