Justin DeWitt is running for Congress in LA 6th District.
Sulphur, LA native, Justin DeWitt is new to politics. Like millions of Americans in an age of unprecedented corruption in the halls of power in Washington, DC, he is frustrated. The regular tax-paying Americans around him are being ignored while Republican members of Congress like Garret Graves are subservient to powerful moneyed interests. But instead of waiting for the right candidate to support, he rolled up his sleeves and dove in — becoming the Democratic candidate in Louisiana’s 6th district.
DeWitt was kind enough to talk to Pam Rickel for Majority60.com about his underdog race for Congress. Justin has been an active participant in government but the frustrations grew with every mishandled disaster. “I lived in a rented townhouse in Baton Rouge that flooded in 2016,” he told Pam, describing how he chose to stay and help his landlord rebuild. “While I’m sitting in there with the struts showing, I get a little flyer in the mail from the congressman who represents me that said ‘our thoughts and prayers are with you.’ That’s nice, but it’s not action.”
The need for action instead of empty words drives the DeWitt campaign. Since Katrina hit the gulf coast in 2005, the area has suffered both from slow recovery and lack of preparedness that has caused each succeeding storm to cause more damage than necessary. “There are people still suffering who can’t afford to move and they don’t have any help. One of the biggest problems is that people don’t have the money to just fill up the car and run when a hurricane is coming.” A surveyor by trade, DeWitt sees the need for improvements in infrastructure to counter the greatest obstacle to effective disaster preparation: poverty.
“We need to invest in alternative transportation, mass transportation. We don’t even have sidewalks in half of our city. There’s a street called Gardere in Baton Rouge, which is a low income area, where there are no sidewalks and on both sides of the road you can see where people have walked ruts so far deep into the ground because that’s their only way to get around. Infrastructure is not just, ‘hey let’s pave a new road or widen a road.’ You can widen a road until the sun goes down but it’s not going to solve your problem. If you invest in a mass transit system, most people will use it. In Louisiana, we have horrible traffic; if you save people time [with an effective mass transit system] they’ll use it.”
DeWitt swears off the funding of corporate donors to his campaign for office because of the commitments that seem to follow: his opponent Garret Graves has raised a large amount of these types of donations and rewarded the donor class with government contracts that went to projects like dumping sand into the Gulf of Mexico to create a sandbar to establish a barrier between the coast and spilled BP oil. “That is the biggest waste of money,” says DeWitt, who argues his opponent makes the decisions to back certain projects based on the size of the donations he gets from the project’s advocates instead of whether or not the project is right for the people of the district.
When one talks about Republican donors it’s hard to avoid talking about the National Rifle Association (NRA) who DeWitt says, “…is not pro-gun rights and 2nd amendment, they’re pro gun sales.” The Democrat tossed the questionnaire sent to him by the NRA’s political action committee. “They can do their own work,” DeWitt says with some mixture of delight and disgust. He’d like to see more attention paid to a less talked about aspect of gun violence in America — suicide by gun. “I back red flag laws. Red flag laws can be explained this way: If someone is going through a great difficulty like a divorce or having a tough mental time at the moment and their close friends or family know that and know the person has a weapon and they think the person is too unstable at the moment that that temptation needs to be taken away, they can contact the authorities and the police temporarily remove the weapon so the person can get the help and treatment they need and then the weapon can be returned once they’re back in a normal state of mind. It’s simply intervening before something bad happens instead of waiting until after something bad happens.”
But treatment is expensive. And that statement isn’t just true for mental health. DeWitt explains, “I’m one of the lucky ones.” He has employer provided health insurance for him and his husband. “It’s really an archaic system.” He tells Pam the story of a friend who was diagnosed with cancer at 63 and was separated from his job once he was too sick to work. “He worked his whole life and then he was diagnosed with lymph node cancer and the minute he couldn’t work any longer, he lost his insurance. That’s an archaic system. When you’re at your worst possible point, when you’re unhealthy or you have a disease or a disorder and you can’t work but yet you have to work so you can have good insurance. I support a Medicare-for-all system. And I’d start with a Medicare buy-in system.” DeWitt wants to take the subsidies currently provided by the Affordable Care Act that people still insist on calling “Obamacare” and put that money into the Medicare system, providing health care on an income scale to the lowest income families in the US.
“It would save us money and time. [And being income based] it’s by definition affordable. And it would give people the opportunity to get the care they need. You shouldn’t have to worry about paying to stay alive.” DeWitt blames much of the stagnation in Washington on politicians valuing re-election more than they value solving problems. Whether it’s passing equal pay laws or guaranteeing women’s autonomy. “I’m tired of incentives, using hot button issues to rally the base, I want guarantees.” DeWitt is running a grassroots campaign to ensure his focus remains on solving problems, not attracting the next big corporate donation.
Justin DeWitt is the Democratic nominee for the 6th Congressional District. You can find out more about him at http://www.dewittforcongress.com and follow him on Twitter @Dewitt4Congress