Josh Throneburg smiled for a brief moment as he answered the question of why he’s running for Congress, a slight tug at the corners of his mouth as he pondered his two daughters.
“As a parent, what you want is to make sure your kids have a future,” Throneburg said. “We have problems to solve and I want to help solve them.”
Throneburg said the looming threats of climate change are a big inspiration for his candidacy as the Democratic candidate for Virginia’s 5th congressional district.
“If we don’t have a sustainable planet, everything else is pointless.”
That’s why one of his biggest priorities if elected is to push for ways to help protect the environment — and he hopes to join the House Committee on Natural Resources.
Allocating federal funds is part of what US Representatives and Senators do and can play a role in climate change mitigation strategies. That’s why Throneburg said it wants to explore putting in place taxes or fines for the nation’s biggest carbon emitters. In doing so, he said the money could be used for other climate change-related costs.
“I think part of what Congress needs to do is recognize the costs and then take those who are involved in producing those costs and hold them accountable,” Throneburg said. “Whether it’s a carbon tax or a carbon levy, it’s something that puts money back into our system because these carbon producers are doing it.”
Citing the costs of fighting wildfires in California or rising sea levels in Virginia and Florida, he noted the financial strain that climate mitigation can place on state and local governments.
“There are constant economic costs that come with climate change,” he said.
Originally from small town Illinois, Throneburg moved to Charlottesville three years ago with his wife and daughters. He and his wife own Nooks & Crannies, a green cleaning company, and he is an ordained minister. He is a former minister of a evangelical covenant church in Massachusetts before moving to Charlottesville in 2019.
It is his passion for ministry and his experience in rural and Republican communities that he believes positions him to represent the 5th District. One of Virginia’s largest districts, the 5th Congressional District stretches from the North Carolina border to Albemarle County and Charlottesville – it encompasses 18 counties and three cities. No Democrats have been elected to represent the 5th District since 2008.
“The world I grew up in was kind of this conservative, evangelical Republican world and family. That’s what I would have called myself for the first 20 years of my life,” Throneburg said. “As an adult, I realized my values were more aligned with the Democratic Party, but that’s still the world I grew up in. It’s my native political language.”
With strong partisanship surrounding some national issues, Throneburg hopes his insight from across the aisle will help if he is elected to Congress. He also said his experience as a minister could come in handy.
“I’m obviously going to stand up for the things I believe in and how I think we can best serve the people of this district,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean I won’t be someone who tries to bring everyone together.”
He hopes that his experience will translate into the resurgence of debates around access to abortion. Thorneburg supports abortion rights.
With a pending decision from the U.S. Supreme Court that could remove federal abortion protections, Throneburg says it will pursue strategies that can both a person’s right to have an abortion and the choice to have a child.
“I think as the Democratic Party we want to be the party of choice in the fullest version of what that means,” he said. “And I think sometimes we’ve really spent all of our time and energy focusing on a woman’s choice to end a pregnancy and have access to an abortion. But I think we also want to be the party that does everything we can for women who want to choose to carry through.
As such, Throneburg wants to expand Medicaid to cover pregnant women for the duration of their pregnancy and the first year after childbirth, as well as improve access to child care and support adoption services. .
If Roe v. Wade — a nearly 50-year-old Supreme Court case that protects abortion access at the federal level — is overturned this year, Throneburg said he would work on the protections in Congress.
Rural connectivity and economic growth are things Throneburg also wants to champion in Congress. He plans to carry the torch of representatives before him as he continues his efforts to secure US Department of Agriculture ReConnect grants to the district to bolster rural broadband development. This, he said, is also linked to his goals of supporting education and school infrastructure.
Citing continued investment in the U.S. armed forces as an example, Throneburg said he would like to see Congress treat investments in education the same way.
“I think we should set a national goal to have the best schools and the best education system on the planet,” he said.
Throneburg said he would work on extensions and grants of the Civil Service Loan Forgiveness to help teachers receive free or reduced education, as well as expanding eligibility for the federal Pell Grant and capping interest rates on federal student loans at 2%.
Throneburg would like to help communities update their school infrastructure at the federal level by creating a program that funds the construction of schools at the federal level, similar to the Civilian Conservation Corps program that stems from the New Deal.
According to a state-sponsored study, more than 1,000 schools in Virginia are over 50 years old and in need of renovation. Funding for school construction comes from taxes at the local level, making it a challenge for localities that do not have a broad enough tax base to adequately fund school construction and renovation.
Since announcing his campaign last year, Throneburg has paid attention to voters in the district. It inspired him to dig into some policies he might support if elected.
“One of the things we hear a lot on the ground is about affordable housing,” he said.
Throneburg said he plans to support the Law on investment in neighborhood houses, legislation that has already been introduced in Congress. The bill will create a tax credit to fund the construction and rehabilitation of housing in distressed urban, suburban and rural areas. The goal, Throneburg said, is to encourage home buying for low- and middle-income families who are often left out of the market.
In the meantime, Throneburg said he was learning a lot as a first-time candidate. He enjoys traveling around the district to connect with people and learn more about district-specific things he can focus on at the federal level.
“What we want is to really excite lots and lots and lots of people all over the district,” he said. “Our hope for this is to be a very popular campaign.”