Former local prosecutor and longtime attorney Lewis Combs announced his candidacy this week as a Democrat for the 2022 election for Virginia’s 5th Congressional District.
Combs, 61, said that although he has never run for public office before, he has spent almost three decades in public service. Most recently, that work has included serving as a part-time assistant prosecutor for the city of Charlottesville, he said.
“I have spent most of my professional life trying to make my community a little safer, the environment a little cleaner and the world a better place,” Combs said. “I think I can continue to do that for the citizens of Virginia as a member of Congress.”
In addition to working as a prosecutor, Combs also has served as a municipal judge in Bluff City, Tennessee, and worked for Ned McWherter, a former governor of Tennessee, during his term. It was through this work that Combs said he learned the value of reaching out across party lines.
Combs said he moved to the Charlottesville area a few years ago and eventually started working for Jim Hingeley, the current Albemarle County commonwealth’s attorney, and then for Joe Platania, commonwealth’s attorney for Charlottesville. He stepped down from the city post to run for office.
“I was interested in the issue of progressive prosecution, and both [Hingeley and Platania] are very professional and both of them are getting into new areas, different things that can be done in the criminal realm other than just jailing people,” Combs said.
Combs said he believes there is too much concentration on partisan issues in Congress and that, if elected, he would turn the focus toward issues that more directly impact the 5th District.
“I think life and politics should be about helping folks and giving folks opportunity, and that’s what I would like to do,” he said. “I think the folks out in the rural counties are just as concerned about trying to make their lives better as folks in urban areas.”
Though he acknowledges it as more of a local government issue, Combs said public safety is among the chief concerns he has for the district. Though he is in support of incarceration alternatives, such as mental health and drug treatment court dockets, Combs said he is troubled by conversations centering around defunding the police.
“I think most police officers do a great job, they protect the public and they deserve to be safe, as well. But people that are out in the community need to feel safe when they interact with police,” he said. “I think both the police force and the community are striving to get better and to take away some of those issues that may make people feel unsafe.”
As the son of a school teacher, Combs said he believes that education is “the great equalizer,” along with access to high-quality, affordable health care.
“I would say that education and health care both need to be equal throughout the district and throughout the state,” he said. “Health care and education shouldn’t be dependent upon ZIP code.”
Combs is the second Democrat to announce his candidacy, following Dr. Shadi Ayyas, who said in December that he would again seek the nomination after stepping down from the 2020 primary to focus on fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. The 5th Congressional District Democrats have not yet selected the nomination method for 2022.
The 5th District is currently represented by Bob Good, a Republican who was elected to his first term in 2020. Last month, frequent candidate Kimberly Lowe announced that she would challenge Good for the GOP nomination in 2022.