Sen. Tim Kaine addressed Charlottesville's deadly white nationalist and neo-Nazi rally, and took questions on education, health care and poultry houses during a visit to Cape Charles on Thursday.
Kaine spoke about the unrest in Charlottesville the previous weekend, saying, "When this happened, I was very angry, because a lot of people who were not from Virginia, who have a bitter fantasy about the past that they want to sort of reenact here, came to Charlottesville to make it their cause and get publicity about it," Kaine said.
"It is not who Virginia is," he said.
About 80 residents of Northampton and Accomack counties attended the informal forum at Cape Charles Coffee House.
Kaine, a Democrat, met earlier Thursday with town officials on Tangier Island.
"I was on Tangier today because I wanted to talk to the mayor and the town community about their issues of concern, but especially the shrinking of the island and what should be done about it," Kaine said.
Mayor James "Ooker" Eskridge took Kaine out on his boat to see first-hand the challenges the community is facing from land loss.
"This is not easy, and it's not cheap, but we came up with some ideas and it was a good day to be out there with them," Kaine said.
Among those asking questions of Kaine in Cape Charles was Joan Prescott, who said she is "terrified about what's going on in America today."
"What can we do as individuals and then collectively to counteract some of these terrible things that we're hearing at all levels of government?" she asked.
Kaine agreed that "it's a frightening time."
Still, he said he is not a pessimist, noting next month marks the 230th anniversary of the U.S. Constitution.
"We are living in the stress test of this Constitution in Congress, and I think we are going to pass the test," he said, adding, "We are living in a moment where we're testing to see whether the mechanisms put in place to stop an overreaching executive still work after 230 years.
"I believe that the chapter is going to have a positive end — and that the end is going to be, in this country the institutions are more powerful than any of the individuals, including me or including the president."
Kane said his Senate office is receiving on average three to four times more calls from constituents this year than in the past.
Cindy Diggs asked about health insurance.
The 58-year-old woman told Kaine she lost her job last November after 32 years and was worried about keeping the health insurance she was able to obtain through the Affordable Care Act.
"This week I got an email saying they were canceling my insurance for next year ... So what am I going to do?" she said.
Anthem recently announced it was pulling its individual ACA plans from Virginia's health insurance marketplace for 2018 in much of the state.
"Anthem is saying the reason we're not going to is the president saying, 'I'm not going to make the payments I'm supposed to make; I'm threatening to let Obamacare implode,'" Kaine said.
"So insurance companies are saying, 'If we don't have the guarantee that you are going to do what you are supposed to do, we can't write policies.' And that means that there are some counties in Virginia and some counties — many counties — in other states where there may not be an insurance company who will write a policy for an individual," he said.
Kaine said he and others in Congress have submitted legislation that could help lower premiums and bring insurance companies back to the market.
The chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee, Lamar Alexander, a Republican from Tennessee, encouraged Kaine to introduce the bill and said as soon as Congress returns to Washington in September, hearings will be held on the issue of trying to stabilize the individual markets, "so that in Northampton and other counties, there will be folks who will write policies," Kaine said.
Additionally, if the Virginia General Assembly were to allow Medicaid expansion, more individuals could qualify for those benefits, he said, adding, "That's a reason to really focus on the House of Delegates races."