Every year is an election year in Virginia, and in anticipation of your trip to the voting booth November 7, we bring you our election guide with overviews of all 19 local and state races as well as candidate profiles. The six City Council contenders weighed in on the current councilors’ handling of the events of August 12 and decisions made before and after. And we asked the big question: Will our sitting delegates in the Republican-led General Assembly vote to give localities power to remove Confederate monuments?
Can an independent breach Dem domination?
City Council has been publicly castigated about its handling of the white supremacist influx this summer, and it’s had public meetings break into near riots as an irate citizenry voiced its displeasure.
Despite that, six people still want to sit in the two open seats on the city’s governing body.
Two of them—Amy Laufer and Heather Hill—are the Democratic nominees who edged out incumbent Bob Fenwick in the June primary after Kristin Szakos decided not to run again.
A non-Democrat has not been elected to council since 2002, when Republican Rob Schilling won a seat. This year? “I think history will continue itself and Democrats will win handily,” he says. “The odds are stacked so hard against independents.”
Others think this could be the year an independent—Nikuyah Walker—breaks through the Democratic wall to get a seat at the dais.
Former mayor Dave Norris handicaps the race with Laufer as a likely winner. “She checks many of the boxes for success”—she’s held elected office with two terms on the School Board, she can raise money and she has a history in the community, he says.
“She follows the traditional path for electoral success in Charlottesville,” says Norris. “The real question is who the second one will be.”
Conventional wisdom says winner No. 2 will be Hill, who checks many of the same boxes and “she has that D behind her name,” says Norris.
But he likes the odds for Walker and thinks at this point it’s a three-way battle between the two Dems and Walker.
“Nikuyah Walker is putting in a strong effort,” with a motivated group of volunteers and an “impressive infrastructure in place,” says Norris, a former board member of EPIC, which endorsed Walker.
While Laufer and Hill have raised more money—around $24,000 each—in the last campaign reporting period, says Norris, Walker raised more money than other candidates: $4,000 compared to second-highest fundraiser Jackson, who reported more than $2,500.
And that was before Sonjia Smith wrote a $10,000 check September 25. “I know some donors who only give to Democrats who are giving to Nikuyah,” says Norris. “She’s certainly eating into the Democratic base.”
Independent Paul Long also has a feeling an independent will win, “and it’s not me.” He gives an edge to Walker.
Says Long, “I’m hearing a lot of anger over the way the city handled events this summer. Even the two Democratic ladies are taking a critical stance.”
Independent candidate Kenny Jackson is not deterred by the daunting odds facing independents and says about doubters, “When I win this, they’ll be surprised.”
Anyone who’s watched city politics for a while knows that the only way an independent—or a Republican—is going to get elected in the overwhelmingly Democratic city is by single shotting. That means only casting one vote, because using the other vote for a Democrat only adds to the tally for an already majority candidate.
Long says he’s heard some Walker and Jackson supporters say they’ll single shot.
“I don’t know if that’s a formal strategy,” says Norris, “but anyone who wants [Walker] to win will do that. That’s the most strategic path for her voters, to just vote for her, but a lot of people don’t like to waste a vote.”
Walker herself says she’s not pushing single-shot voting. “I’m telling people to be informed and vote for the people who are most aligned with where they want to go.”
An independent hasn’t won election to City Council since the 1930s, says political consultant Paul Wright, who researched that by looking at microfilms of Daily Progress issues until he had motion sickness.
He doesn’t see that 80-year trend changing this year.
“There is nothing more powerful than watching local Democrats turn out for the governor’s race, and independents will be swept away,” he says, based upon his own experience sitting at the polls four years ago. “Their turnout machine is an awesome thing to watch—unless you’re a Republican.”
The election is November 7.
John Edward Hall-I
66, Retired industrial designer
Biggest issue: Lack of street lights, sidewalks.
First action if elected: Listen carefully to the issues and be a team member, install a change machine in the Transit Center.
Do differently from current council: Not take a vote on the monuments.
Disadvantage: Was banned from City Hall in the early aughts by then-city manager Gary O’Connell because of behavior stemming from a mental disability, but he says current City Manager Maurice Jones has given him the all-clear to come to council. He’s been diagnosed as bipolar and has spent time in Western State Hospital. “I’ll always be honest. Some of these things are embarrassing. There’s a stigma.”
Rap sheet: Charged with trespassing three times, found guilty in 2007 and 2012.
Lesson learned from campaign: Have a team to help.
Monuments: At first favored relocation, but after a poll showed most people don’t want them moved, he changed his stance.
40, Independent consultant, operational engineer
Biggest issue: Affordability of living in Charlottesville.
First action if elected: Building trust. “Currently council is seen as a set of individuals pursuing their own agendas. Staff is getting direction from too many sources.”
Skill set: Good at processes. “That’s the industrial engineer in me.”
Do differently from current council: Its approval of a special permit for East Jefferson Place apartments.
Monuments: “They have become symbols of hate and violence and need to be removed.” And they prevent focusing on the city’s “real priorities.”
Slogan: Listen. Engage. Act.
Previous political experience: Ran as a Republican for City Council in 2004
Why run? “We’ve got to get some decorum back.”
Biggest issue: Freedom of speech and lost decorum. “We want to conduct the city’s business. Your free speech stops if you’re threatening me.”
First action if elected: Bring back etiquette to council meetings. “You will not scream out. You will not use hand gestures.”
Do differently from current council: Renovate City Council chambers, do away with public comment lottery.
Disadvantage: His campaign overdrew its bank account 21 times and accrued $672 in fees, according to the Daily Progress, most of which have been paid back.
Latest on rap sheet since last run for office: In 2004, Jackson attributed four assault convictions—three of which involved stabbings—to youthful indiscretions. But in 2007, he was again convicted of assault. He says he’s now great friends with the woman who filed the charge, and if elected to City Council, he won’t be assaulting anyone.
Monuments: Leave them. “Stick to basics like transportation and jobs.”
45, Charlottesville School Board former chair, former teacher
Biggest issue: Transparency and whether City Council has overstepped its bounds. “That’s totally changed since February.”
First action if elected: Establish trust among council and staff, have a retreat, have protocols in place and offer counseling to staff. “It’s been traumatic.”
Do differently from current council: Stop the lawsuit about the bike trails at Ragged Mountain Natural Area and work with Albemarle County.
Monuments: “I don’t want to revisit all that again.” It’s symbolism of white supremacy and Nazis, and a judge is going to have to make a ruling. “Let’s have different monuments.”
Initiative: Piedmont Promise to pay PVCC tuition to CHS grads with GPAs of 2.5 or better and family income under $63K.
Slogan: Move Charlottesville forward
Previous political experience: Perennial council candidate
Biggest issues: Permanent homeless housing, a regional transit authority for more frequent buses and more extensive routes.
First action if elected: Vote against Mike Signer as mayor.
Do differently from current council: Vote against giving John Dewberry a million-dollar tax break, “especially since he has a reputation of buying a site and taking his sweet time doing it.”
Monuments: Remove them. “I was born in Philadelphia and I believe the war was against the legitimate government of the United States and an act of treason.”
37, Parks & Rec employee
Biggest issue: Being a “very assertive” black female and whether voters are comfortable with that.
First action if elected: Change the rules in City Council, promote engagement through social media to draw in people who never set foot in council unless there’s a major issue.
Do differently from current council: The decision to allow two permits for downtown parks August 12 while trying to move the Unite the Right rally, and the response to citizens. “I would have said, ‘I think I could have done things differently.’ No one’s said that.”
Controversy: Some have been offended by Walker’s use of the f-bomb at the August 21 council meeting. “I do know curse words. What about the events leading up to that? Someone died and it could have been a lot worse. And you’re worried about a curse word?”
Monuments: Remove ’em.
Slogan: Unmasking the illusion
Charlottesville School Board
Three candidates are running for three open seats.
52, Home care physical therapist
Experience: “Parent advocate for the past eight or nine years for my daughter, participated in the Special Education Advisory Committee for the last six years.”
Why run? “Realized being an advocate for my daughter that this is something I can continue to do for other kids and families.”
Biggest issue facing schools: “Making sure that each individual student is supported in their path to educational success, teacher support and compensation.”
What would you like to change about the school system? “Decrease anxieties and pressures on our kids, whether with fewer assessments and/or fewer pressures to take more AP or DE (dual enrollment) classes, and be careful about pushing and expecting more and more from our kids at an earlier age.”
51, Career counselor
Seeking fourth term, president of the Virginia School Boards Association (2015)
Biggest issue facing schools? Facility expansion, student achievement, teacher compensation.
What would you like to change about the school system? Complete elimination of bullying.
Most valuable lesson you can’t learn in the classroom? Internships
64, Director of Upward Bound at the University of Virginia
Seeking fourth term
Why run? I would like to continue to see our students excel in our Spanish program, our three-year old program and our after school reading program.
Biggest issue facing schools: The growth of our division and continuing to encourage equity for all students.
What would you like to change about the school system? “For everyone to develop culture sensitivity. We all come from different cultures and backgrounds and must learn to appreciate and accept our differences. This does not mean however, that we must be disagreeable.”
Most valuable lesson you can’t learn in the classroom? “Experience is extremely important, in addition to reading on a regular basis. Reading things of interest or not expands your knowledge base.”
Commonwealth’s Attorney: Joseph Platania
Platania defeated Jeff Fogel in the June primary to succeed Dave Chapman, who is stepping down after 24 years.
Sheriff: James Brown
Charlottesville native Brown is seeking his third term and brought hybrid vehicles to the sheriff’s office.
Commissioner of Revenue: Todd Divers
During his first term, Divers worked to reduce business license fees for small businesses, and he’s unopposed for his second run.
Treasurer: Jason Vandever
Vandever won a special election in April 2013, then cruised unchallenged in the regular November 2013 election, much as he’s doing this year.
Albemarle County Board of Supervisors
County races are usually much quieter than those in the city, and this year is no exception. Of the three open seats on the all-Dem Board of Supervisors, only one—the Samuel Miller District—is contested.
In the Rio District, Brad Sheffield decided not to seek re-election, and former School Board member Ned Gallaway will coast unopposed to the board in his first run for the seat.
The county’s only contested race between incumbent Liz Palmer and Republican challenger John Lowry appears to be close—at least according to Lowry, who says he hears from a lot of people who say they’re going to vote for him because there’s only one party currently represented on the BOS.
The Samuel Miller District, which includes Ivy and North Garden, has been purple the past few races, with Democrat Palmer upsetting Republican incumbent Duane Snow in 2013—and Snow had scored retiring independent four-termer Sally Thomas’ seat before that in 2009.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if Lowry wins,” says former mayor Dave Norris, because the board is solidly blue. “Anytime you have one party with a monopoly and have a candidate who’s sensible and well-funded saying he’s ‘bringing balance,’” that could do it for voters, says Norris.
Samuel Miller District: The environmentalist v. the economic developer
Big issue: Internet service in rural Albemarle, improving recycling services and creating safe bike and pedestrian pathways in the urban ring.
Controversy: Voting no to expand the growth area to bring Deschutes Brewery here.
Endorsement: Albemarle Education Association
Signature look: Toe shoes
Retired Wachovia exec
Big issue: “The national exposure our community has gotten. Some people are saying they’re not going to Charlottesville and would rather go to Waynesboro.”
Platform: Economic development in growth area, having revenue that doesn’t come from raising real estate taxes.
Special skill: Plays bagpipes
Jack Jouett District: Diantha McKeel
BOS chair seeks second term.
Rio District: Ned Gallaway
Unopposed for first term.
Albemarle School Board
The county has contested races in the Rio and Samuel Miller districts—and it has the youngest candidate. (Candidates’ answers edited for space.)
Jack Jouett District: Kate Acuff
66, Health policy consultant
Seeking second term, in second year as chair.
What would you like to change about the school system? “Opportunity gaps remain for some of our students—particularly low-income students. This year we launched a three-year pilot initiative—All Means All—aimed at enhancing their performance.”
Most valuable lesson you can’t learn in the classroom? “Real world applications of the lessons you learn in the classroom, which is why we require all high school juniors and seniors to do internships, job shadowing and other community projects.”
31, Former middle school math teacher
Experience: Mother, teacher, bachelor’s degree from Yale, UVA Law degree with a focus on child advocacy, Teach for America
Why run? “I am passionate about educational equity. It is why I became a teacher and why I have dedicated my career and education to children. On a personal level, I want to make sure my sons, my family and my community have access to a top-notch education.”
Biggest issue facing schools? “Meeting the diverse needs of our student population. Over half entering our urban ring elementary schools are economically disadvantaged and that number is expected to grow. I don’t want demographics to be destiny.”
Most valuable lesson you can’t learn in the classroom? “Hard work, even great work, does not always result in a good grade or praise. However, it is still vital to commit yourself to work and causes that matter to you because, in the long run, your efforts can be a force for good.”
Experience: A bachelor’s and two master’s degrees in education. “I have worked in five different school systems and am the mother of two children in elementary school.”
Why run? “In all of the places where I have taught, I discovered that nearly all of our school board members have little to no experience in education, and Albemarle County is no exception.”
What would you like to change about the school system? “Develop longer term solutions to the frequent redistricting used to balance school capacity.”
Most valuable lesson you can’t learn in the classroom? “The journey actually is the destination. Make sure to fill your life with things you love to do and people you love to be with, and then no matter where your journey ends, it was successful.”
Samuel Miller District
Retired, seeking second term
Experience: Taught 30 years in Virginia’s public schools, 25 of which were in Albemarle. After retirement, appointed to the Long-Range Planning Committee.
Why run? “I ran in a special school board election in 2015 because I feared funding cuts or elimination of several important programs, namely pre-K, foreign language programs in elementary schools and computer usage in classrooms. I also was concerned with parity issues with some of our facilities, student achievement and the achievement gap within racial and socio-economic groups.”
What would you like to change? “The practice of using SOL results as the major method of evaluating the effectiveness of our schools.”
Most valuable lesson you can’t learn in the classroom? “When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.” (From “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten,” a poem by Robert Fulghum)
18, Student and part-time deli worker
Experience: Thirteen years as a student in Albemarle County Public Schools, three years as a student advocate and adviser to county schools
Why run? “I think that we need someone on the school board who can speak accurately to current issues from personal experience. As a recent graduate of Western Albemarle High School, I know that I can bring fresh and relevant perspective to the board.”
Biggest issue facing schools? Lack of equity.
What would you like to change about the school system? “Transportation. The vast majority of bus routes do not run at or near capacity, and we don’t currently provide transportation to any of the three high school academies for students as is done for students enrolled at CATEC.”
Most valuable lesson you can’t learn in the classroom? “Friends can be the most impactful people in your life, and making friends isn’t something that you can learn in the classroom: It’s something you learn from trying yourself in the real world.”
The stakes statewide
Trump popularity contest could determine GOP domination
Even though the long and arduous 2016 election cycle is behind us, in Virginia, every year is an election year, and it’s almost time to head to the polls again. And because this is the first gubernatorial race in a post-Trumpian world, the stakes are high for both Democrats and Republicans.
For the GOP, “it’s an opportunity to push back at the narrative that President Trump can’t win in competitive states like Virginia,” says Geoffrey Skelley at UVA’s Center for Politics.
And for Democrats, whether or not this is a referendum on Trump, says Skelley, “It’s a way to prevent Republicans from having complete control of the state,” where they already hold sway in the General Assembly.
Both Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam (D) and Ed Gillespie (R) had to fend off challengers in the June primaries. And not only is the governor’s mansion up for grabs, the lieutenant governor and attorney general seats are also in play.
“The conventional wisdom is that Northam will win,” says Skelley. But the race is close enough that “Gillespie could prove doubters wrong.” An early October poll put Northam up by 13 points, but others have given him a single digit lead.
Trump is unpopular and “the White House is less energized,” Skelley points out. “That’s something Gillespie is running against,” he says. On the other hand, “Ed Gillespie is not a Trump doppelgänger.”
Traditionally, the party out of power is more dissatisfied, says Skelley. Governor Terry McAuliffe, who is limited to one term, broke a 40-year streak in 2013 by winning as a Dem under a Democratic president.
Another trend: The party of the president always does worse than the presidential candidate did before. “If that pattern holds, Gillespie won’t do as well as Trump did—and he lost by 5 points [in Virginia],” says Skelley.
Turnout—always lower in a non-presidential year—will be another factor. The presidential election brought out 72 percent of voters in 2016, compared with 43 percent in 2013, the last gubernatorial election, says Skelley. Voters showing up at the polls will “likely be whiter and older, and that’s good for Gillespie,” he says. They also tend to be better educated, and “that might be better for Democrats,” he adds.
“The person who is elected governor will be sitting in that seat when redistricting occurs,” says House Minority Leader David Toscano. “That is supremely important for Virginia.”
The last time the lines were redrawn, a Republican was governor, and while the state was pretty evenly split, “the House of Delegates went 60-40 Republican because of gerrymandering,” says Toscano.
He ties Gillespie to REDMAP, the successful GOP strategy he led to fill state legislatures with Republicans and redraw electoral lines, flipping 30 state chambers that had previously been Democratic. “It was a very concerted and targeted effort,” says Toscano.
And if Gillespie wins, warns Toscano, he’d likely sign the 100-plus bills McAuliffe vetoed, many of which affect social issues such as LGBTQ rights.
Money, of course, could be another factor in the race. While Northam has more cash on hand—$5.6 million to Gillespie’s $2.6 million—“the Republican Governors Association has more money than God,” says Skelley, “and it’s not going to spend it in New Jersey,” the other 2017 governor’s race that’s already been ceded to the Democrats.
Skelley believes that as goes the top of the ticket, so goes the lieutenant governor and attorney general races.
For lieutenant governor, a traditional stepping stone to governor, if elected, Democrat Justin Fairfax would become the second African-American to hold statewide office in Virginia, while Republican state Senator Jill Vogel would be the first woman to hold the LG seat.
“If the race at the top of the ticket has Northam by 5 points, Vogel could win by 1 point,” suggests Skelley.
In the attorney general race, he puts Democrat Mark Herring’s odds higher because he’s the incumbent, “and we don’t see many incumbents in state races,” he says. Republican challenger John Adams says Herring is politicizing the AG office, which is what Herring said about his predecessor, Ken Cuccinelli, notes Skelley.
The Republican: Ed Gillespie
56, Former counselor to President George W. Bush, former chair Republican National Committee
Close races: Nearly upset Senator Mark Warner in 2014, nearly lost to monument-loving Corey Stewart in June primary
Endorsed by: President Donald Trump
Confederate monuments: Those decisions should be left to localities—but statues should stay up and be placed in historical context, according to campaign spokesman Dave Abrams.
Mass shootings: Not the time for policy pronouncements and political statements, and instead for information gathering.
The Democrat: Ralph Northam
58, Lieutenant governor, pediatric neurologist
Not-so-close race: Fended off local Tom Perriello in June primary
Endorsed by: Governor Terry McAuliffe
Confederate monuments: Decisions best left to localities, and he would sign legislation authorizing that.
Mass shootings: As a former Army doctor, he says assault weapons don’t belong in the streets.
The Libertarian: Cliff Hyra
35, Intellectual property lawyer
Confederate monuments: Local residents should decide whether to keep them. “It doesn’t make any sense for it to be decided by people in Richmond.”
Mass shootings: Keep firearms away from criminals and the mentally ill, prevent Second Amendment encroachment with ineffective restrictions such as those on magazine size.
The Republican: Jill Vogel
47, State senator, attorney
Endorsement: former U.S. Senator John Warner
Claim to fame: Carried the transvaginal ultrasound bill in 2012, and primary opponent Bryce Reeves is threatening Vogel and her husband with a defamation lawsuit.
The Democrat: Justin Fairfax
38, Attorney, former assistant U.S. attorney
Endorsement: Planned Parenthood
Claim to fame: The Duke/Columbia Law grad was told by opponent Vogel in an October 5 debate he’s “not informed enough” on transvag issues “to talk intelligently” about them.
The Republican: John Adams
43, Attorney at McGuireWoods, former federal prosecutor
Endorsement: Virginia Fraternal Order of Police
Claim to fame: Related to second U.S. president, clerked for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas
The Democrat: Mark Herring
Incumbent AG, former state senator
Endorsement: Virginia Professional Fire Fighters
Claim to fame: Refused to defend Virginia’s constitutional amendment banning gay marriage
If it’s an odd-numbered year, it must be time to elect Charlottesville and Albemarle’s four—count ’em four—delegates to the General Assembly, thank you gerrymandering. Because as liberal as some claim this locale is, Republicans have a chokehold on three of its four districts.
What’s different this year? Republican incumbents Rob Bell, Matt Fariss and Steve Landes all have challengers.
House Minority Leader David Toscano, himself unchallenged, is heartened by the number of Dems willing to take on GOP incumbents in districts drawn to keep them red. “Most would say these lines were drawn to protect Steve and Rob,” says Toscano.
“A lot of people decided the day after the election they’re not going to take it anymore,” he says. And he thinks President Trump will be a big drag on Republicans, who hold 66 of the House of Delegates seats, especially in Northern Virginia, “where his unfavorables are even worse.”
Despite the groundswell of challengers for GOP incumbents, Skelley is dubious that the Dems will wrest control of the House of Delegates from Republicans. “Some Democrats think the House is in play,” he says. “That’s a complete pipe dream.”
However, there are Republican-held districts where Hillary Clinton beat out Trump, and that’s where Democrats have the best chance to make inroads, he says.
Skelley thinks a best-case scenario for the GOP is to only lose two or three seats, while the Dems’ best case will be to win seats in “the high single digits.”
In the local races, he’s skeptical about an upset of incumbents. “Rob Bell has a ton of money from the attorney general race,” says Skelley. “He was going to run and decided not to.” And the way the district is drawn, “it’s pretty tough for a Democrat.”
Landes’ 25th District, most of which is in the Shenandoah Valley, “is even redder,” says Skelley. As of August 31, he had $100,000 to opponent Angela Lynn’s $14,000. “Landes is almost surely safe,” says Skelley.
And the 59th District, which stretches south past Lynchburg to incumbent Fariss’ Rustburg residence, “is even redder than Landes’ district,” says Skelley.
Delegate Steve Landes-R
57, Community liaison with Home Instead Senior Care of Staunton
Seeking 12th term
Why run again: A high school redesign that allows students in their last two years to do apprenticeships or get certifications is the “most exciting.” And that, he says, plays into economic development.
Big issue: What happened here in August, education, health care.
Monuments: Removal is a slippery slope.
62, Educator, FEMA liaison, community organizer
Why run again against Landes? Perseverance is an honored quality in people who want to serve. “I’ve gained trust and I’m opening doors for progressive voters. I don’t intend to make a career out of this like my opponent.”
Big issue: Corruption, public schools.
Legislation you’d carry after August 12: When a state of emergency has been declared, you have to disarm.
Monuments: Let local governments decide.
Do differently from your opponent: Stop defunding public schools for charter schools.
Delegate David Toscano-D
Seeking seventh term
House minority leader
“I’m not uncontested. I’m running against 66 Republicans.”
Monuments: Localities should decide what works best for them.
Delegate Rob Bell-R
Seeking eighth term
Why run again? To continue work on mental health reform with state Senator Creigh Deeds. “We’ll have a new governor,” maybe one who won’t veto bills like Bell’s criminal restitution bill for victims.
Big issue: Economic slowdown from cuts in federal spending.
Controversy: REDMAP, the redistricting plan that led to today’s Republican majorities in the House. “We all voted for it.”
Logo: A cracked bell
32, Emergency room nurse at UVA
Why run: Donald Trump’s election inspired abandoning his “slacktivism.” “I felt like I needed to do something rather than complain.”
Big issue: Gerrymandering. “And Mr. Bell took an active part in Mr. Gillespie’s Operation REDMAP.”
Monuments: “If Charlottesville wants to take them down, it should be up to the city of Charlottesville.”
Political strategy: “I just tell people what I feel.”
Motto: People Before Party
Delegate Matt Fariss-R
49, Co-owner Lynchburg Livestock Market, farmer
Seeking fourth term
Big issues: Jobs, lack of volunteers for rescue squads
Pipeline: “A big one crosses my farm and my dad’s farm. We don’t have any issue with that. I feel like we can put them in safely.”
Signature legislation: Industrial hemp, which he thinks will be a boon to Southside farmers as soon as federal restrictions on it are lifted.
Latest conviction: Pleaded guilty to a hit-and-run charge in March 2016 for plowing into a Campbell County fence. Found not guilty of breach of the peace in a separate matter.
War chest of $35K as of August 31: “All that money came from inside my district. It shows people like what I’m doing.”
Monuments: Statues don’t kill people.
50, Lives in southern Albemarle, Self-employed mechanic, Navy vet
Why run? Anti-pipeline activist
Big issue: “Are you one of those politicians who don’t listen and don’t do anything?”
Response: “I’m asking people for problems and solutions. I’m not thinking I have the answer to everything.”
Dealing with August 12 rally: Pick up Virginia Code and look at intimidation by mob. Charlottesville needs “to get off their asses and enforce the law.”
Monuments: “Richmond telling localities what to do is government overreach 101.”
Special skill: Fluent in German and Korean
Quote: “I’m an activist first and I’ll be a politician second.”
60, Lives in Dillwyn, Licensed contractor
Why run: Not happy with how the Republican Party has “degraded down to a lower standard of ethics.” And Fariss is “not fit to serve.”
Big issue: Lack of high-speed internet in rural areas.
Monuments: Not in favor of tearing them down.
Previous political experience: Two terms on Soil and Water Conservation District, lost third term. Unsuccessful run for Tom Garrett’s 22nd District Senate seat.
Education: Five associate degrees from Northern Virginia Community College. “I’m the best-educated candidate. I bring a lot more to the table than the current incumbent has done.”
War chest as of August 31: $38
Marcus Sutphin-Green Party
43, Lives in Campbell County, Home improvement contractor
Strategy: Grassroots organization. Run from the bottom up. “We believe in government that serves the public.”
Education: Earned a bachelor’s degree at 34
Big issues: Government corruption, public education, health care
Pledge: Clean money. Won’t accept donations from power companies, lobbyists. Raised $1,277 in donations less than $100.
Monuments: Localities should decide. “I’d like to focus on living people.”
Slogan: A voice of reason for Virginia.
After the deadly August 12 weekend when white nationalists came to town to protest the removal of the statue of General Robert E. Lee, Mayor Mike Signer called upon the General Assembly to hold a special session and repeal the statute that prohibits chucking war memorials.
That’s not going to happen.
In checking with our current four delegates, the three Republicans all oppose allowing localities to decide the fate of Confederate monuments. The GOP-controlled General Assembly passed a bill this session clarifying that localities did not have that ability, and Governor Terry McAuliffe vetoed it.
“Those of us that think the statues should stay are unlikely to change,” says Delegate Rob Bell.
Delegate Matt Fariss, who represents southern Albemarle, says, “The statues, in my opinion, are not the problem. The people are. It wasn’t a statue that drove that car” that killed Heather Heyer.
Three of Fariss’ ancestors, who were sharecroppers, fought for the Confederacy and died. “It wasn’t about slavery,” he says. “It was about tariffs.”
Delegate Steve Landes, who lives in Weyers Cave, says the General Assembly won’t try to revise the statute while it’s being challenged in court. “Given the current makeup of the General Assembly, I don’t know that there would be consensus about changing the law,” he says.
Landes describes himself as a “history buff,” and worries that if Civil War statues came down, founding fathers like Thomas Jefferson and George Washington would be next because they were slave owners. “Let’s tell the good, the bad and the ugly,” he suggests.
Democrat David Toscano says localities should be able to determine what works best for them as far as statues. “Government works best close to the people,” he says.
McAuliffe has called for a commission to look at how to deal with racist rallies like the one that made Charlottesville a hashtag for hate, and Bell says he wants to see what legislation is recommended.
He advocates pursuing prosecutions when there’s evidence of acts of violence, and he wonders what happened with the police. “We had lawless anarchy in the streets where ultimately Heather Heyer was killed,” he says. With the presence of “explicitly racist” groups in town, “the average citizen could not safely walk down the street.”
Fariss believes arrests should have been made August 11 when torch-carrying neo-Nazis paraded through UVA’s grounds and fights broke out, and he thinks arrests would have set the tone for the next day.
He’d support legislation that would restrict carrying shields and clubs at demonstrations—but not guns. “I would be against restricting guns,” he says. “That runs up against the Second Amendment.”
Toscano would support a prohibition on carrying weapons into public demonstrations. “It’s about free speech, not intimidation,” he says.
Landes predicts legislation will come out of the governor’s task force—and not just dealing with racist instigators.
“One of my questions is, we’ve talked about Nazis and white supremacists,” he says. “The antifa groups are just as violent and combative.”
—additional reporting by Samantha Baars