On Tuesday, November 7, when voters in Virginia House of Delegates districts 25 and 26 head to the polls they will have choices. WMRA’s Christopher Clymer Kurtz spoke with both Republican incumbents and both Democrat challengers, and has these profiles of each.
DELEGATE STEVE LANDES: My parents, at an early age, and by demonstration of involvement, instilled in my brothers and sisters and I that it’s our job to give something back to the community.
The main issues he hears about from constituents, he said, are education — he chairs the House Education Committee — but also the economy — he said it’s growing at half the rate it has historically — and health care reform.
LANDES: I had a direct primary care bill that was passed and signed by the governor, that’s just one little small piece where a patient and a doctor can contract directly, outside of insurance, and so we’re looking at new and different ways to try to address those concerns, too.
Some have blamed gerrymandering for the “buzzard-shaped” appearance of the District 25 map, but Landes said he’s been through the redistricting process three times and it’s a complex process with a lot of variables.
LANDES: Like the courts, like the fact that people like to live where they want to live, like the fact that you try to not split localities. It’s easier said than done, from the standpoint of the kind of Pollyanna-ish view that some, including Angela, have related to redistricting.
“Angela” is Landes’s Democrat challenger Angela Lynn. She is the third in a family of 14 children with “a proud military history,” and has a background in public education.
ANGELA LYNN: My upbringing was about taking care of the poor, peace, and loving our neighbors. And to be quite frank, those values have never left me.
She said she hears people’s concerns about education and health care, and land rights and the environment, but she thinks this election is about something bigger: reclaiming or giving up the power of the vote.
LYNN: This election will determine will determine whether people really don’t want to lose their vote, because this could end gerrymandering, this could make sure that corporate donations are banned from the state of Virginia, the outside money that pours in, that determines how we do business, would be stopped.
She said she would not give public funding to private schools, as Republicans in Richmond hope to do, but instead wants to protect public goods, including libraries and publicly-owned lands.
LYNN: I don’t believe “public” is a bad word. I think it’s a good word. Why we got into believing that that is a bad word is beyond me, because that is “We the People.” We are the public, and we should have these things.
In District 26 the incumbent is Republican Tony Wilt. He’s held that office since 2010 and was recently elected chairman of the Virginia Small Business Commission. He is president and general manager of Superior Concrete.
DELEGATE TONY WILT: I’m a Christian, my faith in God tells me, leads me to be compassionate to all people, to treat people fairly, to treat people with respect and honor and dignity, and to help people in their times of need, but also the scriptures talk about us doing that, personally, instead of using the government as a tool.
He said his constituents are concerned about government overreach.
WILT: They want job opportunities, to have better paying jobs, to be able to advance themselves, and they want less government intrusion into their lives.
He said government action often has unintended consequences.
WILT: We can’t see into the future, but we can, based on the past and practical experience, be able to see what some of those things potentially, how they could affect the citizens and business. And I’ve experienced it with my own business.
Medicaid expansion, which he opposes, does not address the high cost of health care, he said, and would harm Virginia.
WILT: There’s a quite extensive list of states that have expanded Medicaid, and it has busted their budgets.
Wilt’s challenger is Democrat Brent Finnegan. He works as a media specialist for the Institute for Innovation in Health and Human Services at James Madison University and is on the Harrisonburg Planning Commission. A few years ago, though, after he was laid off from his job, he learned a lot while driving a cab.
BRENT FINNEGAN: When you’re driving a cab you interact with people that you wouldn’t normally interact with. You see a side of poverty that you wouldn’t normally see, and that really changed the way I thought about the wealth and income gap in America.
Finnegan’s position on health care contrasts sharply with his opponent’s.
FINNEGAN: Because Virginia doesn’t have Medicaid expansion, there are people who don’t have access to coverage. They can’t afford the ACA plan, but they also don’t qualify for Medicaid, so they end up paying a fee for not being able to afford insurance, and that’s not good enough.
Another concern he hears about from people is education. Finnegan said that as a graduate of the old Broadway High School, he knows what overcrowding feels like.
FINNEGAN: We need to make sure that we’re providing services and creating a Commonwealth that works for everyone, that includes business owners, working families, people who are looking for jobs, and overall, that is really what this campaign is about.