Politics

Stewart, Smith to debate at Manassas NOVA campus

Stewart

Stewart

Candidates for Chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors will participate in a debate on October 1 at 7 p.m. and the community is invited to attend. Republican incumbent Corey A. Stewart and Democrat Richard H. “Rick” Smith III will meet for the debate on the Manassas Campus of Northern Virginia Community College in the Howsmon Lecture Hall at 6901 Sudley Road in

rick smith

Smith

Manassas.

The debate is being hosted in partnership by the Prince William Chamber of Commerce and Northern Virginia Community College.

“As one of the fastest growing localities in the Commonwealth it is important for the local business community to remain engaged in the political process.  We are very excited to partner with Northern Virginia Community College to host a quality debate during this year’s highly competitive Chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors race. The Chamber is eager to hear the candidates’ visions for the future of Prince William County and ideas for maintaining a favorable business climate,” said Prince William Chamber President and CEO Debbie Jones.

Provost Roger Ramsammy is looking forward to hosting the debate at the NOVA-Manassas campus. 

He stated, “We are eager to hear what ideal, long-term strategies each candidate will convey regarding education in Prince William County.  Our county boasts two Northern Virginia Community college campuses and the Chairman’s emphasis on higher education will be critical for our entire community, workforce development and beyond.”

The debate will be moderated by Krysta Nicole Jones, Founder and CEO, Virginia Leadership Institute.

Anderson, Porta to debate for Occoquan seat Oct. 16

022814 porta

Porta

Candidates Earnie Porta and Ruth Anderson for Occoquan district supervisor will meet for a debate hosted by Potomac Local on October 16 at 7 p.m.

The candidates are looking to fill the seat currently filled by Supervisor Michael May, who is running for Prince William County Commonwealth’s Attorney.

Anderson_Headshot

Anderson

You may submit questions for the Occoquan supervisor debate.

The debate will be held at Lake Ridge Middle School at 12350 Mohican Road in Lake Ridge.

Potomac Local is sponsoring the event, in partnership with the Prince William County Democratic Committee and the Prince William County Republican Committee.

Potomac Local Publisher Uriah Kiser will be moderating the debate.

The candidates were briefed on the format of the debate as follows:
— Candidates will be introduced to the audience
— Short bios for each candidate will be read
— A candidate will be asked a specific question
— The candidate will have three minutes to respond
— An opposing candidate will have three minutes for rebuttal
— A new question is asked of different candidate and process repeats

Potomac Local will accept reader-submitted questions that may be asked of the candidates during the debates.

The event is open to the public.

Campaign literature and signs are only permitted outside of the building and must be removed upon event conclusion.

Updated: No debate between Foreman, Surovell

Update 12:30 p.m.

We reported earlier today Democrat Scott Surrovell and Republican Gerald “Jerry” Foreman would meet for a debate in Occoquan later this month. We were wrong, as no debate between the two candidates vying to replace longtime Virginia State Senator Toddy Puller (D-36, Fairfax, Prince William, Stafford), is scheduled.

At first glance, it appeared Surovell had taken it upon himself to schedule a debate himself.

After seeing the announcement, Potomac Local emailed Foreman campaign manager Shannon Duffy on Tuesday and asked if Surovell’s Tweet was legitimate.  We got this emailed response the next day: 

occoquan debate screen shot

 

Later in the day, we got this email from the Foreman campaign: 

occoquan debate screen shot3

 

With that statement in hand, we reported the two would soon meet for a debate in Occoquan as noted by the Surovell campaign. 

It turns out we were wrong.

The Facebook post contains a letter in which he says a blogger Ben Tribbett employed by the Surovell campaign has made scheduling debates difficult. He outlined his thoughts on Tribbett on his website.

 

We’ll be sure to post the date, time, and location of any upcoming debate to this post when we have it.


Update 9:41 a.m. 

Potomac Local received a call from Surovell, stating that while we received a statement confirming the debate, his campaign team did not. We have reached out to Foreman for clarification and will keep you updated on the latest.

Original post 9:17 a.m.

Candidates Delegate Scott Surovell and Dumfries Mayor Jerry Foreman will meet for a debate on August 26 in Occoquan.

Surovell and Foreman are running for Virginia’s 36th district Senate seat that covers parts of Fairfax, Prince William, and Stafford counties.

The seat is being vacated by long time incumbent Senator Toddy Puller, who will be retiring this year.

The debate will be held at the Occoquan Town Hall on 314 Mill Street from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

According to a letter sent from Surovell to Foreman, the debate will be informal without any moderator or set rules, where the candidates can ask each other questions.

Surovell made the initial call for a series of debates for the race at the end of July.

“It’s time for Mayor Foreman to stop hiding behind negative push polls and debate me face to face. I propose we hold a series of debates in every section of the District so the voters can come hear our vision for the Route 1 Corridor,” stated Surovell in a release.

Foreman accepted the request to hold at least six debates before Election Day on November 3.

“I very much look forward to debating Delegate Surovell, and frankly, I am willing to go beyond his offer of six debates, and hold one every week in September and October if he’s willing,” stated Foreman.

*The debate is being hosted independently by the candidates.

May: I’ll ensure transparency in prosecutions, cases are not overturned for due process violations

Micheal C. May won special election 2007 to serve on the Prince William County Board of Supervisors. 

He replaced Corey Stewart who went on to become the chairman of the board. During his time on the board, May has gained a reputation of being a moderate on the county’s governing board.

He’s argued for lower tax rates, but he’s also argued for funding government programs and services that are popular with county taxpayers.

Now May has his eyes set on the Prince William County Courthouse. He says his experience in local government and his work as an attorney has prepared him to be the region’s top prosecutor. 

He’s running against Paul Ebert, a man who has held the job since 1968. He’s also one of Virginia’s most decorated prosecutors.

Potomac Local sent a questionnaire to May and he sent us the responses below: 

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PL: What concrete solutions do you propose to address these issues?

May: We have to address the challenges of our growing and dynamic community. As the next Commonwealth’s Attorney, I will: keep our neighborhoods safe, modernize the office, and actively engage our diverse population to enhance public safety and crime prevention.

PL: What concrete solutions do you propose to address these issues?

May: As your next Commonwealth’s Attorney, I will ensure we have the best and brightest lawyers serving as our prosecutors, and I will work with them to bring those who commit crimes in our community to justice.

We will modernize the office by employing new technologies to keep citizens informed. We will also ensure appropriate transparency during criminal prosecutions so that cases are not overturned for violations of Due Process (as has occurred under the incumbent’s watch).

Finally, we will implement a proactive community outreach plan to engage with our dynamic and diverse population. We need to enhance crime prevention, rather than passively waiting for crimes to occur and addressing them after the fact.

PL: From your prospective, what is the job description of the office you’re seeking?

May: The position of Commonwealth’s Attorney (prosecutor) is one of the most important positions in the government because the power to take one’s life or liberty is the most awesome power that government can wield.

The ultimate check on that power thus appropriately rests with the citizens through the popular vote. Accordingly, the elected Commonwealth’s Attorney establishes the policies that reflect our community’s values, and ensures that his or her staff and assistant Commonwealth’s Attorneys serve the citizens in a manner consistent with those values.

The job necessarily requires oversight, management and legal skills. The elected Commonwealth’s Attorney must ultimately ensure justice for our community.

PL: What expertise will you bring to the office?

May: As a Member of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors for the past eight years, I have been intimately involved in management, oversight, and setting policy direction for the Prince William community; particularly in the area of public safety.

We have had some great success in this area and we are fortunate to have such a hardworking and dedicated police force working to keep us safe. In addition to being a Member of the Board of County Supervisors, I have also spent the past ten years as a successful trial attorney for a private law firm, Albo & Oblon, LLP. During that time, I have successfully litigated jury and bench trials in the federal courts and several state courts throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia.

This combination of policy, management and legal experience is the ideal background for this important office.

PL: Do you feel that the average citizen is well-informed and understands the workings of local government? If not, how do you intend on improving communication with your constituency?

May: Unfortunately, the average citizen is not well-informed on local government issues. It is the responsibility of elected leaders in all areas of government to proactively reach out to the community to keep it informed of important issues.

This has simply not occurred with the current administration. Instead, under the leadership of the 47 year incumbent, the office has lost touch with our community and I will change this if elected.

For example, we will have frequent public safety related town hall meetings; we will use social media and other means of communication to keep citizens informed; we will partner with our schools, civic groups, and faith organizations to develop a more well-informed public; and, we will implement a proactive outreach plan targeted particularly to the many new immigrant communities who may not understand and actually fear our criminal justice system.

If people do not trust or have confidence in the system, it will not function and it is the responsibility of elected leaders to build that trust. This will take hard work and dedication beyond just a 9-5 workday, but I am up for the challenge and ready to tackle it on day one.

PL: Have you ever made any mistakes in your public life? How have they effected you?

May: I am sure that I have made mistakes, in both my private life and public life. Mistakes are a part of being a human being.

All you can do is own up to them and try to learn from them. This makes you a better person and a better elected official. As I have considered the question, I cannot point to one defining mistake that has changed the very manner in which I comport myself as a public official.

However, you can be sure that every experience, whether a success or failure, has helped to shape who I am as a person and my service to our community.

PL: Our readers want leaders in local government. Why should they vote for you? 

May: I have been honored to serve our community over the past eight years on the Prince William Board of County Supervisors. During this time, I have always sought to build upon the trust and confidence that our community has placed in me. Leadership is about putting our community first.

If given the opportunity to serve as the next Commonwealth’s Attorney, I will always remember that the office does not belong to me; rather, it belongs to the citizens of Prince William, Manassas, and Manassas Park. This election is about our future, and I am ready to lead the Office of Commonwealth’s Attorney as we modernize and bring it in the 21st Century.

Why we note political parties of local candidates

Some candidates rise and fall with their party affiliation. For others, it simply doesn’t matter.

For example, take candidates running for school board in Virginia. A provision in the state code mandates all candidates for school board run without the affiliation of a political party and seek offices as independent.

In the 2015 race for Prince William County School Board Chairman, candidate Ryan Sawyers is endorsed by the Prince William Democratic Committee and Tim Singstock won an endorsement by the Prince William County Republican Committee. Tracy Conroy is running as an independent.

When voters go to the polls, they won’t see a letter on the ballot denoting any party affiliation.

“Parties can endorse anyone they want to, but party endorsement is different from party declaration on a ballot,” said Diana Dutton, with the Prince William County Office of Elections.

State law requires ballots only show political affiliation for offices such as Governor, Lt. Governer, Attorney General, House of Delegates, Virginia Senate, and congressional offices.

Also on the list of no required political affiliation — candidates for boards of supervisors, and those seeking office on a town or city council with a charter that doesn’t require naming political affiliation.

At Potomac Local, we do note party affiliation for candidates even if Virginia law states candidates don’t have to.
We work hard to cover local elections in Prince William and Stafford counties, and the cities of Manassas and Manassas Park. It is our job to tell our readers that parties endorse candidates.

After all, a political party that lends its endorsement to a candidate must believe that person is the best person who would best represent that party’s views while serving in office. These candidates are also more likely to receive donations from like-minded voters of these respective parties.
You can get a full list of candidates — and information about their affiliation or endorsements — at projectelection.com.

Kandy Hilliard: Medicaid expansion is a big piece of the puzzle

Kandy Hilliard is no stranger to the political landscape in Stafford County. She served as the Aquia District representative on the Board of Supervisors from 2001 to 2005. 

The Democrat lists helping to secure $30 million in fundng to preserve the Crow’s Nest Natural Area, a sprawling wetland area on the Potomac and Accokeek creeks in Stafford County as one of her many accomplishments. 

Today, she’s going up against longtime incumbent Republican Bill Howell. He’s served the 28th district, which includes portions of Stafford and King George counties, and Fredericksburg, for 27 years. He’s also been the Speaker of the House since 2003.

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PL: What are the top three major issues facing the district you wish to represent?

Hilliard: Reducing traffic congestion, adequate funding for schools, bringing living wage jobs to our community.

PL: What concrete solutions do you propose to address these issues?

Hilliard: When talking about these three issues, Medicaid expansion is a big piece of the puzzle. According to the Commonwealth Institute, Medicaid Expansion would give over 195,000 Virginians health insurance, improving the health of our workforce. It also brings 30,000 good paying jobs to Virginia. With three local hospitals, one that already laid off over 60 people, I think it makes good sense to bring good paying jobs to our community.

I believe it is critically important to work with our local, state and national partners to leverage every resource available to us.  That helps us keep taxes low. Medicaid Expansion would bring $1.7 billion to the General Fund.  Based on current trends in the Virginia budget, we spend 30% of the General Fund on public education. This could mean an additional $515 million in the state budget for our public schools. It makes good economic sense, and that is why so many other states have accepted the expansion.

Additionally, HOT lanes cannot be our only solution to traffic gridlock. They are too costly and they dump out right here in Stafford. We need to invest in public transit (VRE, Metro, and bus service). Wouldn’t it be nice if VRE operated going both ways so people could use it to travel during off hours? It is also critical that we prioritize infrastructure, and ensure that we build complete streets that are safe for drivers and pedestrians.  We need to be thinking long term about transportation solutions.

PL: From your prospective, what is the job description of the office you’re seeking?

Hilliard: I believe the person elected to this office should be a representative for the people of the 28th District. Your Delegate should be fighting for the welfare and of all residents, businesses and organizations in the district. This job requires you to listen to all sides of an issue, bring forward legislation and vote based on what is best for the community as a whole. Your Delegate needs to be accessible to the people, prudent with our tax dollars, and able to make the tough governing decisions that improve the everyday lives of the people of the 28th district.

PL: What expertise will you bring to the office?

Hilliard: I am an expert in early childhood education. I have started a small business and co-founded a non-profit in this field. I have also served on the Stafford Board of Supervisors, so I have a close up and personal understanding of the needs and challenges of local government. I grew up in this community and I raised my family here. My husband travels I95 everyday to get to work. I believe my family is very representative of the people of this district, and this gives me a strong understanding of the needs of our community. I want to go to Richmond to fight for the people of the 28th District.

PL: Do you feel that the average citizen is well-informed and understands the workings of local government? If not, how do you intend on improving communication with your constituency?

Hilliard: I believe most people know what they want from their government, however the challenges facing our community are complex and procedures can be arduous.  It is the role of an elected official to help citizens navigate the process and find the information they need. I will be accessible to constituents. I plan to keep the community informed through my website, newsletter, social media, and community events.

PL: Have you ever made any mistakes in your public life? How have they effected you?

Hilliard: We are all human and we all make mistakes.  There have been times in my public life that I have regretted coming out too quickly on an issue before hearing all perspectives.  This happened when I was on the Board of Supervisors, fighting to protect Crow’s Nest from development. I had initially committed to one course of action but had to change direction when I learned that we could access different resources.  In the end, I secured $30 Million of Virginia Resources Authority Funds from then Secretary of Natural Resources, Tayloe Murphy, to purchase the land. We had a favorable outcome, but I learned the importance of hearing from all stakeholders before committing to a specific course of action.

PL: Our readers want leaders in local government. Why should they vote for you? 

Hilliard:  I am ready to go to Richmond to fight for the people of the 28th District – not special interests that have too great an influence over our legislators. I will focus on finding common ground to bring solutions to our challenges. I will be accessible to you when you have a question or concern. I will focus on improving the lives people in our community every single day, and I will do it with integrity and honesty.

Prince William School Board Chairman debate set for Oct. 12

Sawyers

Sawyers

Updated

Tracy Conroy will participate in the Prince William County School Board Chairman debate scheduled for Oct. 12.

Original post

Candidates Tim Singstock and Ryan Sawyers for the Prince William County School Board

Singstock

Singstock

Chairman’s race will meet for a debate hosted by Potomac Local on October 12 at 7 p.m.

The candidates are hoping to fill the seat of vacating incumbent Milt Johns, and will debate local issues concerning the schools in Prince William County.

 

Conroy

Conroy


You may submit questions for the school board debate.

The debate will be held at the Dar Alnoor Islamic Community Center at 5404 Hoadly Road in Woodbridge.

Tracy Conroy, the independent candidate for the race, was invited to participate in the debate. We have not received confirmation as to whether she will participate.

Potomac Local is hosting the event, in partnership with the Prince William County Democratic Committee and the Prince William County Republican Committee.

The candidates were briefed on the format of the debate as follows:

— Candidates will be introduced to the audience
— Short bios for each candidate will be read
— A candidate will be asked a specific question
— The candidate will have three minutes to respond
— An opposing candidate will have three minutes for rebuttal
— A new question is asked of different candidate and process repeats

Potomac Local will accept reader-submitted questions that may be asked of the candidates during the debates.

The event is open to the public.

Campaign literature and signs are only permitted outside of the community center building and must be removed upon event conclusion.

GOP likes former Prince William judge for Virginia Supreme Court

Following the retirement of Justice LeRoy Millette, the Republicans have stated that they will support Judge Rossie Alston for the vacancy on Virginia’s Supreme Court.

More from a release:

Judge Alston has served on the Court of Appeals since 2009. He was elected as a Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court judge for Prince William County in 1998 and was elevated to the Circuit Court in 2001. He served as Chief Judge of the Prince William Circuit Court from 2007 until his election to the Virginia Court of Appeals.

The Old Dominion Bar Association rated Judge Alston “highly qualified and recommended” for the Supreme Court. The Virginia Trial Lawyers Association rated him “highly qualified.” He was also endorsed by the Virginia Bar Association and the Virginia Association of Defense Attorneys. Although the Virginia State Bar did not endorse candidates for the current vacancy citing time constraints, they unanimously endorsed Judge Alston for the most recent previous Supreme Court vacancy.

“Judge Alston has the experience to be an outstanding addition to the Supreme Court of Virginia,” Speaker Howell noted. “While several great candidates were considered, Judge Alston’s experience on the Court of Appeals and his service as a Chief Judge for the 31st Circuit make him ideally suited for this vacancy.

“Judge Alston has earned widespread support in the House, and it is our intention to elect him when the special session convenes.” “In their evaluation of the candidates for this vacancy, the four bar associations that issued recommendations all endorsed Judge Alston,” remarked Senator Norment. “That the Old Dominion Bar House and Senate Republicans Announce Support for Judge Rossie D. Alston Jr. for Supreme Court Vacancy Page 2 Association took the extra step of rating him ‘highly qualified and recommended’ is evidence of the respect he has earned in his 17 years on the bench.

“The Constitution of Virginia vests the authority to elect judges with the General Assembly. Although Governor McAuliffe has designated a different candidate, who is also highly qualified, a consensus has developed among the members of the Senate Republican Caucus that Judge Alston should fill this vacancy. As a result, I expect Judge Alston will be elected to the Virginia Supreme Court during the special session.”

Anderson: Prince William needs more jobs here ‘millennial-friendly’ housing options

Ruth Anderson is dipping her toe into local politics for the first time and is running to be the next Occoquan District representative on the Prince William County Board of Supervisors. 

It’s a seat currently held by Mike May, who is running for Prince William County Commonwealth Attorney. 

Anderson faces Earine Porta, the former mayor of Occoquan. She is the wife of Delegate Richard Anderson who has represented the 51st District in Prince William County at the House of Delegates in Richmond since 2010.

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PL: What are the top three major issues facing the district you wish to represent?

Anderson: My overall campaign theme is, “Bring Prince William Home.” This theme helps me express my vision for Prince William County.

Prince William County is a beautiful, historic place to live and play. But, there is one major problem: we don’t have enough living wage jobs in Prince William County (with recruitment and retention incentives) to allow our residents the option of working where they live. I believe our residents choose Prince William County because there are many residential options, because they can commute to the many high quality jobs in the Washington, D.C. metro area and because the taxes are lower than counties closer to the Washington, D.C. metro area.

However, once new residents find a home and get settled, they discover that commutes are long and frustrating, family-time is hard to come by, some schools are overcrowded with teachers looking elsewhere for work and that homeowners are carrying about 85% of the burden of necessary tax revenue to support core government services and desired programs. Therefore, to “Bring Prince William Home”, I will advocate for:

Bringing more businesses into Prince William County — small businesses and large businesses that can offer high quality, career-enhancing, living wage jobs. This will give Prince William County residents:

More options for working where they live and play

Property tax relief. Currently businesses provide about 14% of the tax revenue in Prince William County. It should be about 30% to balance tax revenues between homeowners and businesses; it is often the middle price-range homes (and therefore the middle-class families) that get hit the hardest when assessments go up (even though rates might stay the same or decrease a bit)

More tax revenue to support “state of the art” core government services such as public safety, education, roads, economic development, and social services…in essence, we will be bringing Prince William dollars home.

An option of less commute time on major thoroughfares crisscrossing Prince William County

More options for business-school partnerships for the secondary schools and colleges

PL: What concrete solutions do you propose to address these issues?

Anderson: In order to provide incentives for more commercial businesses to move into Prince William County the Board of County Supervisors needs to:

Continue to phase out the Business, Professions, Occupations License (BPOL) tax on businesses in Prince William County. Currently, businesses are assessed a license tax based on gross receipts for the prior year if gross receipts are over $250,000 (threshold raised to $300,000 recently).

Ensure our schools are “High Quality” for preparing students for college and other post-secondary

School job-training programs

Ensure our roads allow easy access to and from the business sites

Ensure there are “millennial-friendly” residential options

Ensure land development plans are a balanced mixture of commercial and residential space with appropriate proffers that ensure no negative impact on core government services

Analyze the County Planning/Permit Departments processes…are they working with the customers/development community to encourage commercial growth? What are the obstacles? What slows the processes? Let’s encourage the American Dream through “user-friendly” planning and permit processes in Prince William County.

Leverage available space (specifically in Occoquan District) as an “enterprise zone,” a hub for entrepreneurial millennials with ideas.

PL: From your perspective, what is the job description of the office you’re seeking?

Anderson: To represent the residents and businesses in the Occoquan District on the Board of County Supervisors, in all decisions about budget, strategic planning and all core government services. To actively lead communication programs and constituent services for those who live and work in the Occoquan District. To work with the other members of the Board of County Services to ensure a comprehensive vision and plans for Prince William County and ensure excellent fiscal management and accountability.

PL: What expertise will you bring to the office?

Anderson: Many years of leadership experience. Lots of energy and drive to help find solutions to the challenges and to advocate for the opportunities that are available to Prince William County.

I am anxious to excel at constituent services.

PL:  Do you feel that the average citizen is well-informed and understands the workings of local government? If not, how do you intend on improving communication with your constituency?

Anderson: Many citizens are informed and involved…PWC has an impressive number of civic organizations, volunteer organizations and a myriad of activist individuals and groups who keep themselves informed and propose solutions to challenges.

However, as I meet hundreds of residents all across the district, I find a substantial number of people who do not know which districts (county, state, federal) they reside in and who represents them. I show them maps and encourage them to get involved, based on their interests. When elected I will encourage involvement by all residents through speaking engagements, social media, newsletters, etc. Involvement leads to knowledge.

PL: Have you ever made any mistakes in your public life? How have they affected you?

Anderson: I have learned over many years of leading groups of people that you can never listen enough. I will constantly strive to ensure that I listen and seek out all sides of an issue.

PL: Our readers want leaders in local government. Why should they vote for you? 

Anderson: As the Occoquan District Supervisor, my first priority will be to protect the taxpayers. I believe that people make better choices with their hard-earned money than government does, and I’ll fight every day for the taxpayers of Prince William County. For too long, our Board of County Supervisors has raised taxes and increased spending. Now Prince William County has the highest tax rate in Northern Virginia, and we still have – crowded classrooms, clogged roads, stagnant wages, and bloated government. I will be a servant leader who respects the taxpayer.

Issues

Growing the Local Economy

Prince William County is a beautiful, historic place to live and play, but we can all agree that we don’t have enough living wage jobs. When citizens can choose to live and work in the same community, then they’ll spend less time on the road and more time with their families.

We need to re-think our Economic Development strategy in PWC. Our county needs to aggressively offer incentives to grow the economy and our economic development staff needs to focus on recruiting employers. I’m tired of seeing employers move to Fairfax and Stafford Counties instead of PWC.

Business owners are also frustrated with an increasing amount of “red tape” in the processes for starting or expanding businesses. It’s nearly impossible for a business to expand, let alone a new business to open. I’ll push to expose and erase these barriers to inspire job creation so that our local economy can flourish.

Getting Taxes Under Control

Prince William County has the highest tax rate in Northern Virginia and one of the highest tax rates in the entire state. Our neighboring counties have cut taxes and now their economies are growing. For the last four years, our Board of County Supervisors rejected proposals to hold the line on taxes. Instead they have voted to raise taxes. Now a working family can go to Fairfax, Loudoun, Fauquier or Stafford Counties and pay lower tax rates. In fact, just this year the PWC BOCS voted to raise property taxes another 20%. It’s time to do something about this.

Budget Accountability

Just recently some local politicians voted to spend YOUR MONEY to build the most expensive high school in the entire Commonwealth of Virginia. The plans include pools and a theater with a powered orchestra lift…this is not the approach we need when schools have overcrowded classrooms. And, instead of giving the taxpayers some relief to improve our roads, a decision was approved to spend 11 million dollars to bury some power lines. The bottom line is that there is plenty of pork in the county budget, but there is not enough political courage to stand up and do what’s right. I want to cut wasteful spending and restore taxpayer accountability.

Education

Our teachers deserve a pay raise, our classrooms should meet student to teacher ratio standards and our parents deserve more educational options. Bottom line…our kids deserve the best education we can provide and our taxpayers deserve a transparent budget. The excuses need to end, and I’ll stand up to fight for real results.

Transportation

Just like you, I’ve spent my fair share of time stuck in traffic. We’ve spent a lot of money in recent years but the congestion seems to keep getting worse. I believe we need to spend our limited dollars on projects that will actually relieve traffic congestion.

 

Jenkins: Expand VRE to Haymarket, create vocational, opportunities for students

John Jenkins has been the Neabsco District Supervisor in Dale City for more than 30 years. When it comes to streetlight issues in Prince William County, you’d be hard pressed to find one he’s not familiar with. 

Jenkins said the county will continue to grow. And that it will need a sound education policy and better transportation options in order to grow the right way. 

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PL: What are the top three major issues facing the district you wish to represent?

Jenkins: Education (Class size, salary, higher level opportunities, work-force development)

Transportation (Roads, trains, buses, engineering)

Public Safety (Police, Fire & Rescue & Community Development)What concrete solutions do you propose to address these issues?

Education:  We must reduce class size in our K-12 schools and improve classroom teacher salaries.  I plan to work with our Community Colleges, George Mason University and other institutions of higher learning to provide in-county vocational and technical educational opportunities for our K-12 school population as well as for  graduate and undergraduate programs.  Workforce training needs and deserves particular attention.  I will continue to support creation of the workforce facilities which are now under construction at the Woodbridge campus of the Northern Virginia Community College. I am a former per diem substitute teacher in Prince William County schools and Adjunct faculty member at American University.  I also worked as an adjunct member of the Prince William Northern VA Community College at Woodbridge, VA.

Transportation:  During my 33 years as a member of the Board of Supervisors I  have been a strong supporter of building new roads and streets throughout the County.  Our BOCS took on the responsibility of road construction even though the Virginia Department of Transportation should have been doing it.  We realized that we had to do this if we wanted roads and streets built.  In addition, we believed that Commuter Rail was necessary to help eliminate long lines of backup on I-95.  I was one of the founders of the Virginia Railway Express (VRE) and have served two terms as Chairman.  Also a founder,  I have served two terms as Chairman of the Potomac & Rappahannock Transportation Commission (PRTC). VRE now transports 18,000 commuters daily while PRTC takes another 12,500 off the Interstate.  I also serve as a member of the Washington Council of Governments Transportation Planning Board (TPB) which gives me the opportunity to advance transportation and transit projects which impact Prince William County.  I will fully support extension of VRE to the Haymarket area of Prince William County and favor a new transit center for Western Prince William County.

Public Safety:  I am a former Military Policeman, a former Army Intelligence Corps Agent, a former employee of the FBI Identification Division and have spent the last 33 years as a County Supervisor in a county with a fully accredited Police Department that has  over 500 sworn  officers.  I have the necessary experience to work with the Police Department to fund and carry out law enforcement activities for a large urban county of over 450,000 residents.  I believe we need at least two sworn officers for each 1000 of our residents.  I support the Police Department Ride along program.  I helped establish the Police academy and I fully support a mid-county police station. I am in support  and helped establish The Fire & Rescue Asssociation. I fully support building of a new mid county Fire & Rescue Station. 

PL: From your prospective, what is the job description of the office you’re seeking?

Jenkins: To provide leadership to the departments and senior executive staff of the county government.  To establish goals and set the strategic direction for the county government.  To fund county operations through judicious taxation and expenditure policies.  We must have a strong economic development program which provides incentives for the location of new business and industry to the county.  I fully support Project Innovation which has grown and solidified capital investment of over $1.7 Billion and makes Prince William County a major player in the United States data center market. I continue to support Innovation Park’s Simulation and Game Institute which is one of its kind in the world that  was primarily established to support early-entry entrepreneurship in the simulation, modeling and game industry. 

PL: What expertise will you bring to the office?

Thirty three years as Neabsco District Supervisor. 

PL: Do you feel that the average citizen is well-informed and understands the workings of local government? If not, how do you intend on improving communication with your constituency?

I think that the average citizen is well informed on the workings of the Prince William County government.  We have a two county wide TV channels which our Department of Communications can use for public information.  We have frequent public hearings on issues which may be coming before the Board of Supervisors for action and we conduct workshops on any subject which is being implemented in the county government.  I publish a monthly newsletter which includes information on items of interest to our citizens.  We have a great county WEB site and I provide connectivity and a URL for my district WEB page to connect to the county and other external links. 

PL: Have you ever made any mistakes in your public life? How have they affected you?

Jenkins: None to  my knowledge

PL: Our readers want leaders in local government. Why should they vote for you? 

I have a proven track record of leadership at the local and state level which includes service as a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Regular Army, State President of the Virginia Association of Counties, State President of the Virginia Planning District Commissions (two terms) and membership and leadership of numerous regional and local boards and commissions.  I am a commissioner and Past Chairman of the Virginia Railway Express (VRE), and a commissioner and current Chairman of the Potomac & Rappahannock Transportation Commission (PRTC).  In addition, I have been a leader in my church  and numerous local civic organizations and was selected to receive the Boy Scouts of America Silver Beaver award.  I have also served as a member of the Commonwealth’s Geographic Information Systems Network (VGIN).  The Board of County Supervisors has elected me as their Chairman Emeritus for the past several years.  I am the longest serving member of the Board.

School board chairman candidates talk overcrowding, funding, admin performance

School boardTwo candidates for the Prince William school board chairman’s race spoke about their views on leadership, funding and Superintendent Steven Walts.

Tim Singstock and Ryan Sawyers met for a discussion Tuesday at the Prince William Chamber of Commerce.

Overcrowded classrooms in Prince William

One topic discussed was the overcrowding in the county’s public schools, and how to reduce class sizes.

Singstock, a Republican, said that he would put forth a budget plan and bring in the community for feedback on what they felt needed to be funded or cut.

“The way we’re going to confront the problems we’re facing here in Prince William with respect to overcrowding and competitive compensation for our teachers is by making fiscally responsible decisions. We’ve got to be able to build a consensus. Just one person isn’t going to be able to get anything done,” said Singstock.

Sawyers, a Democrat, agreed that crowding was an issue, and stated that while setting a budget was the easy part for the school board, sticking to the outlined budget was the difficult part.

“I think the community outreach is clear when it comes to things like class size – everyone wants them to come down. We only control one side of the income statement. We can’t raise or lower taxes – we can only spend, and invest the money that is given to us. Our job as a school board is oversight. Quite frankly setting a budget is the easiest thing to do…keeping to and holding to the budget is the most difficult part,” said Sawyers.

The third candidate for the seat, Tracy Conroy, was scheduled to attend, but was ill.

Is the revenue sharing agreement enough to fund the schools?

Currently, the primary funding source is a 57% of Prince William County’s annual budget, set by the county board of supervisors.

Sawyers and Singstock were both in agreement that the school system was underfunded and that the revenue sharing agreement funding needed to be readdressed.

“I think [the revenue sharing agreement] should be turned into a floor and not a ceiling. 57.23 percent should be the jumping off point, if we’re going to keep a semblance of the [agreement] – which we certainly don’t have to,” Sawyers said.

“The revenue sharing agreement is a policy tool – it’s a tool we use in Prince William County to fund our school system. Our school system is underfunded. We know that because we can look at the magnitude of overcrowding we have…we can look at the disparity of pay for our teachers…we need a better tool to fund the school system adequately…,” stated Singstock.

Additionally, Sawyers stated that a big reason for the overcrowding in schools was that too many homes in the county were being built without giving the school system time to catch up, and pointed to the board of county supervisors for approving more housing projects and developments in Prince William.

Superintendent Walts’ performance

Prince William County Public Schools Superintendent Steven Walts has been on the job for 10 years. He reports to the school board, who evaluates his job performance.

Singstock stated that he would give Walts a year before making a decision on his performance.

“My position is that I would work with [Dr. Walts] for a year, and make my own evaluation as to whether or not he needs to be leading Prince William County Schools,” said Singstock.

According to Sawyers, it is the job of the entire school board to handle oversight – including the leadership employed by the Prince William school system – and that firing Walts could be on the table.

“I would want to know that the person looking to oversee [the school system] is doing their job…I would have absolutely no problem firing anybody if it needed to come. I’m not running on a ‘fire Dr. Walts campaign’ but I think at the same time it’s the school board’s job for oversight…and especially when it comes to the top dog that we hire and can fire is a duty I would take very seriously,” said Sawyers.

Election Day in Prince William County is on November 3.

George: I’ll be a watchdog for Prince William County School Board funds

The run for Neabsco District School Board member is a two-way race, as Joseph George will face Diane Raulston for the seat.

The seat is an open one, as incumbent Lisa Bell will not seek relelection to the post.

Potomac Local sent a survey to Joseph George who is running for the seat. His responses are below: 

PL: What are the top three major issues facing the district you wish to represent?

George: 1. Ensuring that we are providing the best education for our students.
2. Ensuring that we keep the most capable teachers within our School District.
3. Ensuring that our District members, both parents and tax payers without children in the School District anymore, have a voice on decisions made that impact spending.

PL: What concrete solutions do you propose to address these issues?

George: 1 – Determine what programs are not working or being underutilized, and determine if there needs to be a re-focus conducted on them, or discard them all together.  Additionally, determine which programs are working well (most bang for our buck) and figure out if more students can be involved to their advantage and our budget.  Would work by prioritizing our critical needs and funding them properly. 

PL: From your prospective, what is the job description of the office you’re seeking? 

George: Representing the Neabsco District on the PWC School Board means to ensure that my District student’s needs are voiced to the rest of the Board Members, in order to make the best determination of how our dollars are spent, and what programs to promote.  The students are my number one priority and as a watchdog, I must ensure that funds are spent properly.  I must seek the advice from the community, because first and foremost, the schools belong to them, so their voices must be heard.

PL: What expertise will you bring to the office?

George: My expertise is one of a passionate parent, one that will seek out the hard answers and make the difficult decisions, based on community input.  Additionally, I will take my experience as an Analyst, taking facts and assumptions, in order to make acceptable decisions, as well as my exposure as a Principal Advisory Council Chairman to understand the significance of expenditures.

PL: Do you feel that the average citizen is well-informed and understands the workings of local government? If not, how do you intend on improving communication with your constituency?

George: I’d hate to say that the average citizen is “well-informed” on local government, because it may not be their concern about what local government is doing.  Many people I have met has told me that they feel like they have no say in what the School District does or does not do, due to the fact of not having a child in the system.  Many do not understand that they still fund the School District with their tax-dollars, which makes the need for their voice to be heard as much as parents with students in our schools.  A person’s sphere of influence is much larger than they know, if they put in a bit more effort to listen, ask questions, and seek out the truth.

PL:  Have you ever made any mistakes in your public life? How have they effected you?

George: Working for the Department of Defense, I have made mistakes in my public life, but all of which I have learned from, improved through, and assisted others in not making those same mistakes.  Mentoring and coaching individuals to become the best that they can be, I try to do on a daily basis.

PL: Our readers want leaders in local government. Why should they vote for you?

George: A vote for Joseph George means that the public’s voice will be heard (even those that do not vote for me will be heard as well) and I want them to have faith that I will make the tough choices, based on their input, as well as the input of my fellow Board Members.  When decisions are to be made that may be unpopular, I will be the one to explain why the choice was made, and allow those that are disappointed in the decision to speak with me one-on-one or in a public forum.  I want to ensure that I interact closely with my [would-be] counterpart on the County Board of Supervisors, Mr. John Jenkins, so that our District is in lock-step on what we are trying to accomplish.  I am new to the political process, but I am not new to making tough choices that impact millions of dollars, and those decisions are not taken lightly.

Will Virginia’s General Assembly be called in for redistricting this summer?

The General Assembly may be called in for a special session on August 17 to redraw Virginia’s congressional district map.

Governor Terry McAuliffe issued a statement that the date in August has been reserved for a special session the redistricting.

This statement follows a gerrymandering lawsuit and judgment from a three-federal judge panel that handed down a decision that the lines needed to be redrawn in Virginia.

“[The panel’s] decision reaffirmed the prior decision…[the decision] said that in drawing those districts, Republicans in the House of Delegates used a 55% black voting-aged population threshold… you cannot use a percentage target like that,” said Delegate Scott Surovell.

According to Delegate Rich Anderson, the defendants in the gerrymandering lawsuit have filed an appeal, and the Republican House and Senate leaders want to wait for redistricting until all of the appeals are exhausted.

“The congressional districts drawn in 2011 have now been found to be illegal twice by three federal judges. There is no need for further delay in redrawing the districts. The people of Virginia deserve legally drawn districts created to represent compact and contiguous communities of interest instead of political interests,” said Surovell.

“What [McAuliffe] has done, he has said ‘save the date in case I issue a call’ that’s what he’s done…If he does, we’re required by the [Virginia] Constitution to go to Richmond, whether we feel like we’re ready to do it or not,” said Anderson.

Potomac Local reached out to Speaker Howell’s office, but they did not return request for comment.

16-year former Stafford supervisor to run again in Rock Hill

Former Stafford supervisor Robert Gibbons has announced he will run this year in the Rock Hill district.

Wendy Maurer was named the Republican nominee for the seat, following a primary on June 8.

According to a release, Gibbons began his political career in the 1980s, and is a business owner and a retired veteran.

Gibbons spent 16 years on the Stafford County Board of Supervisors.

During his time as a supervisor, he worked with the board on constructing courthouse buildings, the Stafford airport, the regional landfill, Centreport Parkway, establishing a University of Mary Washington campus in Southern Stafford and creating the Fredericksburg Regional Transit (FRED) bus system, stated a release.

“Between the beauty, safety, and strong education available in our region, not to mention the strong opportunities for business owners, Stafford County will only continue growing. It’s important that county leaders are able to support that growth without unduly burdening residents and while maintaining the area characteristics that make the county such an inviting place,” stated Gibbons.

During his candidacy, Gibbons would like to address continued expansion of the I-95 Express Lanes.

Should Virginia politicians be able to draw their own districts?

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Currently, the Virginia General Assembly draws all of the district lines in Virginia.

What does this mean? It means that the politicians you’re voting for get to draw the districts you vote in, potentially deciding who your elected representatives are, as they’re allowed to draw the districts to advantage or disadvantage whomever they chose.

Districts lines in Virginia have come under intense scrutiny recently, as the Supreme Court and a three federal-judge panel sided with a lawsuit that asserted that the Virginia Congressional districts were racially biased.

The districts were thrown out, and will have to be redrawn in a special session by Sept. 1. A similar lawsuit regarding gerrymandering for House lines goes to trial on July 9.

But this means that the same Virginia politicians will be drawing the district lines again.

“Ultimately, if you gave politicians the opportunity to draw the lines to advantage themselves, they will do just that,” said University of Mary Washington professor and director of the Center for Leadership and Media Studies Stephen Farnsworth.

Can anything be done to make district lines more balanced?

With the outcome of the lawsuit on the Congressional districts as they’re currently drawn, the question remains – is there a way to make districts more balanced and competitive?

One potential solution, according to Governor Terry McAuliffe, is to have an independent and non partisan redistricting committee create Virginia’s district map.

“Listen – the map is totally gerrymandered today. All I want are fair lines, as close to 50/50 as you can get because competition’s good. I have competition every day. When these members, up to 90% of them don’t have elections, that’s not good for democracy – it’s not good for Virginia.I have always been for non partisan redistricting committees to figure this out. Take politics out of the whole thing. I have always advocated for that, and there will be a suit in the first two weeks of July for the House of Delegates seats [districts]. Same issue – packing African Americans in a district – which is not allowed under the law, and I’m sure the [suit] will prevail and we’ll be drawing designs [for the House],” said McAuliffe.

The call for an independent committee is not unprecedented.

Currently five states use an independent commission for drawing district maps, and yesterday the Supreme Court upheld a case in Arizona, where their state law gives all power in redistricting to an independent commission.

“I think the [Supreme Court] opinion removes the claim of those who gerrymander that only a legislature can draw its own lines. I think momentum is building across the country and in Virginia against gerrymandering and legislators can no longer say that independent commissions are not to be allowed. This moves the ball forward at least a little bit toward a day when more districts can be competitive,” said Executive Director for the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership Bob Gibson.

Though as it currently stands, the only way that an independent redistricting commission could take the reigns would be if the Virginia General Assembly were to give up the redistricting power willingly, and vote on an amendment to the Virginia constitution.

“Former Governor [Robert] McDonnell also wanted to have a greater role for independent assessments in line drawing. But the control of the process by the legislature meant that independent designs for districts were ignored in the process. Under the [Virginia] Constitution, the legislature has the authority to draw the lines. For there to be an independent redistricting authority that would to be decisive in Virginia, it would require a constitutional amendment. So the legislature would have to decide to give away that power, and that’s not something the legislature is really likely to do,” said Farnsworth.

What could happen to Virginia’s district map?

While only one of the redistricting lawsuits has been decided, the General Assembly will need to redraw the Congressional lines.

According to McAuliffe, the House will draft a map, and if the House cannot agree, he will draw the map.

The General Assembly does not have override power over the governor, as Congress does over the president, but if a map drafted by the Governor is not approved, then the map will be handed to the courts for redrawing.

“This story may very well end with the governor refusing to accept any Republican plan, and if the state can’t reach a consensus on drawing the lines, then it goes to the courts. And the Democrats may fare better if the judges are the line drawers of last resort,” said Farnsworth.

Farnsworth stated that the House’s draft of the map will likely show little change to the current map, because it is not in their best interest to make drastic changes.

“My guess is the legislature will try and draw lines that are as much like the old lines as possible. There’s no doubt about it – the Democrats have more leverage now in redistricting than after the 2010 census, because there’s a Democratic governor now. The Democrats have more authority than they did the last go around. The governor doesn’t have much incentive to compromise with the Republicans on the [district] lines, unless he were to get something else in exchange,” said Farnsworth.

While the map was drafted by the Republican majority in the House, there are also Democrats who favored and approve of their own gerrymandered seats.

“There were Democrats who did support the Republican plan, because they liked the districts they ended up with. Because when you gerrymander to create these Republican seats, the way to do that is putting a lot of Democrats in districts, which then creates safe Democratic seats. To a significant degree, redistricting is a piece of incumbent protection legislation,” Farnsworth commented.

How do we stack up to other states?

It’s important to note that several states gerrymander districts in varying degrees and Virginia is not alone in this issue. But according to Farnsworth, Virginia is one of the more gerrymandered states.

“There are various measures to determine how badly gerrymandered a state is – and Virginia, by various measures – is at the high end,” said Farnsworth.

Overall, the people who lose out with Virginia’s gerrymandered districts are the voters.

The voters, who rely on their representatives to vote on their behalf, have no say in the redistricting process and when the lines are drawn to greatly favor one party or another, the voters – and their vote – get little say in who represents them at all.

“The real losers in redistricting are voters. They’re deprived of the opportunity to have competitive elections where they might. They’re deprived of the opportunity to have districts that are fully focused on their jurisdiction. These are some of the bi-products of redistricting that are really damaging,” said Farnsworth.

Clinton talks marriage, guns, climate, healthcare at GMU

Clinton spoke at George Mason University yesterday.
Politicians including Senator Kaine spoke before Clinton's remarks.
Governor McAuliffe recalled his long history with the Clinton family.
Clinton talked on marriage, the economy, and healthcare.
$1 million was raised from event ticket sales.

Last night, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton talked marriage, guns, climate change and other hot button political issues.

Clinton was at George Mason University to give her first campaign speech in Virginia.

A crowd of more than 2,000 filled the seats at the Patriot Center to hear Clinton speak about her values and plans as a presidential candidate.

Clinton is one of many Democratic presidential primary candidates in the field, alongside Bernie Sanders, Martin O’Malley and Lincoln Chafee.

Virginia politicians speak, $1 million raised

According to VADems spokesman Stephen Carter, over $1 million was raised from ticket sales for the event.

Several of Virginia’s elected officials were in attendance and gave comments before Clinton spoke, including Congressman Gerry Connolly, Lt. Governor Ralph Northam, Senator Tim Kaine, Senator Bobby Scott, Senator Mark Warner and Governor Terry McAuliffe.

During his remarks, McAuliffe spoke about his long time history with the Clinton family.

“Folks, let me say this – this is personal for me. I’ve known Hillary for decades. We’ve worked hard together, we’ve played hard together. I have to be honest with you…when we we’re on a vacation, and it’s about six o’clock at night, and I’m ready for a cold beer…I don’t go looking for Bill Clinton – I go looking for Hillary Clinton…She is smart, she is tough, and she is compassionate. But most of all…because Hillary Clinton is a tenacious fighter. She will fight average single day to give that average Joe a shot at the American Dream,” said McAuliffe.

Clinton talks about hot political issues

When Clinton spoke to the crowd, she touched on several timely political issues, including the Supreme Court’s decision to make same sex marriages legal, and the death of nine individuals during the shooting in South Carolina.

“This morning, love triumphed in the highest court in our land. Equality triumphed, America triumphed…this is was that [Supreme Court] decision said, ‘No union is more profound than marriage. For it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, and devotion and sacrifice…two people become greater than once they were’…and to that I say amen,” said Clinton.

Additionally, Clinton talked about Congress’ decision to halt a Center for Disease Control (CDC) study on gun violence.

 “Sadly before the funeral of the nine murdered church going faithful men and women were even finished, some Republicans in the Congress voted to stop the Center for Disease Control from studying gun violence. How can you watch massacre after massacre and take that vote? That is wrong,” said Clinton.

During Clinton’s remarks, she addressed climate change briefly. She also spoke about healthcare and women’s reproductive health, referencing the trans-vaginal ultrasound bill that came up in the Virginia legislature, and continues to be a topic of interest as new restrictions on women’s health clinics may close some of the 18 locations in the state.

 “Ask them about women’s reproductive health. They’re likely to talk about defunding Planned Parenthood, or maybe they’ll insist on forcing women to undergo some demeaning and invasive medical procedure, as was attempted right here in Virginia…we don’t need any more leaders who shame or blame women, rather than respect our right to make our own decisions,” Clinton said.

Clinton also called out Republicans on their economic policies.

“They’re the party of the past – not the future. And when you ask them, ‘What are your new ideas on the economy’ well you guessed it – tax cuts for the wealthy and fewer rules for Wall Street. Now if that sounds familiar, it’s because those are exactly the same top down economic policies that failed us before. Americans have come too far, to see our progress ripped away,” Clinton said.

According to Clinton, her campaign’s goal is to look out for all Americans.

“I’m not running for some Americans, I’m running for all Americans. I will always stand my ground, so you and our country can gain ground. For the successful, for the striving and the struggling. For the innovators and the inventors – for the factory workers and the food servers, that stand on their feet all day. For the nurses who work the night shift, for the truckers who drive for hours, for the farmers who feed us, for the veterans who served our country. For the small business owners who progress, for the gay couple who love each other. For the black child, who still lives in the shadow of discrimination, and the Hispanic child who still lives in the shadow of deportation,” said Clinton.

Prince William County will be an important county in the coming year, politically, as it is considered a bellwether county for major elections.

Why are so many seats in Virginia politics uncontested?

There are many candidates in Virginia’s elections this year that won’t have opponents.

According to the Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP), 79 of the 140 Virginia House districts – or 56% – will be uncontested.

In our area there are several races, both local and state, where there are no opponents.

On the state level, delegates Rich Anderson and Luke Torian will run unopposed. And on the county level, several incumbents on the board of supervisors and the school board will have no opponent.

According to Stephen Farnsworth, professor at the University of Mary Washington and the director for the Center for Leadership and Media Studies, there are two major reasons why – the way the districts are drawn, and money.

The way district lines are drawn

“The biggest factor that explains why so many races are uncontested is gerrymandering. If the district is drawn in such a way that a Democrat is obviously going to win, or a Republican is obviously going to win, why would a candidate in the other party invest the kind of time, and money, and energy that’s required to compete in an election,” said Farnsworth.

The constitutionality of Virginia’s Congressional and House districts has been called into question. After lawsuits were filed claiming racial gerrymandering for both district maps, a federal judge panel threw out the Congressional districts.

The Congressional districts will have to be drawn this summer by the General Assembly in a special session. The House districts are still in pending litigation, but may also need to be redrawn.

Farnsworth stated that even if a candidate were to run as an opponent for a race on a state or local election, there would be little incentive to do so.

“For Democrats in the House of Delegates in particular, the large Republican majority means that even if a Democrat did somehow win in some of these districts, they would just be part of a tiny minority in Richmond,” Farnsworth commented.

Raising money for certain seats is a challenge

Additionally, the amount of money it takes to now run a political campaign, particularly against an incumbent, is a major deterrent.

“Money is always a factor in politics. On the one hand you have to raise a huge amount of money to be competitive, but on the other you have to convince donors that this is a race worth winning and in Virginia politics right now, virtually all of the money is going to be going towards a handful of contested Senate seats that will determine whether the Democrats or the Republicans are in the majority in the state Senate,” said Farnsworth.

While there will be change in the coming months with the redrawing of Virginia’s Congressional districts and the potential redrawing of House districts, that may entice more competitive and contested elections, Farnsworth asserted that the changes will be minor.

“Incumbents like these lines, they’re not going to give away these lines unless they are absolutely, finally forced to…as long as the legislature is drawing the lines, they will draw lines that are appealing to the majority,” Farnsworth said.

Who’s on your ballot? Find out here.

Feldbush wants more training, transparency, as Stafford sheriff candidate

Chuck Feldbush has declared his candidacy for the Stafford sheriff’s race.

More on Feldbush’s background:

Mr. Feldbush is a retired Prince William County police detective, and is a U.S. Air Force veteran.  This rich tradition of service is a foundation of his campaign and is reflected in his most recent discussion of issues facing Stafford residents that the Sheriff’s Department can have an impact upon.  Of particular note, and in the news recently, is business security.  Mr. Feldbush believes the Sheriff’s Department can have a positive impact on the security environment for all Stafford businesses.  

During his candidacy, Feldbush plans to speak about transportation, transparency in law enforcement practices and increased law enforcement training.

“A well-trained force responds and reacts in a professional manner at all times, a first step in maintaining a well-rounded justice system in the county,” stated Feldbush.

Will there be a special election next year?

All 100 seats for the House of Delegates may be up for grabs again in 2016, no matter what the outcome in this year’s November General Election. 

The General Assembly will be called back to Richmond for a special session this summer after a string of court hearings, going all the way to the Supreme Court. A lawsuit asserts that there was racial bias in the drawing of Virginia’s Congressional districts in 2010.

According to court documents, the same percentage-based district drawing guidelines were used in both Congressional and House districts.

Voting districts are drawn by the House of Delegates every 10 years. 

The Congressional lawsuit

The lawsuit that asserted gerrymandering and racial bias in districts was heard by a three-judge panel in U.S. District Court.

“A three judge panel of U.S. District Court judges handed down a decision that said, in drawing the Congressional districts that the Virginia General Assembly violated the Voting Rights Act by packing too many African-Americans into one Congressional district…they relied upon race too much,” said Delegate Scott Surovell.

“When they drew the lines in 2010, they packed as many African-American areas into the 3rd Congressional district – which is Bobby Scott’s – and the argument was that by doing that, they were engaging in racial gerrymandering…thereby reducing the impact of [African-American voters] on surrounding districts,” said Keith Scarborough, a member of the Prince William County Electoral Board.

After this initial ruling and appeals, the case went to the U.S. Supreme Court. In recent weeks, the high court ruled on a similar case in Alabama.

“[The Alabama decision said that] when you’re drawing legislative districts, you have to consider multiple factors. And that you can’t rely on simple formulas or simplistic assumptions…they specifically threw out in the Alabama case the use of a percentage,” said Surovell.

The Supreme Court sent the case back to the three-judge panel, who reaffirmed their earlier decision.

“[The panel’s] decision reaffirmed the prior decision…[the decision] said that in drawing those districts, Republicans in the House of Delegates used a 55% black voting-aged population threshold… you cannot use a percentage target like that,” Surovell commented.

Now that the districts have been thrown out, the House – under court order – will have until September 1 to redraw the Congressional districts in Virginia.

There are options and appeals that could take place to halt the redistricting, in the coming months.

“As I said in February, the House of Delegates fully intends to exercise its legal right to attempt to remedy any flaw ultimately found by the courts with respect to the current congressional districts. However, we maintain that the defendants should have the opportunity to fully litigate this case. In light of today’s decision, we are evaluating the next steps,” stated Speaker of the House Bill Howell in email.

Will the House districts need to be redrawn?

Shortly after the lawsuit regarding the Congressional districts was filed, a lawsuit for the House of Delegate districts was also filed. This suit too asserts that racial bias was used in drawing the House districts.

According to Surovell, the House lawsuit will likely play out this fall.

“The House Republicans – when they drew the lines for the House of Delegates – they did the same thing. They also aimed for a 55% black voting-aged population threshold through the 14 majority-minority House districts…this means that the House districts are very likely to be thrown out as well,” said Surovell.

Howell stated that the House districts should hold, because they were pre-approved by the U.S. Justice Department.

“The House districts were drawn in accordance with all federal and state law, adopted with bipartisan support after more than a dozen public hearings and committee meetings and pre-approved by President Barack Obama’s Justice Department in accordance with the Voting Rights Act. The bipartisan plan was crafted based on publicly-stated legal criteria, and strongly and publicly supported by a majority of African-American members in the House of Delegates,” said Howell.

Typically, House elections are held every two years. But if the House lawsuit were to have the same outcome, then the General Assembly would be mandated to also redraw House districts.

This would lead to special elections for all 100 delegate seats in 2016, and again an election for the seats in 2017.

Surovell stated that there is precedent for special elections held during federal years – back in 1981, 1982 and 1983.

Bob Gibson, Executive Director for the Sorensen Institute of Political Leadership at the University of Virginia, said a mandate from the courts may not even be necessary to have the House lines redrawn.

“It’s possible because the Governor isn’t going to approve anything – necessarily – that disadvantages his party. So if the [House] were to redraw [Congressional districts], and the Governor finds them unacceptable, there’s no override in the General Assembly. So the possibility of some compromise [with House districts] might be around the corner,” said Gibson.

Redrawing of the lines will be good for competitive politics in Virginia, said Gibson.

“We have gerrymandering where 70, 80, 90% of the districts are not competitive. So, anything that challenges the gerrymandering system is probably good for voters who would like to see some more competitive districts,” said Gibson.

Tribute gala to celebrate longtime senator Chuck Colgan

The community will be honoring Senator Chuck Colgan’s 40-years of government service – and his 89th birthday – at a tribute gala on September 25.

The gala will be held at the Hylton Performing Arts Center in Manassas.

Colgan is the longest serving state senator in Virginia’s history. He was first elected to the state senate in 1975.

Several elected officials will be at the gala to celebrate Colgan including Governor Terry McAuliffe, Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam, Attorney General Mark Herring, Senator Mark Warner, Senator Tim Kaine, Congressman Gerry Connolly, Congressman Don Beyer and Governor George Allen.

More on Colgan’s background and legislative history:

After high school, he joined the U.S. Army Air Corps as an Aviation Cadet and later the Air Force Reserve, serving his country with honor in WWII.  That experience led to a stint as a commercial pilot before he took the leap to establish Colgan Airways Corporation at Manassas Municipal Airport. 

A natural entrepreneur, he started the company with funds raised from family and friends.  In 1971, the company established a commuter airline that was purchased by Presidential  Airways in 1986.  Never one to rest on his accomplishments, Senator Colgan formed a new airline, Colgan Air, shortly after Presidential went out of business in 1991.

In 1971, while running his first airline, Senator Colgan was elected to a four-year term on the Prince William Board of County Supervisors and was elected to the Virginia Senate in 1975, representing constituents in Prince William County, Manassas, and Manassas Park.  For the past 40 years, he has been a leader in supporting our region’s public education institutions at every level, promoting job creation, and leading efforts to fund transportation projects. 

“Chuck’s efforts on behalf of his citizens are legend; especially on transportation and education funding. George Mason’s Prince William Campus and our Northern Virginia Community College locations in Woodbridge and Manassas would not be here without Senator Colgan’s strong commitment. He is the finest Public Servant I have known,” said gala co-chair David Brickley in a release.

 

Stafford #1 for job growth in Virginia

Stafford County is now number one for job growth in Virginia.

Last week, at the 24th Annual Business Appreciation Reception held by Stafford’s economic development department, they made the announcement about the county’s job growth numbers.

“Today is a great day for business in Stafford. None of these achievements were random. We deliberately set out to attract businesses that our citizens wanted and that would bring jobs home to the county. We created and followed plans for economic development and those efforts have paid off with more than 2,400 businesses calling Stafford home and more than 40,000 jobs located in the county,” said Chairman of the Board of Supervisors Gary Snellings in a release.

Over the past six years, Stafford has had around a 2.6%increase in job growth annually.

Additionally, Stafford was ranked third in the state for overall business growth. There are currently more than 2,400 businesses in the county, according to a release.

“We are delighted with Stafford’s business success in the last few years but there is more work to be done. We will continue our push to attract and retain quality commercial business to Stafford County,” said Chairman of the Stafford County Economic Development Authority Joel Griffin, in a release.

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