Politics

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.

Exclusive: King is new candidate for 2nd district

072914-First-on-plJosh King is the new Democratic candidate for Virginia’s 2nd House district.

King, an Iraq War Army veteran and a Sheriff’s deputy in Fairfax County, was officially filed as the candidate by Prince William County Democratic Party Chair Harry Wiggins. He lives in Woodbridge with his wife and three children.

“I’m excited for the opportunity to serve the residents of the second district. This district needs a representative who will work to reduce school overcrowding, increase our transportation options, and work tirelessly to attract more jobs to the area,” King stated.

The original Democratic nominee for the seat was Rod Hall, who decided that he would step down following a job offer

The incumbent for the seat, Delegate Michael Futrell, was running in a three-way Democratic primary for the 29th Senate district, when he lost to Jeremy McPike. 

Futrell was asked to run for re-election for his seat, but declined in a statement.

 

King will face Republican Mark Dudenhefer in the General Election on Nov. 3.

Who will run for the 2nd district House seat?

091513 project election flier logoWith word that current 2nd House district Democratic candidate Rod Hall may be leaving the race, there has been talk about who could take his place.

Potomac Local reported earlier this weekend that Hall had been offered a new job, according to the Virginia House Democrats Caucus Director.

Last night, Republican primary candidates Mark Dudenhefer and Tim Ciampaglio faced off in an election to be their party’s nominee for the 2nd district. Dudenhefer came out the victor, and will now be the Republican candidate.

The incumbent for the seat, Delegate Michael Futrell, decided not to run for the seat earlier this year, and began his bid for the Democratic nomination for the 29th Senate district. Last night Futrell lost in the three-way primary election.

According to a statement issued by Futrell this afternoon, he was approached to consider running for his delegate seat, but he declined.

“While I appreciate the number of people who have reached out and encouraged me to run for re-election, I must decline.When I first announced my intentions to run for the Virginia House of Delegates, my goal was to impact the lives of people living in the Commonwealth for the better. That is still my goal and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to do just that in the House of Delegates. However, this journey is now taking me down a different path,” stated Futrell.

The Democratic Party will now have to identify and nominate a candidate for the 2nd district House race, when Hall officially ends his candidacy.

Bailey wins Democratic nomination for Potomac seat

In last091513 project election flier logo night’s primary election, Andrea Bailey beat Derrick Wood for the Democratic nomination for the Potomac district board seat.

Bailey won with 66.73% of the vote, according to the State Board of Elections.

“It’s exhilarating – that’s the phrase I’ve been using for the past 24 hours…I am going to take this energy and I’m going to use it to keep moving forward,” said Bailey.

Going forward, Bailey stated that she is going to highlight her support for Metro rail, increased education funding and growing the district’s business community as her priorities in the general election.

Bailey will be running against Republican incumbent Supervisor Maureen Caddigan.

“I’m feeling very confident about going up against Maureen [Caddigan]. I got 67% – that shows me that the community wants a change…We need a change. She came to the [board] to do what she was called to do, and I will do the same,” Bailey commented.

Wood, Bailey’s opponent in the primary, showed his support in a written statement this morning.

“I congratulate Andrea Bailey on her win.  Andrea also ran a great race, and like me, she has heard you: for too long, the Potomac District has been stuck in neutral – overcrowded neighborhood schools, unreasonable commutes, an underdeveloped Route 1, and failing to create the environment that attracts new employers,” said Wood in a release.

Jeremy McPike wins Democratic nomination for 29th senate district

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Jeremy McPike was the winner in last night’s primary for Virginia’s 29th district Senate seat.

The seat, currently being vacated by retiring Senator Chuck Colgan, is considered one of the most important in the 2015 election cycle.

McPike faced off with two other Democratic candidates last night – Atif Qarni and Michael Futrell – winning with 43.23% of the vote, according to the State Board of Elections.

091513 project election flier logoQarni followed with 36.11% and Futrell with 20.66%.

“I’m simply humbled by the support I’ve received tonight. This race now is about uniting us as Democrats…What matters is that [areas in the] district get their fair share and we dig in and start to make real progress…this is about our neighborhoods, our schools, results and innovation. This is about offering new leadership in our area,” said McPike.

McPike, an employee for the City of Alexandria and a volunteer firefighter, is already moving ahead with issues he feels are key for the general election.

Among his platforms, McPike stated that education funding, Medicaid expansion and healthcare coverage, transportation solutions and protection for seniors would be priority.

For the general election, McPike will be running against Republican nominee and current Manassas Mayor Hal Parrish.

“I feel very confident,” said McPike about running against Parrish.

Dudenhefer wins Prince William, Stafford in effort to retake seat

Mark Dudenhefer won both Prince William and Stafford counties in his Primary bid to be the Republican nominee for the Virginia House of Delegates seat in the second district.

Dudenhefer easily beat opponent Republican Tim Ciampaglio in Stafford by nearly 20 points. In Prince William, it was 13 points. It’s a better showing for Dudenehfer who two years ago lost Prince William County by 32 points to Democrat Micheal Futrell.

But Tuesday’s election was a primary, and now Dudenhefer must look ahead to November’s General Election. Right now, it’s unclear which Democrat he will face in the race after current candidate Rod Hall told party leaders he will drop out of the race.

That could make way for Futrell to step up once again and run for the seat after his loss on Tuesday to Jeremy McPike, a Democrat who won the nomination to for the 29th district Senate seat in Prince William County to replace the long-serving Chuck Colgan.

Futrell on Monday told Potomac Local he was focused on Tuesday’s Primary Election and did not want to make any predictions for what would happen afterward.

Still, Dudenehfer plans to campaign on a key issue — one he’s talked about since he was first elected to the Stafford County Board of Supervisors 10 years ago: Transportation.

“We’re never going to stop talking about transportation,” said Dudenhefer, who lost his daughter in a crash on a winding two-lane road in Stafford prior to his election to the board of supervisors.

The retired Marine colonel was first elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 2013. During that time, he worked with Stafford officials — namely Cord Sterling, who was on the Commonwealth Transportation Board at the time — to secure funding for a massive, new highway interchange at Courthouse Road in Stafford. When you’re looking at a map of the old project, think Springfiled Interchange, Jr.

While out of office, Dudenhefer was critical of Futrell and Gov. Terry McAulliffe while money that had been allocated for the project was placed in a lockbox and the project under review by the Commonwealth Transportation Board — a governing body in Richmond on which Cord Sterling no sits.

With less funding available, the project has been scaled down. But Dudenhefer pledges to fight to restore it, as well as focus on other area roads. During his first term in the General Assembly, he also pushed for a study to extend Metro to Prince William County. He was also supportive of then Gov. Robert F. McDonnell’s successful effort to raise state sales taxes to garner more money for transportation projects.

Jobs will also be a key issue for the Republican.

“We’ve managed to stay above the real bottom of the recession, but we can very easily see some declines in employment in our area if the defense department continues to cut back the number of jobs,” said Dudenhefer.

Diversifying the region’s workforce away from its sharp focus on federal government jobs will be key to job growth in the area, he said.

Wendy Maurer is the Republican nominee in Stafford Rock Hill District

Wendy Maurer is the Republican nominee for the Rock Hill District of the Stafford County Board of Supervisors.

Maurer, a Quantico businesswoman, beat out challenger Adela Bertoldi by eight points in the race.

Maurer attributed her win to the support of her family and her community.

As she prepares to face two independent candidates in November, she will focus on better schools and better development are two main issues campaign issues.

“We need to make sure we fund our schools to have teachers available to teach our children,” said Maurer.

Stafford schools cut 55 teachers from the school division last year, said Maurer. She said it’s up to the Board of Supervisors to work hand in hand with the school board to ensure schools are properly funded.

Maurer says she will work to attract more businesses to the county — something the county has already had great success in doing — but adds the Rock Hill District doesn’t have the necessary road infrastructure needed for the development of new homes.

Maurer says she will make updating the county’s comprehensive plan a priority to control growth in the area.

Project Election: Primary election results here

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Prince William & Stafford

State Senate – 29th district

Michael Futrell (D): 20.66%
Jeremy McPike (D): 43.23%
Atif Qarni (D): 36.11%
Winner: Jeremy McPike

Virginia House of Delegates – 2nd district

Mark Dudenhefer (R): 59.48%
Tim Ciampaglio (R): 40.52%
Winner: Mark Dudenhefer

Virginia House of Delegates – 28th district

Susan Stimpson (R): 37.92%
Bill Howell (R): 62.08%
Winner: Bill Howell

Prince William Board of Supervisors – Potomac district 

Andrea Bailey (D): 66.73%
Derrick Wood (D): 33.27 %
Winner: Andrea Bailey (93% precincts reporting) 

Stafford Board of Supervisors – Rock Hill district

Wendy Maurer (R): 53.97%
Adela Bertoldi (R): 46.03%
Winner: Wendy Maurer 

Stafford Clerk of the Court

Darrell English (R): 37.57%
Jim Fry (R): 11.7%
Kathy Sterne (R): 50.73%
Winner: Kathy Sterne

Stafford Commonwealth’s Attorney

Eric Olsen (R): 59.08%
Jason Pelt (R): 40.92%
Winner: Eric Olsen 

Primary elections are tomorrow

manassas vote

Tomorrow, Prince William County and Stafford County will be holding primary elections.

For the Potomac district board supervisor seat, Democrats Andrea Bailey and Derrick Wood will be facing off. The incumbent and Republican opponent for the seat is Maureen Caddigan.

For Virginia’s 2nd district House seat, there will be a primary vote for the Republican candidate, between former delegate Mark Dudenhefer and Tim Ciampaglio.

Long time senator Chuck Colgan will be retiring this year, and tomorrow three Democratic candidates will be vying for the nomination – Delegate Michael Futrell, Jeremy McPike and Atif Qarni. In November, one of the three will be running against Manassas Mayor Hal Parrish, who is the Republican nominee.

For the Stafford board of supervisors , two Republican candidates – Wendy Maurer and Adela Bertoldi – are running for the nomination for the Rock Hill district in Stafford.

 

Find your polling place.

Democrat Rod Hall leaving 2nd district House race

072914-First-on-plRod Hall – Democratic candidate for Virginia’s 2nd House district – is leaving the race.

The 2nd House district encompasses eastern Prince William and portions of Stafford County.

“It appears Rod Hall is leaving the race,” said Virginia House Democrats Caucus Director Trent Armitage.

Armitage stated that Hall was offered a new job, and that was the reason for the departure.

Additionally, Armitage stated that there was no final word on if Hall had accepted the offer, but that the caucus has reached out to several potential candidates to fill Hall’s place.

Justin Wilk,  the Democratic-endorsed candidate for Prince William school board in the Potomac district, was one of the individuals approached to run for the seat.

“Although I am honored that the state considered me as a candidate, my full desire is to seek a seat on our school board and represent our students in Prince William County. My focus is on improving the quality of our schools, so that our students get the world-class education they deserve,” said Wilk.

Delegate Michael Futrell, the incumbent for the seat, is currently running in a three-way Democratic primary for Virginia’s 29th Senate district. When asked, Futrell stated that he had not thought about running for his current seat as of yet.

“I haven’t had a chance to talk to Rod yet…right now I’m totally focused on winning this [Senate] primary – which we feel we will do. So I fully expect to be the Democratic nominee. My mind wouldn’t let me adapt to any other thought at this moment,” Futrell said.

McPike: Students need more critical thinking and problem solving skills, not more standardized tests

Two-time candidate Jeremy McPike seeks the 29th District Senate Seat in Virginia. The district encompasses a wide swath of Prince William County, from Nokesville in the west to Dale City in the east, to include the cities of Manassas and Manassas Park.

McPike faces two other Democratic opponents in a June 9, 2015 Primary Election — Delegate Michael Futrell and Atiq Qarni.
In 2013, McPike nearly beat out his challenger Delegate Scott Lingamfelter is his bid for the 31st district seat in Dale City and a portion of Fauquier County.

Find your polling place

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

McPike:  First, we need to focus on strengthening our schools and reforming our broken SOL testing system. Growing up here and attending Elizabeth Vaughan Elementary, Fred Lynn Middle, and Gar-Field High School in Woodbridge, I know how strong our schools can be. Today, I want to make sure my three daughters attending public schools have access to the best education possible.

That means recognizing the current SOL testing system doesn’t work for parents, it doesn’t work for teachers, and it definitely doesn’t work for students. We need to ensure that teachers can teach students individually, not just teach to a test, and to fix our school funding formula to give schools the resources they need.

Second, like many others, I spend two hours of every workday just sitting in traffic. All of that congestion means lost productivity and more importantly less time spent with our families. We need to take a modern, innovative approach to our transportation infrastructure, emphasizing investment into long-term, regional programs that prioritize Route 28 and Route 1, and expand Metro and VRE to allow more people to live and work in Prince William and Manassas while taking more cars off the roads.

Third, expanding access to quality, affordable health care is critical to our success across the region and Virginia, and the first step is expanding Medicaid. My family was lucky enough to have insurance when my wife Sharon was diagnosed with breast cancer five years ago, and even then our medical bills were not easy on us. 400,000 uninsured Virginians, including nearly 10,000 here in the 29th Senate District and many families I have served as a first responder, continue to live one health issue away from financial ruin due to the lack of Medicaid expansion in Virginia. We cannot expect to thrive as a community if we continue to leave so many so vulnerable.

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

McPike: For years, both parents and teachers have criticized the SOL tests for forcing teachers to forgo the individual attention students need in favor of cookie-cutter teaching models due to one-time, high-stakes, multiple-choice tests. The General Assembly finally started to listen when it slightly reduced the number of SOL tests and formed a committee to review the system.  As Senator, I will work to establish a growth model so that we can see what our students learn over the course of a school year, and create alternative assessments that emphasize critical thinking and problem solving skills.  Bureaucrats put too much weight on SOL test scores as a way to judge our schools and our teachers. SOL scores are a poor indicator of how a school or teacher is truly performing and cannot be used as the critical data point for assessing our education system.

I recently stood before the Prince William School Board in support of a $2.2 million grant to expand Pre-K in the county for 144 kids, and to emphasize the necessity of investing in early childhood education.  In the county alone, we currently serve only a quarter of children living below the federal poverty line. For underserved and at-risk kids in particular, Pre-K is a critical area where we can help to level the playing field early and make an outsized impact.  Many localities currently leave millions in Pre-K funding on the table because of the required local match.  I will work to change that requirement so that localities can take full advantage of federal and state funding.  I will always push for these investments locally and across Virginia to make sure our schools have the tools they need to succeed from their earliest days.

Our transportation system was not built to accommodate the volumes of traffic it bears today. To put it on pace to not only catch up to where we are now, but also be able to handle the needs of growing populations and business in the future, we need to seriously rethink our current system. As State Senator, I will demand Prince William, Manassas, and Manassas Park receive its fair share of state transportation funding, and use the tools I have cultivated over the past 15 years in local government to build long-term regional partnerships through both the public and private sectors to leverage and grow existing resources and establish new ones. First on the table will be to widen Route 28 and Route 1, extend Metro to Woodbridge, and expand VRE and bus transit services. Our area’s long-term power as an economic engine, and our own quality of life, depends on the work we do to address our insufficient transportation system now.

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

McPike: As the representative for Prince William, Manassas, and Manassas Park in the Virginia Senate, our State Senator must be among our strongest advocates in Richmond, not only standing up for our interests, but also to truly know the district and bring the real innovation and results back that we need to prosper.

That’s why I’m running for State Senate. This district is my home.  It’s where I grew up and went to school, where I got married and am raising my family, and where I have served as a volunteer firefighter and EMT for the past 16 years.  So when local economic growth has stalled, the workers that lost their jobs or small business owners that had to shut down are people I grew up with.  When funding for schools fell to its lowest since 2008, my three daughters and their classmates were affected, and it’s the schools I attended as a kid that did not receive the resources they needed.  When progress stagnates on road improvements and Metro and VRE expansion, I feel that in my two-hour daily commute. When we fail to expand Medicaid in Virginia, and prevent tens of thousands in this district alone from accessing critical preventive care, it’s the families I have served as a first responder for the past decade and a half who experience the hardship and tragedy of medical emergencies.

I live these issues every day, and I’ve spent the last 15 years in local government advancing innovative, modern solutions by navigating state and local policy and building coalitions around our common interests and values.  We have an opportunity in this election to make real progress in the state Senate.  With a strong vision and the capability to make it happen, we can create a better, sustainable future for our families and our region.

PL: What expertise will you bring to the office?

McPike: I have worked in local government for the last 15 years, currently serving as Director of General Services for the City of Alexandria. This role has enabled me to bring an innovative and results-oriented approach to public services and building projects to help make sure they come in on time and on budget. I have also worked to establish gleaning programs and SNAP/EBT at local Farmers’ Markets so healthy foods can reach the most vulnerable, and I have led efforts on animal shelter operations, new public-private partnerships for the city, and sustainable green building policies. Over those 15 years, I have managed budgets there and in the non-profit sector as co-founder and president of the Dale City Volunteer Fire Department Foundation, well known in the community for its Santa visits to kids fighting cancer and its support of public safety initiatives.

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?

McPike: I am fortunate to have spent my life with the people of this district. They are my neighbors and friends, the people I went to school with growing up, and the people I serve as a firefighter and EMT during some of their most difficult moments. When your community has been as central a part of your life as it has in mine, you come to understand at a personal level the individual challenges, worries, and hopes that make up that community. When politicians stop listening to the people they represent, or dismiss “average citizens” as not well informed, they stop being accountable to voters.

That said, promoting greater transparency and accountability in government has been a central focus of my campaign and my career, and will be among my highest priorities as a State Senator. Voters throughout Virginia have lost much of their confidence in the electoral process, and their concerns are justified due to the evident gerrymandering in districts across the Commonwealth. Politicians have picked their own voters before voters have picked them. We must depoliticize the redistricting process, and bring it out into the open where the public has a voice. In the last year since I ran for the House of Delegates, I served as the Northern Virginia Chair for OneVirginia2021, a bipartisan organization advocating for an amendment to the Virginia Constitution that would change the way we do business and bring transparency to the drawing our districts. This is one of the fundamental policy goals that will define my success as a state senator, even if it means my being drawn out of my district in the future.

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

McPike: As a firefighter and EMT, you face difficult life-and-death situations. When you things don’t go as planned, it’s hard not to second-guess your actions and whether you could have done something different for them in that moment. You make the best decisions with the data you have at the time, and you always learn and grow from every experience.

That perspective in challenging situations is critical in our lawmakers. Throughout my career, my focus has always been on making informed decisions based on a thorough analysis of available data to determine the most effective and efficient approach, rather than rely on potentially outdated assumptions given changing circumstances.

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

McPike: This election is about who will go to Richmond and bring back the innovation and results we need for Prince William, Manassas, and Manassas Park. The issues facing our community are too critical for posturing, inaction, or diversion. We need to reform the SOLs and fix our school funding formula. We need to address our short-sighted transportation network, prioritize Route 28 and Route 1, and expand Metro and VRE. We need to expand Medicaid, so we get our tax dollars back working for us and start saving lives.

Over the course of my life here, and over a decade and a half in local government, I have shown that you can count on me to get results and make real progress for the community where I grew up, where I am raising my family, and where I have served as a volunteer firefighter and EMT for the last 16 years.

That is why many of our most effective leaders from across Northern Virginia, but more importantly from right here, are supporting my campaign, like Prince William’s other two Democratic State Senators Toddy Puller and George, Prince William County Supervisor John Jenkins, past Prince William County Board Chair Kathleen Seefeldt, and former Delegate David Brickley. They know that I am in the best position to make real progress for the communities they have spent their careers serving.

Our area has its challenges, but it also has a very bright future. I promise you, I will make real progress towards building that future, and I will be with you and working for you every step of the way.

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