Freeda Cathcart of Roanoke has announced her candidacy for the 17th House of Delegates seat, currently held by Republican Chris Head of Botetourt County. Redistricting of the 17th made it even more Republican than it had been. It is gerrymandered to such an extent that the map of it resembles some sort of two-headed, humpbacked monster. However, Cathcart, who made her first run for public office as a Democratic candidate in the open-seat 17th in 2011, is ready to give it another strong shot.
Chris Head, who owns and operates a home health care business serving seniors, is a typical, far-right Republican, as shown by his being a co-sponsor of HB 462, the original transvaginal ultrasound bill that passed in the 2012 General Assembly.
Cathcart was public school teacher and then worked for Shenandoah Life Insurance Co., leaving that job to raise her four sons. Cathcart was the founder of Mothers United for Midwifery, the group that successfully lobbied the General Assembly to allow certified midwives to participate in births. This year she was active in the bipartisan coalition that fought to maintain the ban on uranium mining in Virginia.
At the press conference to announce her candidacy, Cathcart said her main issues would be education, which has suffered state cutbacks in funding, a new arbitrary school grading plan, and ever-increasing, unfunded mandates from Richmond that burden localities. Cathcart also promised to fight to make sure that southwest Virginia gets its fair share of transportation money and to assist Sen. John Edwards (D-Roanoke) in his attempt to get Amtrak rail extended to the Roanoke Valley.
Head spent the last General Assembly session accomplishing little, except for a bill benefiting his own business that clarified liability insurance requirements for home health care companies. Several other bad bills of his failed, including one that would have eliminated the requirement that applicants for licenses to operate assisted living centers, day care centers, etc., submit evidence of financial viability to the proper state agency.
Perhaps the worst failed bill Head introduced this session would have required persons getting more than eight weeks of unemployment insurance to perform 24 or more hours of community service to get benefits, regardless of how that service would impact a person’s search for another job. It also would have required a study of the feasibility of requiring volunteer service, job training programs or relocating to a community with better employment opportunities in order to receive any unemployment benefits.
Head, like far too many Republicans, evidently believes that workers laid off during a recession are thrilled to sit around and try to live on the lousy benefits of unemployment insurance, while they also lose health care coverage, etc. (The “47% taker” mentality is alive and well in the 17th District’s delegate.)
Freeda Cathcart has an uphill battle in the 17th. Mitt Romney took 61% of the district’s vote last November, and Republicans have had a firm grasp on the district since the retirement of the late Vic Thomas in 2003. Her candidacy will certainly boost the Democratic vote in the district in November, and, who knows, maybe people will elect the better candidate this time, instead of casting a knee-jerk vote for the jerk with the R after his name. Stranger things have happened. One thing I do know. Freeda will work tirelessly to get elected in the 17th District, and she will run to win.
(Photo courtesy of Roanoke Free Press)