Yesterday, I sent Blue Virginia interview questions to three Democratic candidates running for the 13th House of Delegates district (Prince William County, Manassas Park City) seat currently held by Del. “Sideshow Bob” Marshall (R-Outer Space) – and which Hillary Clinton won by 14 points (!) in November 2016.DEFINITE pickup opportunity here for Democrats. The candidates here are Danica Roem, Mansimran Kahlon, Steve Jansen and Andrew Adams (note: if someone from his campaign contacts me with his email address, I’ll send him one of these questionnaires right away). I told the candidates that I’d post their interviews in the order I received them, and the first one I received back, within hours of sending it out (impressive; can see why she’s a journalist!), was from Danica Roem. See her responses below. Finally, please note that the primary for this nomination will take place on June 13, so if you’re a Democrat who lives in the 13th, make sure you vote!
- Tell us a bit about yourself, and specifically, what in your background and/or temperament makes you the best qualified of the Democratic candidates to represent the 13th House of Delegates district in Richmond.
I’m a 32-year-old step-mom and lifelong Manassas resident who served as the lead reporter for the Gainesville Times in Prince William County from 2006-2015, covering the issues of the 13th District. My understanding of our transportation and infrastructure systems, from water pipes to roadways, allows me to compete with Del. Bob Marshall (R-13) on a peer-to-peer level without the need for cramming before the test.
As the only lifelong resident of the 13th District in this race and as someone who authored more than 2,500 stories about the greater Prince William County area, I am uniquely qualified to defeat Del. Marshall because I’ve spent the last 25 years as Del. Marshall’s constituent: I know how he thinks, I know his strengths and weaknesses, I’ve watched him debate in person, I’ve interviewed for more than an hour at a time on several occasions, and I’ve watched him win against Democrat after Democrat.
What I bring to the table is well-researched public policy positions based on vetted facts and achievable results from nine years of covering local, state and federal government, interviewing voters outside of the polls every election day and writing about the quality-of-life issues in their neighborhoods and communities.
In order to defeat Del. Marshall, you have to know what it is that the district voters want, why he brings out his base, how persuadable parts of his likely voters are to your message and what alternative vision you provide that’s ideologically consistent with the district while being true to your values.
I put my understanding of Del. Marshall’s record on display by directly rebutting his testimony in front of the Prince William County School Board last year during the debate about including gender identity and sexual orientation into the nondiscrimination policy. I anticipated his line of attack and countered it with enough vetted facts to make a practical legal case and enough heart to show genuine concern for the students and teachers who would be affected by the policy change. I also could from the experience as someone who has a unique understanding of the issues as the only out transgender person to speak
I know his record and the issues of the 13th District inside and out with a level of depth and understanding only a journalist who grew up in the area and knows the people of the district could harbor, I have an enthusiastic base of volunteers who can match his own base in terms of volume and intensity, I have a fundraising network of more than 400 people and growing, and I know that knocking on doors is the single most important way to win this election.
It also helps in an area as heavily Catholic as the 13th District that I was baptized and confirmed at the same Roman Catholic church Del. Marshall attends (All Saints Catholic Church in Manassas) and spent 13 years in Catholic schools, including five years at All Saints, four years at Paul VI Catholic High School and four years at St. Bonaventure University (B.A. in Journalism/Mass Communication, Class of 2006). I know Del. Marshall’s base well because I went to school with them and grew up around them. I can turn out our voters and neutralize his own voters, even as a socially progressive transgender woman with a worldview anathema to that of Del. Marshall.
- What three issues are you most passionate about and why?
As a delegate, I will be focused on fixing Route 28, bringing high-paying jobs to Innovation Park while filling long-standing office vacancies along Manassas Drive and raising teacher pay in Prince William County and Manassas Park so it’s not the lowest in Northern Virginia.
It’s a three-in-one proposal:
1) In order to pay our teachers enough to retain and recruit the best and brightest, we have to grow our local economy so our commercial tax base to bring down the resident/commercial tax revenue split from 85-15 to the idealized 75-25 level so homeowners don’t have to foot even more of the bill for their local government through residential property taxes.
2) In order to grow our economy, we need to find a fiscally responsible way for the state government incentivize Prince William to eliminate its BPOL tax so we’re not at a competitive disadvantage with Stafford County and extend the VRE out to Innovation in a cost-effective way. (That would be done through a first-of-its-kind efficiency study conducted at Virginia Tech that examines best practices out of Europe and Asia for rail design, engineering, construction, operation and maintenance, especially at a time when labor unions are so much stronger in Europe than in Virginia but rail projects cost so much less over there than here.)
3) We lost the FBI headquarters because we don’t have a mass rail system out to Innovation. Bringing the VRE out there changes that, but the No. 1 complaint about Prince William County is how long residents and out-of-town commuters alike spend stuck in traffic on Route 28, U.S. 29 and Interstates 66 and 95, all while our slug line and VRE parking lots overfill. Our economy cannot thrive if we don’t have adequate transportation infrastructure, which is why I support the addition of a three-story parking garage at the Manassas Park VRE station with either an underground walkway connecting to the main platform or an overhead walkway like you would see at the Vienna Metro station over Interstate 66.
And, of course, we have to fix Route 28. (Details below.)
Every resident of the 13th District has my solemn vow that I will work as hard as I can to achieve those three results.
As a person, I’m passionate about defending civil rights ensuring access to affordable health care… and fixing Route 28. Seriously. I am so beyond tired of sitting on that road and the decades of back-ups running from Manassas to Chantilly. Every person from Manassas gets this. It’s ridiculous that VDOT could take out all the traffic lights between Sterling and Chantilly years ago but stopped in Centreville before reaching Interstate 66, where there is plenty of public right-of-way to turn that area into an interchange. How was this not a priority 15, 10, 5 and 2 years ago?
As soon as I got into the race, I heard people try to peg me as a “single-issue candidate” because I’m transgender. Well… maybe their argument has some merit… after all, I do talk about fixing Route 28 a lot.
Of course defending and promoting LGBTQ rights are vitally important to me. I know what it’s like to be discriminated against based on gender identity and I know what it’s like to overcome hurdles too. I want to win this race and I want to inspire every student in Prince William County to dream big and reach their potential, not feel like their local elected official is working against them.
One of my campaign volunteers is a high school freshman who’s a transgender boy. I want him and every transgender kid like him to see me in office and think, “Hey… she’s like me. She gets it. She understands me.” That’s something I never had as a child and it kept me closeted for far too long instead of living as my authentic sense of self.
My pledge to them: I will fight for you, just like I did in the General Assembly last year when I successfully helped defeat nine anti-LGBTQ bills and spoke out in front of the School Board four times in favor of adding gender identity and sexual orientation to the PWCS nondiscrimination policy. So while I’m focused on our traffic, jobs and schools please know I’ll always have your back.
- How would you describe yourself ideologically – “progressive,” “moderate,” “liberal,” or something else? How does your record of votes, endorsements, employment, and other activities reflect your political ideology?
As soon as I entered the race, I told Jill Palermo from my newspaper alma mater the Gainesville Times that I have a progressive heart with centrist sensibilities and that’s accurate. As someone who grew up with state Sen. Chuck Colgan as a legislative role model and as someone who values tangible results over ideology and I think on 98 percent of issues in Richmond, it’s possible to find common ground. I’ve known Sen. Tim Kaine for going on 12 years and have grown to admire him as a results-oriented senator who pushes for progressive policies but has the common sense and collegiality to be well-respected by his colleagues in the Senate. (See the comments Sen. Jeff Flake offered about him when Sec. Clinton picked him for her running mate.)
These days in Richmond, I look up to state Sen. Jennifer Wexton (D) and state Del. Eileen Filler-Corn (D) as examples of what results-oriented, progressive leadership looks like by members of the minority party who year after year pass bills with big bipartisan support, much more than Del. Bob Marshall (R-13) does with 25 years of seniority as status in a 2-to-1 majority party. If you want to know how I’ll govern, my goal is to be as successful as Sen. Wexton and Del. Filler-Corn in authoring, introducing and passing legislation that directly helps the people of the 13th District and Virginia as a whole.
In 2013, I voted in the Democratic primary for Sens. Ralph Northam (LG) and Mark Herring (AG) because they had governing experience directly transferable to the offices they sought and they, by and large, did a good job in those roles, though now-AG Herring has certainly improved dramatically from his time in the legislature to his accomplishments as attorney general while LG Northam has been a strong advocate in the arenas of health care and civil rights.
- Who is your favorite and who is your least favorite current Virginia politician and why?
My favorite Virginia politician of all time is the late state Sen. Chuck Colgan (D-29) for his unique ability to bring much-needed transportation and education infrastructure to Prince William County while maintaining his reputation as the “consummate Virginia gentleman.”
Few were more genial while graciously carrying as much power as Sen. Colgan, who served 40 years with distinction as a bipartisan, results-oriented problem-solver. Even when I disagreed with him on several issues, I know he followed his heart and delivered on his promises. His word was golden.
Among current Virginia politicians, I consider Sen. Wexton and Del. Filler-Corn my role models for good governing as strong, successful Democratic women from Northern Virginia who know how to pass legislation through a Republican-controlled General Assembly.
Otherwise, I’m a big fan of Rep. Don McEachin (D-4) for his outstanding service in the General Assembly.
For least favorite, I’m sure Del. Bob Marshall (R-13) will be shocked to know that spending the last two years picking on transgender kids instead of fixing Route 28 didn’t sit too well with his transgender constituents and now one of us is running against him.
- If you had been in the House of Delegates at the time, would you have voted for a) HB 2313, the comprehensive transportation package passed in 2013; b) repeal of Virginia’s estate tax, which is costing our state around $130 million a year in order to benefit a few hundred of the wealthiest Virginians; c) the 2011 redistricting bill HB 5001, which gerrymandered the state and helped to lock in a Republican majority in the House of Delegates for the rest of the decade; or d) the 2014 and 2015 ethics reform packages, which many (myself included) have criticized as extremely weak, possibly even a step backwards in the case of the most recent “reforms.” A) Yes. (The only reason we have the money to fix the 28/66 intersection is because of that bill. I’m also glad the General Assembly later repealed the hybrid penalty.); B) No.; C) No.; D) Yes for one specific reason: the 2014 provision on gift disclosure. That was way, way, way overdue and you and I both know it. We can debate the rest but in the wake of Gov. McDonnell’s national embarrassment, something had to pass and that’s what came forward. You can’t hold out for better ethics package in the House of Delegates when you’re in a 2-to-1 minority, you have to get to yes in order to improve the bill later. It’s like the ACA: it wasn’t even close to ideal when it passed but if we ever want a Medicare-for-all system, we had to take at least one major step toward reform. Now, perhaps if we elect a Democratic majority in the House of Delegates or at least come within a 55-45 split, we can enact ethics reform with some actual teeth.
- What is your vision for Virginia’s energy future? Do you support any of the following: offshore oil drilling, natural gas “fracking,” new natural gas pipelines (e.g., Mountain Valley Pipeline, Atlantic Coast Pipeline) uranium mining, new coal-fired power plants, mountaintop removal coal mining? If not, what will you do to fight against these things, and to fight for a healthy environment, energy efficiency, and renewable power?
My vision for Virginia’s energy future is based on geothermal technology because it’s something that’s clean, abundant and has bipartisan support. (Del. Tim Hugo (R) even put in an unsuccessful geothermal tax credit bill this year that I hope will come back up next year, whether or not he’s there to sponsor it.)
Regarding non-renewable resources, allow me to be blunt: Given how Dominion Virginia Power has conducted itself in the Gainesville-to-Haymarket power-tower debate a decade after proposing what would have been another environmental disaster that would have been visible from Silver Lake, quite simply if Dominion Virginia Power is for it, I’m immediately skeptical. As a delegate, I’ll take a reporter’s sensibilities to Richmond and put my decade of investigative reporting to use to figure out what’s between the lines.
One proposal I did like this year though came from Southwestern Virginia: a new law about the pumped-storage project affecting Dominion Resources. According to the Roanoke Times editorial board, “The law currently allows utilities to build coal-fired plants; these 26 words would add to that “or one or more pumped hydroelectricity generation and storage facilities that utilize renewable energy as all or a portion of their power source and are located” in Virginia’s coalfields.
Under the law, the proposed pumped-storage project “could use underground water in coal mines as its water supply; no need to dam up a creek. Two, it could use solar energy or wind energy to generate power for the pumping.” As the Times put it, “this is historic” and I think that’s the sort of language you can get Southwestern Republicans in leadership to back as a Democrat pushing for renewable energy.
- Should Virginia be known as more of a “business-friendly” state or more of a “worker-friendly” state and why?
A worker-friendly state that’s open for business. You can’t be business-friendly by discriminating against the people who would work here because of where they come from, what they look like, how they worship or who they love, nor can you instill anti-worker clauses to the Constitution of Virginia, as the voters shot down last year.
While I believe every person who sets out to contribute to the economy by entering the workforce deserves a living wage, at the very least, Virginia should be matching West Virginia in terms of the minimum wage (it’s $7.25 per hour for non-tipped workers here and $8.75 in West Virginia. When the cost of living is so much more expensive here, that doesn’t make any world of sense).
Meanwhile, Virginia is in a unique position right now to be the most welcoming state in Mid-Atlantic for business leaders and workers alike but we have work to do to make it that way.
To the north, Maryland is a socially progressive state with high taxes.
To the south, North Carolina is a socially regressive state with low taxes.
Virginia should be a socially progressive state with low taxes. That’s exactly the sort of atmosphere amendable both to the people who work here and the people who set up shop here.
- Yes or no answers (I don’t have simple yes/no positions on some questions, so I’ve provided explanations.)
Do you support:
a) a strongly progressive tax system, including a reasonable estate tax on the wealthy: Yes.
b) non-partisan redistricting: Yes.
c) allowing transgender people to use the bathroom corresponding to their gender identity: (As a transgender person who uses the bathroom corresponding with my gender identity, please know: the underlying issue isn’t about bathrooms. This is about acknowledging the core of our identity and our very right to exist and be respected and protected as our authentic selves.)
d) closing the “gun show loophole” and taking other common sense gun measures: (Not only is closing the loophole common sense in terms of safety but it’s also a matter of economic fairness: it doesn’t make any sense for there to be one standard at a gun show seller and another standard at a brick-and-mortar gun store seller. There needs to be a single standard supporting background checks so one side isn’t at a competitive disadvantage.)
e) raising the gas tax and/or instituting a carbon tax (revenue-neutral or otherwise): It depends. I have a nuanced answer about the gas tax: I support the proposal put forward by Sen. Wagner and Del. Levine to correct the flaw in HB2313 from 2013 that omitted a revenue floor for Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads in terms of reimbursements from the wholesale price of gas.
Back then, gasoline cost on average $3.17 per gallon but legislators didn’t anticipate the cost falling below that when they eliminated the gas sales tax and replaced it with a higher wholesale tax on gas. The problem is when the price did drop by a dollar per gallon, it came out of the NVTA’s revenue stream along with the Hampton Roads Transportation Fund, which means our most congested regions have less money to tackle major problems, which gives government officials an excuse to sell out our highways to private conglomerates for tolling.
(For the record: I oppose all road tolling in Northern Virginia for anything other than ferries. Period.)
If raising the sales tax on gasoline by 1 cent or 2 cents meant we could eliminate tolls on I-66 and still fund our major transportation priorities, then I would highly consider it. That said, there needs to be proof that specific projects will be funded to earn my support. I’m not a hard sell on this. I can’t stand tolls. They punish the poor, they slow down traffic, they take what is supposed to be public land and restrict it for private profit and private conglomerates slap anti-competition clauses in their contracts to prevent VDOT from widening nearby public-access lanes. Toll roads in Virginia are – bluntly – terrible in concept and in practice. I would much rather pay a little extra at the pump than to have a public access HOV lane that we’ve already paid for taken away for private tolling as is happening on I-66.
f) reining in predatory lenders: Yes.
g) fully restoring the rights of ex-felons: For non-violent ex-felons: Yes. For violent ex-felons and high-profile white-collar criminals who bilked countless people out of their savings and trust, I support a case-by-case review by the governor.
h) issuing driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants and otherwise defending their communities from xenophobic attacks: On the latter, yes, absolutely. On the former, what Delaware approved for driver’s licenses is a reasonable middle ground I would support.
According to Pew, the Delaware law requires that “(u)nauthorized immigrant applicants must have filed a Delaware income tax return or been claimed as a dependent for the preceding two years and must provide fingerprints and pass a criminal background check.” Meanwhile, the card itself must be “unique in design” while bearing the marking of “Driving Privilege Only” and “Not Valid for Identification.” (For more, see: http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/analysis/2015/11/23/alternative-drivers-licenses-for-unauthorized-immigrants)
That latter part is important when considering my larger goal of enacting automatic voter registration with an opt-out clause in the way Oregon implemented it through certain DMV records. Obviously, non-citizens can’t vote and we don’t want to encourage human error in putting non-citizens on the voting roles but we also have to recognize that courthouses all over America every single working day have people who are charged with driving without a licenses or driving on a suspended or revoked license. People do that all the time, so we know it’s a pervasive problem and that people are just going to drive anyway.
Meanwhile, requiring someone to undergo a driver’s education training in order to earn driver’s license makes our roads safer and incentivizes good behavior, so the license issue isn’t that big of a deal to me though I’ve given it a lot of thought.
i) moving Virginia from its current hostility to organized labor towards a far more welcoming, positive place for unions and working people in general?
The 13th House of Delegates district is a district that was won by Barack Obama by (11 points) and by Hillary Clinton (by 14 points), yet that sees a major “dropoff” in Democratic voter turnout in non-presidential years. What would you do, as delegate, to help turn that off-year Democratic “dropoff” around in HD-13?
1) Repeatedly canvass Manassas Park, Yorkshire, Mullen and Ben Lomond precincts with the intent of identifying lean or soft Democratic voters who would likely support us but generally only vote in presidential-year elections, as we did during the first phase of the campaign for collecting petition signatures.
2) Enter that data into VAN and make sure we target them repeatedly during the persuasion part of our campaign.
3) Knock on every single door in the multi-family units of the Orchard Bridge apartments, condos and townhouses to identify new voters who just moved into the area and are likely to support Democratic candidates but don’t know about the election;
4) Conduction voter education drives through heavily immigrant populations in Manassas Park, Manassas and Yorkshire so people who are accustomed to voting only once every few years in their native countries know we have elections every year in Virginia and that their votes are extremely important in determining the day-to-day governing policies that directly affect their lives.
5) Determine which people in our expanded target universe beyond Solid or Likely Democratic voters with long-standing voting histories that have been most receptive to our message and would be likely to turn out.
6) Apply the same sort of messaging and contact a persuadable/lean Democratic voter would experience from canvassers and phone bankers during a presidential year in order to stress the importance of the vote and reminding them to vote.
7) *MOST IMPORTANT* Offer people something and someone to believe in, not just a reason to vote against someone. Offer tangible, concrete, “This is what I’m going to do, this is how I’m going to pay for it and this is when it’s going to happen” policy proposals that they can visualize and deem as plausible to accomplish instead of just being a pipe dream.
- A) Do you agree or disagree that Richmond is broken – for instance, the tremendous influence of money, lobbyists and corporations (e.g., Dominion Virginia Power, car title/payday lenders) on legislation – and needs major ethics reform?
Agree. I will never accept any campaign contributions as a challenger or incumbent from Dominion Virginia Power or any otherwise utility company that does business in Virginia. I was the first reporter to identify Vadata, Inc./Amazon as the owner of the data center in Haymarket off of Route 55 that Dominion Virginia Power refused to publicly acknowledge as DVP officials crafted their still-ongoing power tower proposal linking Gainesville and Haymarket. I also covered Dominion’s role in the now-defunct plan in 2006 and 2007 to extend power towers across northwestern Prince William County near the “gem of the county” in Silver Lake in order to hook up with the Arcola substation in Loudoun.
Every legislator who enters the General Assembly must have a neutral approach toward proposals championed by Dominion and cannot be in the pocket of that utility company and weigh the costs of Dominion’s proposals with that of the residents in the areas their infrastructure affects.
As a local newspaper journalist who spent more than nine years serving Prince William County as a disinterested, third-party observer who reported the news, I know how to embrace that role of researching, listening, writing, editing and publishing from a neutral viewpoint.
B) More broadly, if elected to the House of Delegates, would your general attitude be more “go along, get along” with this system or to “shake things up?” Please be as specific as possible in your answer. For instance, would you support campaign finance reform that sharply curtails the power of corporations, lobbyists, and special interests?
No out transgender person has ever been seated in a state legislature; my mere presence alone, even as a Democrat, would inherently shake up how the Republican Party deals with transgender issues because several of those legislators have never met a transgender person who they’re aware of.
I know this because when I went to the General Assembly four times in 2016 to successfully help fight nine anti-LGBTQ bills — including two from Del. Marshall — and Republican legislators there told me when I entered their offices that I was the first transgender person they knew they spoke to.
That said, I have an ENFP personality type (yes, I’m well aware of the scientific flaws of the test but from the 30,000-foot view, it’s pretty accurate for me), so I’m naturally diplomatic. As Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D) said in her book, you can’t expect to accomplish anything by being a bomb-thrower; you have to actually approach legislation and other legislators constructively.
What we do need to recognize those is the out-sized, outside groups play on the system and actually show a backbone when they attempt to influence legislation through corporate contributions.
Dominion Virginia Power officials insist that the massive amounts of money they contribute to legislators is protected free speech and the sad reality is the Citizens United ruling asserts their viewpoint.
While I would like to work with our legal officials to challenge Citizens United again and even pass a constitutional amendment to overturn it, I will do whatever is in my power as a member of the General Assembly to work within the guidelines of the Supreme Court to limit the out-sized power Dominion Virginia Power has over so many legislators and public policy.
I think it’s important to lead by example. Del. Bob Marshall has accepted more than $7,000 from Dominion Virginia Power during his career, even as he’s said he’s opposes some of their projects. It’s a no-win situation to ever accept money from Dominion Virginia Power and I won’t do it now or in the future.
- Please tell us how you would stand up to party leadership, and even to a Democratic governor, if you believed that they were wrong about an issue and/or that it would hurt the 13th district.
I’ll follow the examples shown to me by my legislative role models from when I was growing up here in Manassas: Sen. Colgan and Del. Harry Parrish (R-50).
Both of them bucked their own party and supported budget bills signed by the other party’s governor when they were in the minority of their own party in doing so. If it wasn’t for Harry Parrish’s maneuvering in the House Finance committee, Gov. Mark Warner’s 2004 budget bill would have never made it to the House floor.
Del. Parrish then showed grace under fire as he answered question after question from members of his own party and eventually joined 16 other Republican members in voting for the bill that received wide support in the more moderate state Senate from Democrats and Republicans alike back when the likes of moderates like John Chichester and Russ Potts held committee chairmanships.
As a reporter, I covered Sen. Colgan’s vote in 2012 to break ranks with the Senate Democrats on Gov. Bob McDonnell’s budget bill, which didn’t adequately fund Metro-to-Dulles, the key sticking point for Democrats. The two parties were at a stalemate unusual even for Richmond standards and time was running out for them to agree to the budget. Sen. Colgan switched his vote to yes and it passed. He received a lot of criticism for that vote and the acronym “DINO” (Democrat In Name Only) was thrown at him repeatedly for the break.
But I interviewed Chuck. I asked him about the vote. He told me he did it to save the jobs of state and local workers who rely on the state budget to pay their bills. He wanted that rail money for Dulles and even got the governor to send him a signed letter agreeing to its importance in principle, but to Chuck, protecting state workers and making sure they could pay their bills and put food on the table was far more important than a Democrat-versus-Republican fight. That particular budget bill wasn’t pretty by any extent — the Democrats absolutely didn’t like it and frankly the Republicans didn’t care much for it either. But Chuck did what he thought was right and he always did what he thought was right.
I’m more socially progressive than Chuck and there were a number of other issues where I have a difference of opinion than he did (he was amenable in concept to the Bi-County Parkway, which I oppose in its entirety). The example that he set though of doing the least harm you can do while making sure you take care of the people who need it the most first set with me and it’s an example of how I will conduct myself in Richmond: take care of the people you serve and the people who rely on you first.
Chuck was a Democrat because he valued taking care of people all over the commonwealth, no matter what region they lived in or their background. When I covered a 2007 debate he had against the Republican nominee Bob FitzSimmonds (R), a question came up about undocumented immigrants at a time when, in Prince William County that year, bashing undocumented people was sadly even more socially acceptable than it is now. Instead, showing his characteristic sense of humor, when the question turned to Chuck, he just responded that when he would see day laborers outside of a local 7-11 in Manassas, he would walk up to them and say, “Buenos dias!” He recognized their humanity and treated them with respect.
- If you are the Democratic nominee, what would be your main line of critique in the general election against longtime incumbent Del. Bob Marshall?
The same line that I’ve used against him since Jan. 3: his focus on discriminatory social legislation that singles out and stigmatizes his own constituents does nothing to fix Route 28, bring high-paying jobs to Innovation Park or raise teacher pay in Prince William County and the City of Manassas Park so it’s not the lowest in Northern Virginia. Del. Marshall last year introduced 41 bills and passed one of them. This year, his own party killed 27 of his 30 bills, the governor vetoed one of them, one fate of one still pending (as of March 15) and he passed one resolution, celebrating the life of Sen. Colgan. Since 2012, he has introduced 192 bills and at least 180 of them have died, despite him having 25 years of seniority and status in a 2-to-1 majority party.
Del. Marshall’s futility rating is worse than that of some freshmen members of the minority party at a time when he’s ranked No. 6 in seniority and holds no committee chairmanships. His No. 1 responsibility in the General Assembly is to secure the funding to fix the top quality of life issue thousands of 13th District residents face every single day: perpetual traffic congestion on Route 28 through Manassas, Yorkshire and Centreville.
That section of the road was a mess 25 years ago and it’s still a mess today but instead of doing anything other than pitching a reversible lane that still doesn’t exist and won’t any time soon, Del. Marshall’s passed the buck of blame to the Prince William Board of County Supervisors and the Manassas Park Governing Body despite the fact that he sits on the NVTA Route 28 Steering Committee and his district overlaps some of the precincts within the magisterial district represented by Prince William County Supervisor Marty Nohe, a fellow Republican who serves as NVTA chairman.
Del. Marshall’s own record of 180+ failed bills that he’s authored during the last six years is proof that his own party won’t take him seriously and that’s the case in Richmond and in Prince William County, where he’s failed to work with the 6-2 Republican majority on the Board of County Supervisors throughout the last 14 years to fix this road or the previously Republican-led Manassas Park Governing Body to bring results.
In fact, I’ve stopped by the Manassas Park City Hall to attend more Governing Body meetings this year than Del. Marshall. Instead, he authored a Feb. 27 letter letter littered with misinformation and paid for by the taxpayers responding to my charges that he hasn’t fixed Route 28 by shifting the blame to the localities. That’s not the constructive governing partner Manassas Park and Prince William County residents need, that’s someone who’s ineffective at his job and looking for someone else to blame for his failures.
I’ll be the working partner the residents of Yorkshire, Manassas, Manassas Park, Gainesville and Haymarket need to “bring home the bacon” as Sen. Colgan used to say and build upon his legacy of service.
- What is your vision for improving the terrible traffic situation in the 13th district?
The top issue we face in the 13th District is fixing Route 28 so morning rush hour isn’t unbearable. It was awful in 1992 and it’s awful today. It’s time to change it.
My proposal calls for the NVTA reallocating the $300 million it’s set for improving the Interstate 66/Route 28 intersection so the money moves further south for other improvements– like widening 28 to six lanes just south of U.S. 29, removing stop lights where appropriate (and the residents find useful) and coming up with multi-modal traffic options so people aren’t stuck having to only choose vehicles — if the private conglomerate likely to install tolls on I-66 follows through on its pledge to put $300 million into the I-66/28 intersection.
Let me be clear: I oppose all tolling of roads in Northern Virginia as it is a form of double taxation when we have to give up general access lanes in order for private companies to profit from toll revenue.
Yet I’m also pragmatic. The time to defeat toll road proposals is the conception stage. So rather than relitigate with the state, my position is we take the next-best option and use the $300 million the private conglomerate is pledging for the Route 28/I-66 intersection as a means to reallocate the NVTA’s $300 million for further road improvements south.
That means we can fix the roadway without raising taxes; it just takes political leadership to accomplish it.
I’ve also called for extending Godwin Drive to Centreville through public right-of-way easements as long as it is constructed in an environmentally sensitive way near Bull Run and does more good than harm for the residents who live near there by restricting cut-through traffic in Yorkshire and Manassas without lowering property values.
While I support extending Godwin Drive if the environmental and land-use issues are mitigated, I fervently oppose the Bi-County Parkway, which would run north from Interstate 66 along Pageland Lane all the way to Loudoun County. There are so many reasons to oppose this idea but they all come down to one idea: keep the Rural Crescent rural. Leave it alone.
I also oppose Dominion Virginia Power’s proposed above-ground power towers from Gainesville to Haymarket in order to power up Amazon’s data center. Like the Bi-County Parkway, the project was conceived without first asking residents what would be acceptable and unacceptable before developing a policy proposal. Before developing roadways and large utility structures, residential input needs to be gathered first through door-to-door knocking, not sending out flyers or phone calls. The residents should be told what the issue is and be asked what are acceptable and unacceptable ways to achieve the desired result. Then, incorporate what they tell you into your policy position. That’s the only way to develop a consensus.