by Bud Cothern, Ed.D – Retired Superintendent of Goochland County Public Schools and former specialist at the Virginia Department of Education.
Virginia’s 73rd House of Delegates district, a battleground area, is comprised of 22 precincts right in the heart of Henrico County. John O’Bannon, a neurologist, has held his seat comfortably since 2000, when then-Delegate Eric Cantor ran for – and was elected to – Congress. O’Bannon was uncontested in his last race, receiving 12,514 votes out of nearly 48,000 active registered voters in the district. I highly recommend you read Donald Braden’s excellent analysis on the potentially competitive nature of this race.
Also worth noting is that Hillary Clinton carried the 73rd district in November 2016 by a 50.6%-42.7% margin over Donald Trump, so there may certainly be an opportunity to flip this district to blue. Will the intensity of dissatisfaction with Donald Trump propel a Democrat into this seat? Only time will tell, but one key is making sure we have a strong nominee.
Enter the four Democratic primary challengers who, I think, could ultimately make the contest a real barn burner. I requested the four Democratic primary candidates provide brief statements on why they are running for this seat. I also wanted to give readers an easy access to their pages and fundraising links. My advice is that this seat is winnable for Democrats. So get to know the primary contenders, choose someone and give them your support – both financially and in other ways.
Sarah Smith, Democrat and state healthcare officer
Sarah is running for the House of Delegates 73rd seat because she is fed up with politics in Richmond and Washington. As a health care officer for the state, she spends her days protecting Medicaid benefits and making sure families have health care security.
If elected, Sarah says she will fight to make sure people have access to affordable health care. Sarah says we need to keep improving our health care system, and she will fight tooth and nail to make sure that people who have health care because of the ACA will keep it regardless of what Republicans in Washington decide.
Sarah says we can make schools better. Sarah and her husband have two children and know how important public education is to Virginia families. According to Sarah, Republicans in the legislature have been openly hostile to funding Virginia schools at the levels they deserve. Sarah will make sure that schools and classroom sizes stay small, that Virginia attracts the best teachers, and that kids have the textbooks they need in order to succeed.
While being a champion for sustainable energy solutions, Sarah says she will lead the charge against any bill that would harm our clean air and contaminate our water.
Sarah is a graduate of local public schools, the University of Virginia, and the University of Richmond School of Law. To support Sarah, check out the following links:
Chelsea Savage, a Democrat and healthcare professional
Chelsea Savage is also seeking the Democratic nomination for delegate in District 73. She has been a single mother, raising her daughter Victoria for 17 years, which she says has fundamentally shaped her worldview. She supported her daughter and herself with a nursing degree, and completed her education with a bachelor’s in philosophy, a master’s in health administration, a fellowship in health law, and a doctorate in nursing, and certification in healthcare risk management. She is an out gay woman, proud of her LGBT community and the diversity it represents. Her progressive values, she says, have made her a better mother, nurse, advocate, and hopefully the next 73rd District delegate.
Chelsea began her volunteer work in health policy advocacy and nursing leadership as Chair of the Legislative Committee for the Virginia Organization of Nurse Executives and Leaders in 2007. She has been involved in other positions such as Fellow for Hope in the Cities Connecting Communities, Chair of the Legislative Coalition of Virginia Nurses, Fellow of UVA Sorensen Institute Political Leaders Program, Fellow of the American Nurses Advocacy Institute, Virginia Nurses Association Secretary and Assistant Commissioner on Government Affairs, Co-Lead for the Virginia Action Coalition Leadership Work Group working in conjunction with the Future of Nursing Campaign for Action and Secretary for Virginia Nurses Association Chapter 5. She was Virginia Co-Chair for Nurses for Obama in 2012. She is an Emerge Virginia alumna.
In her campaign for delegate, Chelsea plans to address a number of critical issues to our community. She believes we must stand against discrimination towards anyone and foster a welcoming environment for the citizens of our district. The health, safety, and legal rights of every person she represents are at the heart of why she’s running. She vows to always have a listening ear for her constituents, and to always keep the public informed of her positions. She pledges that she:
– will bring the fight for protections for vulnerable persons to the General Assembly;
– do her part in the Virginia House of Delegates to ensure there is no legislated discrimination in Virginia;
– stand for sufficient K-12 funding and support Virginia’s colleges and universities;
– work to provide quality childcare;
– fight for access to healthcare that is accessible and affordable;
– endeavor to strengthen the economic success of families.
Chelsea believes the voters of the 73rd District will see that they have a choice other than business as usual, that all can work to make Virginia even better for families. She says she knows each and every one of the issues because she has lived them. Raising her daughter in today’s world has been no easy task. When she was younger she amassed $30,000 in credit card debt to keep up with expenses. Her family still still lives in a small home in the 73rd. She says she understands how important education, community involvement, and healthcare are to her fellow district members.
Chelsea believes that the 73rd, and indeed all of Virginia, can be made stronger and safer for everyone. We don’t have to continue the politics of the status quo; we can do better. Chelsea believes she represents a positive step forward for our political representation, and is very much looking forward to the campaign ahead. To support Chelsea, check out the following links:
Bill Coleman, a Democrat and IT professional
There are so many reasons Bill is running for this seat in the House of Delegates. He wants to ensure equal protection and opportunity for everyone, regardless of age, gender, skin color, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender identity. He wants to make sure quality healthcare is easily available to everyone. He wants to bring mental health out of the criminal justice system and into our outpatient community health system. Bill wants to defend the social safety net that protects our most vulnerable citizens. He wants to do what he can to keep our environment and planet healthy. You have likely heard this or similar lists from other candidates. So, what makes him different?
Bill’s an IT professional, and technology specialists are not currently represented in the House of Delegates. The IT industry is where the “factory” jobs are right now: coding, web design, and app development. These are high-paying/stable jobs that require as little as a high school diploma. Bill says we can bring these jobs to Virginia in this way. We can offer training to our kids and adult citizens. We can help ensure that Virginia and its citizens have a stable and secure employment future.
Bill states that recently the state spent several hundreds of millions of dollars removing our last vendor for the statewide IT department. According to him, millions of dollars were wasted during the lifetime of VITA. Currently, our legislators are getting IT suggestions from lobbyists and vendors who are more concerned about making money than the well being of the state and its citizens. We need IT professionals represented in the General Assembly. We need people who know about all available options, who know what questions to ask, and who, first and foremost, are looking out for the Commonwealth of Virginia and its citizens.
What else does Bill offer? He currently works as a project manager. It is his job to help people work together as a team, to understand each other’s perspectives, to discuss issues rather than just argue about them and to find common ground and get things accomplished.
According to Bill, as a society, we see our legislators as Democrats or Republicans. We see our general assembly as Democrats vs. Republicans. This is a problem, according to Bill. Our General Assembly should not be about competition, but about teamwork. Bill says he will help make this change. He will help all our legislators see each other as teammates, not adversaries. He will engage in and encourage dialogue between all members of the House of Delegates. He believes we can find common ground on the issues that matter most and we can create long term, positive, solutions.
Bill has been involved in politics since high school. He’s a husband, dad, and proud citizen of the state of Virginia. He’s running to represent the citizens of Commonwealth of Virginia. Bill says, “This is your government. He wants to make it work for you.” To support Bill, check out the following links:
Debra Rodman, a Democrat and college professor
Years ago, as a young professor, Debra was participating in an immigration symposium at work (she’s an Associate Professor at Randolph-Macon College) where she was invited to talk about immigration in Virginia and to convey stories of those here to build bright futures for their families. These stories she’s heard for decades in her work supporting Central American asylum applicants in federal immigration courts, where she’s seen the violence that plagues these families and leads them to look for a fresh start in America.
While Debra thought this session was extremely informative, one of her colleagues disagreed. You may have heard of him: Dave Brat, our Congressman. Mr. Brat also sat on the immigration panel and decided to talk about immigration and education, relying on the right-wing Heritage Foundation website. When Debra called Brat out for his misinformed and biased views on immigration, he was so outraged that she would speak up and show support for them and their families that he called her in her office on several occasions to chastise her for speaking out in favor of immigration, based on her decades long expertise. That was one of the first times she found powerful people trying to silence her voice and the voices of those she represents.
After that experience, Debra started to see things in a different light. She started to see how all too often those in power disregard the hopes, dreams, and values of people in our community. The results of last November’s elections just made that lesson all that much clearer, she says.
When she considered all those things, along with what she has experienced during her 15 years working on behalf of Central American asylum seekers fleeing violence, it just really seemed that it was time for her to step up and run for the House of Delegates.
In her campaign, she’s focusing on the fundamental values that are crucial to people in Henrico County.
Nothing else matters, she says, if you can’t find a job. And while Donald Trump and the Republicans in Richmond talk a great game on the economy, their actions tell a very different story. Cutting through the rhetoric and false promises of action and creating real progress on jobs in Virginia is her top priority.
Debra believes people in Henrico County ought to be able to see the doctor when they need to without worrying about financial disaster. Unlike the incumbent delegate, Republican politician John O’Bannon, she’d support giving more local families access to crucial health care through Medicaid.
Debra also has been extremely frustrated with the way politicians in the General Assembly have attacked our schools and jeopardized our kids’ futures. She says she’ll be a voice and a vote for giving our schools, colleges, and universities the funding they need to give our kids the educations they need.
At a time when vital women’s health care is under attack by self-serving politicians in Richmond and Washington, DC, Debra states she’ll never waver from her conviction that a woman should always be able to make her own decisions about her body. Full stop.
In her work with transgender people fleeing violence, she has been struck by how much discrimination they still face here. Just like she’s been doing for over 15 years, she’ll keep speaking out and taking action against this discrimination to ensure that all Virginians are treated equally and fairly under the law.
These are a few of the values that Debra believes are crucial to life in Henrico County. She says you can count on her to fight for these values every single day if you support her with your vote.
Debra is an Associate Professor of Anthropology and Women’s Studies and Director of Women’s Studies at Randolph-Macon College. She regularly serves as an expert witness for U.S. Federal immigration courts for Central American migrants seeking political asylum, mostly women and children, and LGBT individuals fleeing violence. Named as one of Richmond’s Top 40 Under 40 in 2011, Dr. Rodman is a former Fulbright Scholar and fluent Spanish speaker.
Debra’s husband Darryl Lowery is a Richmond native and member of the Lumbee tribe of North Carolina. They have two young sons, Ronin and River.
To support Debra, check out the following links: