On March 16, I sent Blue Virginia interview questions to the two Democratic candidates running for the 42nd House of Delegates district (Lorton, West Springfield) seat currently held by Del. Dave Albo (R for “retiring from the House of Delegates”) – and which Hillary Clinton won by a whopping 57%-37% (!) margin in November 2016. Needless to say, this open seat represents a super-strong pickup opportunity for Democrats. The Democratic candidates here are Tilly Blanding and Kathy Tran. I asked the candidates if they could get me their responses by the first week in April and told them that I’d post their interviews in the order I received them. The first one I received back (Friday early evening) was from Tilly Blanding – thanks! See her responses below. So far, I haven’t hear back from Kathy Tran, but still hope to get her responses and will post them if/when I do. 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 42nd district, 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 42nd House of Delegates district in Richmond.
I have been a fighter my whole life. Growing up in the Jim Crow- era South Carolina I started participating in the Civil Rights movement at the young age of 13. Encouraged by my parents, I marched, joined the picket lines, and sat-in at lunch counters.
One day I was picketing the storefront of a white-owned business that would not hire any black staff with two other young women. A white man in a car pulled up beside me, pulled out a gun, and pointed it right at me. The three of us took off to find help, and eventually made our way back to my parent’s home. It was there that I was given the choice to either stay home or go back out the next day. I choose neither, and declared to my parents that I would be returning to the picket line that very afternoon.
I will be a fighter for District 42 and all Virginians as Delegate, bringing with me that passion that has carried me my whole life. As a social worker for Fairfax County for almost 30 years, I fought every day for the families and children I worked for. I know the issues that are facing working families, new Americans, children, women and the every day people in my district, and will always stand up for them and my Virginia Democratic values.
- What three issues are you most passionate about and why?
I have been fighting for affordable and accessible healthcare for many years, lobbying in Richmond for Medicaid expansion, and even taking my fight to the U.S. Capitol earlier this year. Healthcare is a right that every individual should have – no one should have to choose between going to the doctor or putting food on the table. The fact that one of the world’s richest nations does not have a single-payer system is shameful.
As a child of the Civil Rights movement, voter’s rights are one of my top priorities. So many voter suppression tactics – from photo ID laws to gerrymandering – are used specifically to depress the votes of minorities. I believe we need strong voter reforms in Virginia, such as real early voting on nights and weekends, restoration of rights for those who have served their time, and pre-registration for 16 and 17 year olds. I will also work to end the history of gerrymandering that has created districts like the 42nd.
I have been fighting for worker’s rights as a social worker with the county and then with my union, SEIU 512, for many years. When we refuse to take care of those in need, everyone suffers. As Delegate, I will push for a livable wage, equal pay for equal work, an end to the so called “Right to Work” laws, and for paid sick leave for home care providers.
- 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?
You can call me a progressive, liberal Democrat. I believe in equality for all and will always fight for those values. My life has been dedicated to serving others, from my time as a social worker, to volunteering for decades with the Democratic Party, to working with my union.
- Who is your favorite and who is your least favorite current Virginia politician and why?
My favorite politician in Virginia is Senator Tim Kaine, who I have admired since his time as Governor. I believe he leads and serves with integrity and honestly cares about the people across this state and our country. With my union I have lobbied him on a number of issues and I am constantly impressed by how he and his staff listen and respond to constituents.
I will come right out and say that my least favorite current politician is Dave Albo. He votes against women and workers, against healthcare – and just this week denied hundreds of thousands of people access to healthcare by not supporting Medicaid expansion.
- 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, I would have voted for the transportation bill.
B) I would not have voted to repeal the estate tax.
C) I would not have voted for the redistricting bill, and as Delegate I would work to re-draw our maps so that they are fair and equal for all voters.
D) I would not have voted for the ethics reform packages.
- 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?
I believe that Virginia, and the entire country, needs to invest in clean, renewable energy sources. I do not support continuing the same energy practices that are contributing to climate change, the decline of our waterways, and overall health issues across this region. I will not support fracking, offshore drilling, new coal-fired power plans or mountaintop removal coal mining.
Virginia should be investing in new technology, such as wind and solar, and encouraging innovation throughout the state. New business and ideas will bring not only jobs to Virginia and help boost Virginia’s economy, but will contribute to better health for all of our residents.
I am standing up for these values by pledging to never take money from Dominion or Appalachian Power during my campaign and as Delegate.
- Should Virginia be known as more of a “business-friendly” state or more of a “worker-friendly” state and why?
For too long, Virginia, and the country, have encouraged businesses to flourish at the expense of workers. While I understand the importance of bringing new business and jobs to the state, the needs of working families cannot be ignored. Virginia is in desperate need of real reforms for workers, such as creating a livable wage indexed to inflation, repealing all “Right to Work” legislation, ensuring that home care providers have paid sick leave, and providing all public employees the right to unionize.
- Yes or no answers. Do you support: a) a strongly progressive tax system, including a reasonable estate tax on the wealthy; b) non-partisan redistricting; c) allowing transgender people to use the bathroom corresponding to their gender identity ; d) closing the “gun show loophole” and taking other common sense gun measures; e) raising the gas tax and/or instituting a carbon tax (revenue-neutral or otherwise); f) reining in predatory lenders; g) fully restoring the rights of ex-felons; h) issuing driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants and otherwise defending their communities from xenophobic attacks; 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 42nd House of Delegates district is a district that was won by Barack Obama by (6 points) and by Hillary Clinton (by 20 points!), yet that sees a major “dropoff” in Democratic voter turnout in non-presidential years. What will you do, both as a candidate and as delegate, to help turn that off-year Democratic “dropoff” around in HD-42?
Voter education and registration are two tactics I will use to encourage non-voters to participate in off-year elections. Many candidates and current elected officials will tell you to ignore these off-year “non-voters” and only focus on the people who will show up every year, but that is not who I am. I truly believe that reaching people where they are and talking to them about the issues impacting their life will make a difference this year, and turn these folks into long-term voters.
- 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? 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?
My entire life I have been shaking things up, and I wont stop once elected Delegate. While I understand the need to work across party lines to get things accomplished and know how to find common ground, I will not compromise my values. Campaign finance reform is one way to stop the influence on our elections, and I would support legislation to put caps on contributions and move towards a public financing system. Money in politics unfortunately forces all candidates to spend time away from voters and constituents.
- 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 42nd district.
I will always stand up for my values, and plan to continue to prioritize all Virginians if elected Delegate. I don’t mind taking the unpopular position in order to advocate for what I know is right. Democrats in Virginia have been playing defense for far too long, forced into the position of vetoing bad legislation rather than passing positive reforms for our state.
- If you are the Democratic nominee, what would be your main line of critique in the general election against longtime incumbent Del. Dave Albo?
As you know, Dave Albo announced Wednesday that he is retiring. While I will no longer will be running against him directly, I plan to continue to run against the Republican establishment’s voting record in Virginia. Republicans in this state stand against women’s reproductive choice, the rights of those in the LGBTQ community, immigrants, and working people – and I will continue to talk about my values and what I bring to the table.
I plan to contrast my Virginia Democratic values with those of a Republican Party that clearly does not have the best interest of Virginians in mind. This point was driven home Wednesday, when Republicans once again voted to deny hundreds of thousands of residents affordable healthcare through Medicaid expansion.
- What is your vision for improving traffic congestion and moving towards more sustainable transportation solutions in the 42nd district?
We need to invest in public transportation and make our Metro and bus system better. Making these options more accessible and affordable will increase options for families, raise property values, and increase quality of life for residents. For example, our district need more parking garages and ways to get to the Metro, including bus and park and ride options. More people would use public transportation if it were convenient to residents.