On May 11, I sent Blue Virginia interview questions to the two Democratic candidates running for the 31st House of Delegates district (Prince William, Fauquier Counties) seat currently held by Del. Scott Lingamfelter (R) – and which Hillary Clinton won by 7 points in November 2016. This district represents a pickup opportunity for for Democrats, of course with a strong Democratic campaign and candidate this summer/fall. The candidates here are Elizabeth Guzman and Sara Townsend. I asked the candidates to return their answers within 1-2 weeks, and the first one back is from Elizabeth Guzman – thank you! I told the candidates that I’d post their interviews in the order I received them, so with that, here are Elizabeth Guzman‘s responses. 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 31st, 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 31st House of Delegates district in Richmond.
I am originally from Peru. I came to this country looking for better opportunities for my oldest daughter Pamela who is now 25. I never imagined that educational and professional opportunities would become available to me. I was able to achieve the American Dream. When I reflect about it, I remember that it was not easy. I had to juggle three jobs at the beginning to afford a one-bedroom apartment. I always worked full time while I went to school and raised my family. I remember sleeping four hours for many years. My challenges and experiences shaped my values. Values that are in alignment with the Democratic Party that’s why I started to volunteer with the Democratic Party in 2008. Now, it is 2017 and the American Dream is at stake under the current administration and I want to fight to keep Virginia as the state of opportunities where everyone who is willing to work hard and sacrifice will be able to achieve the American Dream.
I have a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from American University and a second Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Southern California. I am currently working for the City of Alexandria Government as a Division Chief for Administrative Services for the Department of Community and Human Services. I am the youngest and the only minority Division Chief staff within my center. I worked before in Fairfax County Government and Fairfax County Public Schools. I have been in Richmond for the last two legislative sessions advocating for the Fostering Futures Program in 2016 and this year I advocated to reinstate driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants in Virginia. A bill presented by State Senator Scott Surovell. I have been in Capitol Hill as well advocating for Mental Health Services coverage by Medicare as well.
We had two close races in the 31st in 2013 we lost by 228 votes and in 2015 we lost by 1,219 votes. We cannot afford to lose anymore. The 31st District is blue and we need to count on the minority and working class vote to win this seat and I proudly represent both communities because I am union member as well. I will represent everyone in Richmond, but it is time to have an ordinary citizen of the 31st District to represent the ordinary resident of the 31st and it is time to elect the 1st Hispanic female in the Virginia Assembly.
- What three issues are you most passionate about and why?
My three issues are issues that I’ve dealt with since I arrived to the United States. Rising the living wage, access to affordable health care, and improving our education system are all issues that impact everyday Virginians.
It is unfathomable that a person has to work two or three jobs to make ends meet. To me, it is a family issue. Parents should be not be choosing between family and food. As a legislative body, we must work to ensure that the minimum wage is increased and that it’s properly adjusted to live in Virginia. Then, and only then, does it become a living wage. We need parents present in their children’s lives.
Working in the human services field, I see the impact that the lack of access to affordable health care has. We should start by expanding Medicaid not only because it is the right thing to do, but also because it make fiscal sense. We need our federal tax dollars to come to Virginia to cover for health care and more. However, affordable health care is much more than expanding Medicaid. We see a Republican controlled Congress that is putting the lives of 650,000 Virginians in danger with Trump Care. In Virginia, we must do better. As a Commonwealth, we should take the lead and pass out our own health care bill. The cost of the health care and prescription drugs are outrageous and we should do everything we can to cover as many Virginians as we can. This is a matter of life and death. Health care is a human right and not a privilege.
Our public education system is being shortchanged and we see it every day when we send our children to school. Overcrowding, over-testing, and the lack of resources for our teachers are putting a strain on our education system. When my oldest daughter was in public school, I remember there was a school counselor for about 250 students. Now, we have an unheard of ratio of 1 to every 500 students. Counselors have to juggle multiple positions; counselor, social worker, and psychologist. It’s unacceptable. We also need more special education classrooms at each elementary school. Additionally, we need to look at expanding programs, such as Early Head Start and Head Start that improves a child’s chance of succeeding in the public school system and go to college and or technical school. We need a rea investment in our public school system.
- 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?
I am a proud progressive! In my race, I’ve received the endorsement of national progressive organizations such as Our Revolution and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. Both organizations have worked to push progressive messages to the front of the Democratic Party. That doesn’t mean that I’m going to just stay in a progressive bubble, I think it is important that we engage all Democrats, not matter how they identify ideologically. We must unite after the primary to defeat the Republican incumbent. I supported Bernie Sanders during the presidential primary. However, after he lost, I worked hard in Prince William County to get Hillary Clinton elected. I registered people to vote and knocked on doors almost every weekend from August to GOTV weekend.
- Who is your favorite and who is your least favorite current Virginia politician and why?
My favorite politician is Senator Tim Kaine because he represents why I’m running. He is a people person that wants to represent everyone in Virginia. My least favorite is Corey Stewart because he is a divisive figure who does not represent Virginia’s values. In 2007, when Corey Stewart was working to divide the population of Prince William County, Tim Kaine came to our community to fight back the divisive rhetoric. I knew then, I will always be a fan of, now Senator Kaine.
- 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 support exploring options that work to improve congestion in Northern Virginia. With that being said, the answer can’t be higher tolls, basically putting more pressure on everyday commuters and raise the cost of going to work.
b)Yes, but we must do more. We must limit the influence that big corporations have on our elected officials. Big corporations cannot buy legislators’ loyalty and stop bringing progress to Virginia.
- 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?
The vision for Virginia’s energy future needs to be green energy. Not only is it good for the environment, it will create an industry that will also be sustainable. With the advancement of technology in renewable energy, our energy providers should be working towards providing consumers with affordable ways to this renewable energy. In the 31st District, there has already been an investment in solar power. Remington has announced that they will begin to build a solar farm that will power 5,000 homes.
I do not support offshore oil drilling, natural gas fracking, new coal-fired plants, or mountaintop removal coal mining. However, I’ve come out in support of the pipelines because these projects are already moving forward. These projects will employ union brothers and sisters in Virginia and will decrease our cost of electricity. Although I will not support imposing projects without getting community approval and or destroying sacred lands as Standing Rock. We must still be vigilant of the environmental impact that these projects will have. As a part of these projects, there must be fail safes that will hold these corporations accountable if something does go wrong. These projects should not be the norm, these should be the last of these types of projects.
- Should Virginia be known as more of a “business-friendly” state or more of a “worker-friendly” state and why?
There should not be a competition between workers and businesses. Virginia should not have to choose to be “business-friendly” or “worker-friendly.” We should promote fair pay and accountability for all business instead.
- 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 31st House of Delegates district is a district that was won by Barack Obama by (7 points) and by Hillary Clinton (by 7 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-31?
We need a strong democrat who understand and believe the values of the Democratic Party. We need to treat off-year elections as presidential elections. We need to have a good base of volunteers who are willing to take the role of Precinct Captains who will organize within their communities. We need to knock on doors to educate and engage voters who do not usually participate in off-year elections. Finally, we need to be active members of the community and work as hard in Fauquier and Prince William County.
- 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?
If you talk to my employers, you would know that I am famous for shaking things up. I am not a status quo person and I am innovative and I am not willing to sacrifice my ethical values and my supporters’ trust to please big corporations. I am the only candidate in the 31st District who signed a pledge not to take money from Dominion Virginia Power.
- 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 31st district.
I will personally call them and or ask to meet with them to present my position. I will invite my constituents as well, so they could listen to my constituents’ concerns as well. I have already stood up against Corey Stewart three times.
- If you are the Democratic nominee, what would be your main line of critique in the general election against longtime incumbent Del. Scott Lingamfelter?
Scott Lingamfelter needs to stop attacking Democrats and calling us names. He needs to maintain his support by bringing innovative ideas that will benefit the ordinary residents of the 31st. Things have changed within the last 16 years including change in the demographics in the 31st. I would like for him to stop presenting his views on federal issues because there is so much to do to bring progress to the 31st District. I wish I could have seen him advocating against Corey Stewart, the Muslim Ban and ICE raids because we are his constituents as well and his silence is unacceptable.
- What is your vision for improving traffic congestion and moving towards more sustainable transportation solutions in the 31st district?
I would like to start by improving our local transportation system. The Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission (PRTC) bus service has not been improved for many years; however, the amount of population has dramatically increased. We need more buses and more runs. PRTC buses do not run on Sundays and has minimum services on Saturdays. We have one of the busiest malls in the Northern Virginia Area, the Potomac Mills Mall, and we are not offering bus services to invite more people. It needs to change. Monday through Friday, PRTC’s buses run one each hour at their different routes. For example, it is a 10 minute drive from Dale City to the Occoquan area. If you take a bus, you need to take 2 buses and it will take you 1.5 hours that’s why people don’t ride the bus. It is not convenient. In Fauquier County, we only have one bus service in the City of Warrenton. It is called the Circuit Rider. This service does not run on Sundays either. My next step will be to promote inter-county buses that will allow Virginians to transport themselves from county to county to visit new places and family members who live in different counties. I have a long commute everyday. I would love to ride a bus on the weekends. I am sure it is how many people feel in the 31st District.