by Dr. J.M. Aguiar of Virginia Beach
The Virginia Beach candidates’ forum on Oct. 12th, organized by Lynnhaven River
Now, was a superb opportunity for local residents to hear directly from the
contenders for the open state delegate seats in our city. Although the
incumbents for the 21st, 81st, 82nd and 85th districts never appeared, those
candidates who did show up gave us invaluable insight into their personalities
Each of the challengers, all newcomers to local politics, maintained a
respectful and inclusive tone. Kimberly Anne Tucker spoke with particular grace,
poise and dignity about healthcare from her perspective as a cancer survivor.
Leigh Anne Bowling emphasized the need to improve stormwater infrastructure and
warned against the abuse of eminent domain by large corporations. Cheryl Turpin
pointed out that Fairfax County recently received $5 million in state stormwater
funding, while Virginia Beach came away with only $750,000—despite our far
greater risk from flooding and hurricanes.
We also heard from David Rose-Carmack, a project manager who spoke about
reducing regulations on small businesses, and Kelly Fowler, a young mother who
advocated for accountability and transparency in state government. Dr. Veronica
Coleman, a local pastor, spoke about helping members of her congregation who
were flooded out of their homes by Hurricane Matthew.
Each of the challengers showed a personal understanding of the issues that
impact the everyday lives of local citizens. By contrast, the two incumbents
who attended had very little to offer. Chris Stolle took every opportunity to
promote natural gas pipelines, and even claimed that expanding natural gas is
the only way to grow Virginia’s economy. Glenn Davis shrugged off recent cuts
in federal funding for Chesapeake Bay programs, and indulged in fearmongering
about military base closures. He attacked any increase to the minimum wage and
claimed that solar energy technology was too undeveloped to be of any real use.
The two incumbents were the only speakers who resorted to belittling their
opponents’ concerns. Both incumbents used the phrase “bright shiny objects” to
demean proposals by their challengers, which was insulting to their opponents
and the audience alike. Chris Stolle claimed there was no partisanship in
Richmond, and seemed to accuse the media of false reporting. Glenn Davis was
often condescendingly dismissive of the issues, and at times he angrily lectured
the audience as if we were all wayward children in need of a good scolding.
Despite a number of recent glossy mailers claiming that Jason Miyares is
concerned about stormwater issues, he did not appear at any point during the
forum, which was a prime opportunity to address these issues and take questions
from constituents. By contrast, the challenger for the 82nd District, Leigh
Anne Bowling, was more than willing to speak with local residents after the
forum, and showed a personal awareness of water-quality issues and their impact
on our city.
In both tone and substance, our local incumbents have failed us—as anyone
impacted by flooding and stormwater can attest. For our city to survive present
and future challenges, we need responsive and respectful delegates, and the
challengers showed the greater promise by far.