Home Virginia Politics Blue Virginia Interviews with 30th State Senate District Candidates: Libby Garvey

Blue Virginia Interviews with 30th State Senate District Candidates: Libby Garvey


As part of this site’s ongoing effort to learn more about Democratic candidates for office in Virginia, today we publish part three off our 3-interview series with the Democratic candidates in the 30th State Senate District. Those candidates are Del. Adam Ebbin, Arlington County School Board member Libby Garvey, and Alexandria City Council member Rob Krupicka. We presented the same questions to all three candidates, and also requested that they all return them at the same time (to be fair, so none of them knew what the others had answered). On Monday, we published our interview with Adam Ebbin, and yesterday we published our interview with Rob Krupicka. Today, we present Libby Garvey’s interview. We hope you find it informative, and would be very interested in your reaction. Thanks.

P.S. We will also use these questionnaires as an important part of our consideration into whether we will endorse anyone in this district, and if so, who we will endorse. We will also be watching debates and the overall campaign to determine who we believe will best represent progressive values, and of course the 30th District, in Richmond.

Question #1. Tell us a bit about yourself, and specifically, what in your background and/or temperament makes you the best qualified of the three Democratic candidates to represent the 30th State Senate district on Richmond.

First off, thank you, Lowell, for giving me the opportunity to answer your questions and for providing such a great forum for all candidates in Virginia.

My background and my temperament make me the best qualified for this seat. I am passionate about making life better for everyone. Dedication to the welfare and benefit of others: my family, my community, my country. Public service in the interest of others has been a hallmark of my public and private careers. This can be seen in my public work as a Peace Corps volunteer, PTA member and activist, Myers-Briggs facilitator, Quaker Peace activist, school board member, speaker for the Washington Regional Transplant Society, and active Democrat. It can be seen in my more private work when I have drawn on my organizational skills and my own life experience as a mother, grandmother, widow and cancer survivor to help friends, neighbors and strangers get through difficult times.

In style, I am a catalyst, often bringing different people together to accomplish common goals. I am visionary in seeing problems that need addressing often before others do. I am persistent, patient and creative in how I work with others, always looking for common ground and ways to move issues forward. This has made me very effective over time. Besides helping to make Arlington schools nationally recognized, I’ve used networks to improve funding for education statewide and to get better emergency alert systems in our area. This last initiative certainly stretched the role of a school board member, but needed to be done so I did it. My life experiences – Peace Corps volunteer, wife and widow, mother and grandmother coupled with 14 years as a local elected official – have given me a deep understanding of the issues and concerns facing the citizens of this region and the Commonwealth. I’ve seen first-hand how decisions in Richmond affect our local communities and Virginia’s relationship with the nation. I believe that forging productive and trusting relationships over time is how to get things done, so I have helped create non-partisan coalitions around the state and region for years as a member of the Arlington School Board. Building coalitions with very different people and interests coupled with an ability to think out of the box and be creative in addressing the major problems that face us AND persistence, is exactly what is needed for this position.

Question #2. On a related note, given the fact that there are only a handful of women in the Virginia General Assembly, and also given that two leading female Senators – Patsy Ticer and Mary Margaret Whipple – have announced their retirements, how important do you believe it is that another woman replace Patsy Ticer in this seat?

I do think it is important for a woman to replace women in the Virginia Senate and even to replace some men. Women are 50% of the population, but only about 20% of the senate at the moment, so there is simply an issue of equitable representation. Women tend to work differently than men and to more often seek compromise and work to build community rather than contribute to the sort of brinkmanship that so often leads nowhere. Virginia is 38th in the nation for percentage of women in the state legislature (Source) A legislature dominated by men has brought us: attacks on women’s health funding; attacks on immigrants; attacks on gays and lesbians; public schools that lack the means to properly educate our kids; a general lack of investment in the future for our citizens; and ever more partisan rhetoric. The voices of women in the legislature could help change the tone and the focus for the better in many ways. That said, I do not believe one should vote for a woman simply because she is a woman. In my own case, I also happen to be the best candidate. My being a woman simply strengthens that position and adds to what I can contribute.

Question #3. What three issues are you most passionate about and why? Also, what specifically have you done to further those issues?

Education is the key to success for individuals and for our economy. Good education makes life better for everyone. I have spent the last 14 years on the school board not only helping to make our own Arlington schools better for all our children, but also forming and working with ad hoc groups to improve education funding around the state and as the only school board member on the Governor’s P-16 Council which worked to improve education in the Commonwealth from preschool through higher education.

Sustainable economic growth is also the key to our future. We must invest in our transportation infrastructure and in the jobs of the future. While I have always supported this in the political candidates and advocacy groups I support, I have not yet had the opportunity to directly work on this issue.

A healthy natural environment is crucial for us all. Nature is one of the ways I connect with the spiritual in life. This is why I have supported school construction dollars to achieve LEED certification. We now have the first LEED certified school building in the state in Arlington as well as 2 gold LEED certified school buildings and are planning for more. It is important that the next generation appreciate the importance of our natural environment, so I have been instrumental in bringing school gardens and environmental awareness to our schools. The first school garden in Arlington was constructed and celebrated by the Abingdon School and the PTA when I was PTA president there in 1992. I have supported during my time on the school board enhancements to our science curriculum that help children understand climate change and the importance of what we do as individuals and a society to affect the environment. I also have supported the Outdoor Lab, which is a wonderful outdoor resource for our students, some of whom experience nature for the first time on a field trip to the Outdoor Lab. Finally, on a personal note, my husband’s career was with EPA. We and our children are part of a group of friends called Environmental Perspectives who have camped together and supported environmental protection for over 30 years. I have always supported candidates and organizations that protect the environment and, like many people, I make personal efforts to recycle and preserve resources.

Question #4. How would you describe yourself ideologically – “progressive,” “moderate,” “liberal,” or something else? How does your record of votes, endorsements, and other activities reflect your political ideology?

I am an independent Democrat, a social progressive and fiscal moderate who is a strong believer in the democratic process and good government. I have always worked for transparency in government as an elected official. We need as much transparency in government as possible so people see and understand what their elected officials are doing. Understanding political decisions can be boiled down to knowing the answers to three questions: what good? for whom? at what cost? The clearer the answers are for citizens, the better. I am not wedded to a political agenda but apply my values to each policy issue and opportunity to serve (see answer to # 8 below). Dedication to the welfare and benefit of my family, my community, my country, and public service in the interest of others, has been a hallmark of my public and private careers. My record of votes shows this and a commitment to seeing that everyone is treated well. Arlington Public Schools protects the rights of all employees and provides proper benefits to its workers. During my time on the board, we began providing health and retirement benefits to part time employees. We have instituted anti-bullying policies to see that all students feel safe at school.

Question #5. Who is your favorite and who is your least favorite Virginia politicians and why?

Senator Jim Webb is my favorite because he is clearly motivated by a sense of responsibility and duty to serve the Commonwealth, help those less fortunate than himself, and simply to do what is right. Campaigning for office was clearly very difficult for him, but he did it because it needed to be done and he learned how to do it well. He is intelligent and articulate. I do not agree with all his positions (eg. gun control), but I admire his work for veterans, prisoners, and good government.

Least favorite would be George Allen. He seems to have none of the traits I admire in Senator Webb.

Question #6. This year, Virginia politicians have been busy dividing up the Commonwealth into new legislative districts, with the clear #1 goal being incumbent protection. With that in mind, do you support nonpartisan redistricting as opposed to the system we have now? Also, if you had been a member of the State Senate this year, would you have voted to approve the plans drawn up behind closed doors by the politicians, or would you instead have fought to incorporate the bipartisan redistricting commission’s recommendations and/or the redistricting maps drawn up by university students?

I support the formation of a nonpartisan redistricting commission that would create districts that both hold communities together and allow for proper representation of a region based on shared ideals and needs, not districts intended to protect individual legislators. Nonpartisan redistricting is indeed\ shown to be supported by an overwhelming majority of the public and editorial writers, plus it simply leads to better representation and government for Virginia.

We must work to build the grassroots of the Virginia Democratic Party rather than rely on friendly district lines to promote our agenda. If a member of the VA Senate this year, I would have worked to incorporate the bipartisan redistricting commission’s recommendations and thoroughly reviewed the redistricting maps drawn up by university students.

Question #7. On the subject of transportation, three questions. First, if you had been in the State Senate this past session, would you have voted for HB 1998, a bill strongly opposed by “smart growth” and environmental group as encouraging sprawl and highway construction over public transit? Second, how do you propose paying for the tens of billions of dollars in transportation maintenance and improvements Virginia is estimated to require in coming years Finally, what are your thoughts on the BRAC relocation to the Mark Center in Alexandria, and most importantly, what should be done at this point about that impending transportation mess?

I would have opposed HB 1998 as passed by the House of Delegates. In many ways, the fast tracking of prioritized projects leads to the mistakes that led to the mess we’ve encountered at BRAC. Skipping vital steps like environmental impact studies leads to ineffective planning that may benefit construction companies, but create even more problems. On transportation in general, the legislature has for too long showed a lack of serious commitment to finding a dedicated funding source for road construction and relied on a funding formula that fails to meet the needs of Northern Virginia. I believe that we must start paying for what we need through an increase in the gas tax. It’s not popular, but I believe many more people would support an increase than we think if the trade-offs are clearly communicated to them. We also will need to look at other ways to increase revenue.

My stance on the placement of the BRAC facility at the Mark Center is well documented (see here) This building, and another BRAC facility at Ft. Belvoir, were rushed through and should never have been placed where they are in the first place. Once it was clear how devastating those buildings will be, elected officials should have gone to the mat to fight their  construction. The public would have been with them. In the case of the Mark Center, I’ve joined with Sen. Warner and Webb and Rep. Moran in demanding that the Defense Department hold off on fully staffing the BRAC facility until after Dec. 31st. However, officials and VDOT are now trying to skip the environmental impact study process in order to rush through construction on the proposed HOV ramp, which will only address a small number of the overall commuter population to the BRAC facility. The short-term fix is to find ways to limit the number of cars on the road and provide shuttle buses to move BRAC employees from nearby metro stations to the new facility. It is not at all clear that the roads will even function once those buildings open and reducing staffing may be found to be the only short term solution – there is no point in fully staffing a building if that means the employees cannot get to it. In the long term, we’ll have to find a way to more efficiently move tens of thousands of BRAC employees throughout the district, be that a commuter rail service, expanding Metro access to the immediate area or other methods of mass transit, including, for Ft. Belvoir, the use of ferries or water taxis on the Potomac.

Question #8. If you had been in the State Senate this past session, would you have voted “yea” or “nay” on Majority Leader Dick Saslaw’s bill, SB 1367 (motor vehicle title loans to nonresidents)? In general, if elected, would you always do what you believe is right or would you follow your leadership, even if you don’t agree with it?

I would have voted “nay” on the motor vehicle title loans legislation. These types of

loans are often pushed on low income recipients using contractual terms that are at

best obscure and at worst intentionally misleading with too large a burden placed on

recipients. I believe it is our job as legislators to put our constituents first, vote in their interests at all times and be unafraid to disagree with our own leadership, especially when an issue threatens our community. If you look at my political history in Arlington, you will see that I have not always been supported by the political leadership in the County. I believe this is because I have always done what I think is right for my constituents and not always done what the leadership has wanted. You can also see this in some of the candidates I have supported. I supported Jim Webb in the primary when most leaders were supporting Harris Miller. I supported Tim Kaine in the primary for Lieutenant Governor when most local leaders were supporting Del. Alan Diamonstein.

Question #9. What is your vision for Virginia’s energy future? For instance, if you are elected to the State Senate, will you push for legislation like Chap Petersen’s Clean Energy Future Act? Will you support any of the following: offshore oil drilling, natural gas “fracking,” uranium mining, new coal-fired power plants, mountaintop removal coal mining? If not, what will you do to fight against these things?

A healthy natural environment is crucial for us all. We must have clean air and water to survive. We must have parks and green areas to be human. And, in Virginia, our parks attract important tourist dollars to our state. I certainly would work for legislation that protects our environment and moves us to sustainable and renewable energy sources. This would be following in Senator Ticer’s footsteps as she has worked hard to protect the Chesapeake Bay. I would work against destruction of our natural

environment as I plan to work in the Senate on all issues (see # 11 below).

Question #10. Given that the 30th State Senate district is a solid “blue” district, and thus a “safe seat,” it is crucial that whoever is elected has a plan to help elect Democrats – preferably progressives – across Virginia. That includes fundraising, organizing volunteers, and maximizing turnout in the 30th for statewide and congressional elections. Do you agree with this vision for the State Senator from the 30th district, and if so, what exactly is your plan to accomplish it?

The Alexandria and Arlington Democratic Committees have both developed excellent plans for fundraising, organizing volunteers, and maximizing turnout in statewide and Congressional elections. I would work closely with them, contribute funds and ensure that a solid plan for moving voters in the 30th District is always in place. In addition, I would actively work to try to get the DPVA to implement statewide strategies similar to those that have been so successful in Arlington and Alexandria, recognizing that different techniques may be needed in different parts of the state, but also that every local committee in Virginia should be encouraged proactively to perform to its maximum potential. I think, however, it is always a mistake to assume any district is “safe” and I plan to work very hard in the general election once I am the nominee for the Democratic Party. Democrats should evaluate their choice in the upcoming primary in part on that person’s ability to win in November. Here, again, I believe I am the strongest candidate.

Question #11. Do you agree or disagree that Richmond is broken in many ways – for instance, the tremendous influence of money and lobbyists on legislation – and needs major reform? If elected to the State Senate, would your general attitude be more “go along, get along” or “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 and powerful special interests?

I’ve never been afraid to “shake things up,” but I try to be as gentle as possible because one “catches more flies with honey than with vinegar,” and if you just shake things up, you can end up with nothing more than a big mess. There have been times when I have “shaken things up” as when I first ran for school board in Arlington. However, bringing about real change requires an in-depth understanding of all the forces and players at work. It also requires patience and hard work over time so that as many players as possible see that there is a problem and a need for change. Then they must feel they have an active role in creating the solution and see how change will benefit them. I used this technique in getting support to build two of our high schools in Arlington. At first the two communities were rivals for scarce dollars. I brought them together and we all worked out a plan for mutual support so that the two communities lobbied for funding for first one and then the other school. By working together, both communities were better able to achieve their goals. It took some time and effort to make that clear to all involved, but the network approach was much better than simply “fighting.”

I want change, but I want to be effective at bringing about that change. It is not as simple as shaking things up, but it requires maturity, patience and a commitment to finding common ground. The influence of money on our politics is a major threat to our democracy. If money is allowed to determine who our leaders are, very few people will benefit. Everyone who will not benefit needs to understand that, and we need to find solutions that most people do not find threatening to their own interests.

Finally, I think we need to find a word besides “fight” to describe the work that must be done in the legislature. As I’ve indicated, the work that is needed is building networks over time, working to find common ground, persistence, an understanding of the many constituencies in the Commonwealth, humility and a sense of humor. It’s hard and difficult work. It is not glamorous and it is a lot more challenging than the word “fight” would indicate. This is how I plan to work… and “fight.”

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