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Minchew, Democratic candidates field questions at LWV forum; LaRock a no-show

Gun control and health care were among the lead topics three candidates competing for House of Delegates seats tackled at a forum held by The League of Women Voters of Loudoun County on Tuesday.

The two candidates for the 10th District, incumbent Del. Randy Minchew (R) and Clarke County Democrat Wendy Gooditis fielded questions along with Democrat Tia Walbridge from Round Hill, who is running in the 33rd District. The 33rd District incumbent, Del. Dave LaRock (R), who was first elected to the house in 2013 and won the 2015 election with just under 60 percent of the vote, did not attend.

Both the 10th and 33rd districts cover portions of Loudoun, Clarke and Frederick counties.

Each candidate was asked by The League of Women Voters, a non-partisan organization, to give a two-minute introductory speech to a packed room of local residents at the Rust Library in Leesburg.

Gooditis, a Realtor and longtime educator, said she was running because she believes all levels of government should be clear and transparent.

“There are a lot of issues I think are very important, but the one that seems the most urgent is health care,” Gooditis said.

Minchew, who has served in the House of Delegates since 2011, winning the 2015 election with just over 62 percent of the vote, focused on transportation in his opening remarks. He highlighted his track record in “finding real solutions.”

“In the past six years more has been done for transportation than has been done in the last 25 years,” Minchew said.

In her introductory speech, Walbridge, a farmer and small business owner, said she lived in an “amazing district” with strong job opportunities that still retains a rural feel.

“I don't see this vision for Clarke County being represented in Richmond,” Walbridge said.

Gun control, particularly in the wake of the Oct. 1 Las Vegas shooting, was the first topic open for discussion and fielded a large number of questions submitted by the audience.

“When is the right time to discuss gun control?” and “What policies at the state level could be proposed with the aim of reducing a mass shooting?” were two questions put forward to the candidates by moderator and Loudoun Times-Mirror Managing Editor Trevor Baratko.

Walbridge spoke about using firearms to protect her livestock, but how as a mother of two young girls, her guns were kept safely away. She said she would like to see the so-called gun-show loophole closed.

“There are certainly acts we can do now,” Walbridge said. “People sell things out of trucks at gun shows in car parking lots. That's how people who are not licensed to have them, have them.”

“I worry about guns. We have seen them used in schools, churches and concerts. We have a way to go in ensuring gun safety,” Gooditis said. She went on to say there were some safeguards that could happen immediately.

“We can prevent guns from getting into the hands of those with a record of violence or domestic abuse. We could do that now,” she said.

Minchew said he would like to see the results of the Las Vegas investigation and what led to the tragedy.

“The Second Amendment is part of our Bill of Rights. We are currently in a mourning period,” Minchew said. “What law could we have passed? … He had no prior convictions … How did he come into possession of automatic weapons?”

The conversation then moved on to what each candidate would like to see brought into law “if they had a magic wand.”

Gooditis said she would like to see improvements in mental health and substance abuse treatment. Using underused properties to create safe places where people could stay while they were undergoing treatment – rather than putting them in jail and costing tax payers money – was an idea put forward by Gooditis.

Walbridge said she would like the amount of money invested in education restored back to pre-recession levels.

Minchew said he didn't have just one particular thing, but noted he would like to find ways to finance Metro, slated to arrive in Loudoun County in 2020.

“Metro is facing a severe deficit in funding,” Minchew said. “I'm worried Loudoun County is on the hook. There is not enough sustainable funding for it.”

The topic of Metro was then discussed further with the candidates asked if they supported a tax increase to fund it.

Walbridge said more pressure should be put on the federal budget to help pay any shortfall.

“Metro is here, like it or not,” she said. “We need to be sure we are getting out of it what we need. It will get tourists out to to my area.”

Gooditis agreed more federal support was needed.

Minchew said he wouldn't support a tax increase and “the federal government needs to come to the table.”

What steps could be taken to improve rural broadband was also discussed.

“It is vital we improve this for our kids and our businesses,” Gooditis said.

Minchew spoke about the legislation he's been involved with that has improved broadband, bringing faster connection to four hundred miles in the commonwealth, although not including Loudoun County to date.

Walbridge said slower broadband affects businesses ability to compete and spoke of the problem of getting more companies to bring in the cable because of cost.

Loudoun County's bid to attract Amazon was next on the table with the question, “Do you support tax incentives to bring Amazon?”

“I would love to see a company like that come here. The trick is don't offer up so many tax incentives,” Walbridge said. “Affordable housing might be a problem,” she added.

“I don't see a reason to turn away a company as big as Amazon,” Gooditis said. “With Metro coming we will be better poised to handle a larger community,” she added.

“I don't support using taxpayer's dollars to lure people into the county,” said Minchew. “We'd love to have a great company like Amazon. I'm not sure I'm in favor of paying tax dollars as an incentive.”


Route 15 and how to tackle its congestion problems was the next topic touched on.

Minchew began by referring to the route as “a horribly congested road.” He spoke about more roundabouts as possible solutions, but said he wasn't ready to support four lanes north of Leesburg.

Gooditis said she had spoken to landowners north of Leesburg who were concerned about widening the road.

“Roundabouts could well be the answer,” she said. “I agree with Del. Minchew.”

Walbridge suggested re-implementing rumble strips.

“It's a huge safety issue not having them,” she said. “I think it needs to be thought out, with a solution all the way to Maryland.”

The next question focused on increasing taxes on agricultural structures in order to raise revenue.

“If barns are going to be used for functions, like weddings, we need some revenue from that,” Walbridge said. “I would like to see a differentiation in tax codes between one barn and another -- a barn filled with hay shouldn't be seen in the same way.”

Gooditis said she didn't think agricultural buildings should be taxed as heavily.

Minchew said his first reaction to learning the county was considering taxing things like chicken coops was “someone needs to get a life.”

“If it is an agricultural barn, then let it go. If it is being used as a wedding chapel or for functions, then it maybe not an agricultural structure and should be taxed,” he said.

The candidates were then asked to name one area of people's lives governments should steer clear of and one area where they should help.

Minchew was the first to answer, focusing on his belief in limited government. “As government powers grow, taxes grow and liberties become less,” he said. “Government should do more to fix our roads,” he added.

“The government should stay out of women's health issues,” Gooditis said. “Our health is an issue to be discussed between ourselves and our doctors. Medicare should be expanded, providing more Virginians with insurance.”

Walbridge focused on the government doing good via its involvement in education.

“The government is creating and maintaining an excellent public school system. I don't think the government has any place telling LGBQT people how they should live their lives, it should stay out of these issues,” Walbridge added.

Ways to strengthen Virginia's ethic laws was next on the agenda.

“I think we need me as a state legislator,” Gooditis said. “I think people need to know how legislators vote without hours of looking it up.”

Walbridge said she believed transparency has improved and mentioned how committee sessions in Richmond is now recorded and the public can see who has killed a bill.

“I'm a member of the community,” Walbridge said. “I think it deserves a member of the community to represent them.”

Minchew is the chairman of the House Ethics Subcommittee in Richmond and spoke about improvements made in terms of transparency.

“The subcommittee has put caps on gifts and increased disclosure,” he said.

The last topic to be addressed was whether local jurisdictions should have decision-making powers over Confederate statues.

Minchew answered first. “The Board of Supervisors voted not to expand authority to have that authority,” he said. “Our history is best understood if we look at it in a brutally honest way.”

Gooditis said she believed localities should have the authority to decide the future of Confederate statues “whether they have asked for it, or not.”

“I would love to see them in a museum,” she added.

Walbridge agreed with Gooditis that local jurisdictions should have the authority. “Many of these statues were put up during the Jim Crow era as a form of intimidation. They belong in a place where they can be enjoyed as historical statues, they are more appropriate standing in a battle field as opposed to in front of a courthouse,” she said.

Virginia voters head to the polls Nov. 7 to cast ballots for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and state delegates.

Comments


“We can prevent guns from getting into the hands of those with a record of violence or domestic abuse. We could do that now,” she said.

HOW?  Some with a record of violence or domestic abuse has already shown that they do not respect the laws or the people around them.


“We can prevent guns from getting into the hands of those with a record of violence or domestic abuse. We could do that now,” she said.

HOW?


Randy Minchew works for the developers; of course he advocates for the bridge.  They are undoubtedly funding his efforts. Yuk.


Minchew says we don’t have the money but lets add a bridge to the 6 year plan. Do you here your taxes going up, a new gas tax more tolls that’s is what Minchew will do for you because he and Ron Meyers know what is the best way to spend your money!


Election time brings around claims and promises that these mighty guys will change the world.  Drain the swamp and bring in the fresh faces.

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