Local Commentary

Delegate Simon’s Richmond Report

simon-mug4webOne of the foremost issues of our time is the rapid erosion of faith and trust in our fundamental American institutions.

We are hearing from more and more Virginians that the system is rigged for the benefit of wealthy and powerful interests, and that there is no meaningful opportunity for an individual to be an agent of change with the hope of improving their own lot in life. I don’t pretend to have all the answers to solving this problem, but I do know that in Virginia, the General Assembly is a good place to start.

Here in the Commonwealth we have lots of room for improvement. In Virginia, it’s too easy to feel like your vote for Delegate doesn’t count, because a district was drawn so safely that the incumbent only has to answer to a few members of the local party committee to stay “safe” in the seat.

It’s easy to feel like your letters, phone calls, and postcards don’t matter nearly as much as the tens of thousands of dollars pouring into the campaign accounts of incumbent legislators in a state where we don’t have limits on campaign contributions. Any person, corporation, company, or legal entity can contribute any amount of money and recipients are free to spend the money on themselves and their families.

It’s easy to feel like the whole system is corrupt when you read about elected officials driving around in Ferraris, wearing Rolex watches, and flying on private planes to Augusta for the Master’s – all on someone else’s dime, someone who wants to curry favor for their client or their company.

I ran for office to continue the good works of my predecessor, Jim Scott, and to also have the opportunity to work to improve people’s lives. This can be done most effectively when we trust the government to do its job. One way to ensure that trust is to have free and fair elections by unrigging the political system that depends on gerrymandering and campaign finance rules that give outsized influence to map-makers and mega-contributors.

For my part, I pride myself on earning more support from small individual donors than from corporations or PACs. Since 2014, I’ve introduced legislation every year to address the most obvious (and, in my view, embarrassing) issue — candidates legally converting campaign contributions to personal use.

And every year there is a new justification for not passing it — the language is too broad, the language is too narrow, or do we really need this? I’ve also introduced legislation to prohibit all corporations from contributing to state political campaigns.
More recently we’ve come to learn that foreign powers are working hard to erode our confidence in the integrity not just of the electoral process, but the process of counting our cast ballots as well.

That’s only the latest assault, though, on our election system. For years certain communities have had their vote systematically suppressed through unnecessary laws requiring unexpired government issued photo ID at the polls with no discretion for election chiefs to simply say — I know that person, they are my neighbor.

We have limited the ability to vote early in Virginia, and have artificial and arbitrary deadlines to register to vote. I am an advocate for no excuse absentee voting, vote by mail pilot programs, increasing the time frame for absentee voting, automatic voter registration, and same day registration.

Your continued support means a lot to me. It’s imperative that we have faith in the institutions of a Government that is of the people, by the people and for the people. Should I win my reelection on November 7th, you can trust that I will continue to work for you and your families, our community – for all of us.

Delegate Simon represents the 53rd District in the Virginia House of Delegates. He may be emailed at DelMSimon@house.virginia.gov