Local Commentary

Senator Dick Saslaw’s Richmond Report

saslaw-fcnpThe national spotlight has once again been turned on the Commonwealth. We are one of two states in the nation that will be electing a new governor, lt. governor and attorney general. Despite all the media coverage, millions of dollars in direct mail, and a plethora of polls that have allegedly surveyed thousands of voters, many Virginians are still not aware that we have an off-year election next week. Nearly 80 percent of eligible Virginians voted in the presidential election in 2016. The Board of Elections is forecasting about a 50 percent turnout of eligible voters that will determine Virginia’s future leadership.

We have a lot to be proud of as Virginians. We are turning the corner on the fallout of Sequestration with an unemployment rate of 3.7 percent. There are growing opportunities for workers of all ages with the right skills – from cybersecurity to health care and many more fields. Academia, including high schools, community colleges, and universities are creating pathways for credentials and degrees. However, there are key issues Virginians should be paying attention to before they vote next week.

People remain concerned about the opportunity our children have for a world-class education. Classroom teachers deserve to be paid in a manner that incentivizes them to step up to the challenge of instilling the skills necessary for success. It is clearly arguable that the state is not fulfilling its fair share in support of public education, from K-12 through higher education. Without appropriate investments to deliver a high caliber education that fosters employable skills, success eludes us. Ralph Northam, Justin Fairfax, and Mark Herring are the clear choices when it comes to their support of public education.

Fresh from the latest massacre perpetrated on American soil by an American, the call for prayers for the victims and families have been sounded and Congress has gone silent on the subject. The NRA took a week off before they have filled the airwaves in support of the Republican ticket. Northam has treated the wounded in combat zones. Former prosecutor Fairfax and Attorney General Herring have worked hard to keep Virginians safe. They all bring the personal experience to have the conversation on what is public safety as well as gun ownership.

Adding hours to one’s commute due to gridlock is a waste of precious time that could be spent with family and friends. I served with Northam and Herring who supported this bipartisan effort. Fairfax’s opponent voted against the Transportation Act of 2013, which has funded and delivered 28 projects in our region. Prior to HB2313, it had been more than 25 years since we addressed funding for transportation. You don’t have to look far for a better example than the current state of Metro when identifying neglect. Fixing that system (which takes cars off the road and gets people to work and back) will require bold leadership. It takes courage to be a leader with a vision to serve Virginians with workable solutions. Northam, Fairfax and Herring will do the right thing.

The attempts to “repeal and replace” affordable health care for hundreds of thousands of Virginians, impacts even those of us with health insurance. Our local hospital systems provide millions in emergency care annually — the most expensive treatment available. For years we have tried to expand Medicaid in the Commonwealth for some 400,000 people. This has been rejected at the cost of nearly $1 billion annually. What successful business would leave so much money on the table with total disregard for the cost of healthcare for its employees, who are tax paying Virginians? Let me be perfectly clear, I’d much rather find the solution to this issue with Northam, Fairfax and Herring than the other ticket.

We’ve had several weeks of the most distorted and convoluted outreach coming at us around the clock. Some of the accusations are simply outrageous, not to mention insulting to our intelligence. I ask you to sift through the muck and cast your vote for civil, thoughtful leadership for Virginians. Please join me in voting for Ralph Northam, Justin Fairfax, and Mark Herring. Let’s keep moving in a positive direction.



Senator Saslaw represents the 35th District in the Virginia State Senate. He may be emailed at district35@senate.virginia.gov.