Dozens of county supervisors gathered in Fredericksburg last week for the 2018 County Officials’ Summit, hosted by the Virginia Association of Counties (VACo). With the November election approaching, VACo invited incumbent Senator Tim Kaine and his opponent, Prince William County Board Chairman Corey Stewart, to speak to the group. Their appearances were not a debate; Senator Kaine spoke at the beginning of the morning session; Chairman Stewart spoke at the end of the session, with an analysis of the upcoming federal election by former political science professor, Dr. Bob Holsworth, between speakers.
Senator Kaine began his remarks by focusing on the Pledge of Allegiance, especially the last two words “for all.” He noted that it could have been easy for the author, Rev. Francis Bellamy, to end the pledge “with liberty and justice,” but adding “for all” gave the pledge special significance for every person. “If the pledge isn’t working for all, then it’s not working,” Senator Kaine said. As he spoke, some attendees seemed to be repeating the pledge silently, to reinforce the tenets of words many of us say almost daily.
In his presentation, done without notes, Senator Kaine said his goal is a “Virginia that works for all,” and that includes broadband infrastructure investments. Just as bringing electricity was vital to rural areas in the l930s and 40s, so, too, is expanding broadband today. Closing the digital divide ensures that all Virginia communities can compete in the 21st century economy. Senator Kaine pointed out that the online marketplace needs transportation for delivery; all those goods ordered online probably will come to your home or office by truck – using road and rail infrastructure! A sales tax on online purchases could help pay for that infrastructure, he added.
Career and technical education is another timely issue. Many current jobs do not require a four-year college degree, and Senator Kaine said that respect for skills in the trades needs to be raised. He recommended that middle school is not too early to begin introducing career and technical education to students who are beginning to think about their future opportunities. He said that he learned welding and ironworking in his father’s Midwestern business, and taught the same skills to youth in Honduras when he was a college student.
An awkward moment preceded Corey Stewart’s speech, as he was distracted by other conversations, and apparently didn’t hear his introduction. So the emcee repeated it! Mr. Stewart also supports universal broadband, but said he was not ready to answer the online taxation question. He also said he doesn’t believe in gun-free school zones, supporting the idea of armed guards, such as school resource officers and retired police officers. He also expressed concern about drugs coming across the U.S.-Mexico border, and said a wall would help combat that, the only time he mentioned programs touted by the Trump Administration.
There were no fireworks at Thursday’s presentations, but the analysis, leadership, and expertise of Senator Tim Kaine, honed as city council member, mayor, governor, senator, (and vice presidential candidate), made him a clear favorite, among the bipartisan crowd, to merit re-election on Nov. 6.
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at [email protected]