Local Commentary

Senator Dick Saslaw’s Richmond Report

In just a few short weeks, the November elections will be history. That’s the good news. If you’re reading this, I’d say you are likely an engaged voter. Virginia finds itself with significant elections each and every year. This often leads to voter fatigue. To minimize that, the General Assembly passed the VA Voting Rights Act. Unlike states with Republican legislative majorities attempting to disenfranchise voters, we chose to facilitate the right to cast a ballot in Virginia.
The measure we passed eliminated the need for an “excuse” to vote early. It also legitimized ballot drop boxes for absentee voters. In-person voting will continue without having to see a gun inside the polls. Additionally, Election Day is now an official state holiday. This legislation was a positive take away from the pandemic.


Over the course of my tenure, I have served under 12 governors – men from both sides of the aisle. Some clearly stood out for their vision and their leadership. Terry McAuliffe ranks high on my list of compassionate and capable governors. He has a proven track record necessary to rebuild our economy and get all Virginians back to work. This is important for business and working families — an environment that keeps food on the table through effective business policy. A robust economy allows the Commonwealth to make strategic investments in our children, workforce, and infrastructure. It also is a critical component of keeping taxes low because of a Triple-A bond rating from S&P.


I’ve long championed public education. If we are to achieve equity for all students regardless of zip code, we must start early. Pre-K through 12 education is a smart investment for a positive long-term return. Our community colleges and public universities are playing essential roles building the workforce for tomorrow. Massive student debt is the result of starving higher education. Keeping tuition low should not mean a second-rate education for Virginians in our state colleges and universities.


As Majority Leader, I am following the statewide elections closely. After the crushing blow Covid-19 inflicted in our communities, on our economy, and the critical need to access healthcare, who to vote for should be an easy choice. Terry McAuliffe doesn’t need on the job training during the recovery, unlike his opponent, who clearly is struggling with the very fundamentals of the legislative process and budgeting. I couldn’t be any clearer about why VA has a surplus or the due diligence we did to keep the Commonwealth operating in the black the past 18 months. Bear in mind, federal relief money was one-time funding. It will not be available down the road. Additionally, unlike the federal government, Virginia does not print money or operate at a deficit.


Simply put, I ask your vote for Terry McAuliffe, Hala Ayala, and Mark Herring. Virginia’s future depends on forward thinking leaders. Trying to overturn policy and deplete state resources is not forward looking. “Back to the Future” was a fun movie. But public policy and fiscal responsibility shouldn’t be based on the “good old days.”
The Redistricting Commission is on a tight timeline to complete its mission. In my experience, redrawing legislative districts is always a challenge and often disruptive to communities. This year, we have the added issue of receiving delayed census data with questionable accuracy. In the absence of the Commission coming together on the priorities for the process, it is likely the final product will come from the courts.


I encourage you to stay alert and use caution when out and about. This pandemic is not yet in the rear-view mirror and continues to take its toll. While there may be breakthrough cases among the vaccinated, over 90 percent of the hospitalizations and deaths during this current surge are unvaccinated victims. Last month, Governor Northam nailed it when he advised those individuals to think about their obituaries. The data is undeniable and science is our friend during this medical emergency.

Senator Saslaw represents the 35th District in the Virginia State Senate. He may be emailed at [email protected]