Candidate Forums – what was said?

Candidates at Wednesday’s event

If you missed the League candidate forums on Wednesday and Thursday this week, you can read up on the coverage from the Gazette.

The article text is also included below.

Local candidates pitch their experience and vision to voters

By Jack Jacobs

Staff writer

James City County — Incumbents touted accomplishments and argued their experience made them well-suited to continue service, while challengers called for change and said they’re the best to make it happen during a candidates meet-and-greet event Thursday.

The candidates’ shared public appearance at the James City County government complex came as the second of two candidate meet-and-greets this month ahead of the Nov. 5 elections.

The event featured brief remarks by each of the candidates vying for Williamsburg-area offices and an opportunity for handshakes and one-on-one discussions with audience members afterward.

Sen. Tommy Norment, R-James City County, touted his years of experience, accomplishments and seniority in the Senate in his argument on why he should be reelected.

Norment has been in the Senate since 1992. He said he’s been a driving force in containing the cost of public education and making Virginia a top state for business while in the Senate. He carried the legislation that recently delivered tax relief checks for Virginians. He noted he’s been able to work himself up to powerful positions — he’s the senate majority leader and co-chairman of the chamber’s finance committee — and has built relationships on both sides of the aisle.

“I have been able to lead, I have been able to deliver, and I would welcome your support and opportunity to continue to do that,” he said.

Trevor Herrin, the Republican candidate for the Roberts District seat on the James City County Board of Supervisors, said the county had faltered in business and job creation, affordable housing needs and oversight of development.

“This board has spent a great deal of time and money developing a comprehensive plan four years ago, and four years later we have failed to make much progress on that plan,” Herrin said.

If elected, Herrin would work to tackle those problems. He would work to make the county more business friendly, and said job creation is a priority. Herrin felt the county needs more affordable housing options for residents and that more should be done to preserve rural and historic lands.

The seat’s Democratic incumbent, Supervisor John McGlennon, painted a different picture of the county. He noted that in his tenure on the board, he’s worked successfully to improve the county and would look to continue his work if reelected.

”I’ve served on the Board of Supervisors for a while and I take great pride in what we’ve built,” he said.

McGlennon noted the county earned AAA bond ratings from all three major national rating agencies during his time in office. The county has also seen its parks and recreational department thrive. McGlennon said the county faces challenges related to population growth, but that he has a track record of weighing rezoning requests and questions of development carefully.

He also cast himself as an advocate for the community on the state level, too, saying he worked to encourage the changes to the Historic Triangle sales tax bill that excluded groceries from the tax.

Sean Gormus, an Independent candidate for Williamsburg-James City County sheriff, wants to emphasize community engagement if elected.

Gormus has a background in the community side of policing thanks to his time as a school resource officer in James City County Police Department.

He said the sheriff’s office can do more than its current duties providing security in the courthouse and other tasks.

He voiced an interest in community outreach such as a mentorship program, and also felt the sheriff’s office should be more present at community events and should make itself more available to support local police departments in crisis situations.

“I feel like there’s so much more that our community deserves,” Gormus said.

David Hardin is also running for Williamsburg-James City County sheriff, and he said experience would be key to success.

He has that experience as the office’s chief deputy and already has some familiarity with the duties of the office’s top job.

Hardin, a Republican, said law enforcement out in the community is handled well enough already by local police departments. He cast himself as a driving force behind the force’s accreditation and would work to maintain that if elected.

“We will continue to serve the citizens in our community,” he said.

Gerald Mitchell, a Democratic contender for Williamsburg-James City County sheriff, would work to do more community outreach and provide greater transparency if elected.

The military policeman noted his leadership experience, both in small units and precincts. He said more training for deputies would be a focus if elected.

“I’m certain that we can, and that we will, do better,” Mitchell said.

Sheriff Danny Diggs wants to continue to serve as boss of York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Office. He pointed to his years of experience in the job and accomplishments in that time as to why he should continue to be sheriff.

Diggs, a Republican, was elected sheriff in 1999.

He said that though York County’s population is up, crime is down, and that the community seems happy with how things are going. He said he has worked hard to maintain the agency’s accreditation and noted the variety of community outreach programs the agency offers.

“I enjoy serving as your sheriff and my deputies want to me to continue serving as sheriff,” Diggs said.

Scott Williams, who has experience in various roles as a Newport News police officer, wants to bring what he described as a culture change to the York-Poquoson sheriff’s office, one firmly rooted in community policing.

If elected, Williams would work to make deputies more of a presence in the community beyond doing the work of law enforcement. He said he would bring the public more fully into conversations about the agency’s future.

“I want to change the culture to a proactive, community-policing law enforcement agency,” Williams said.

The League of Women Voters of the Williamsburg Area and the Greater Williamsburg Chamber and Tourism Alliance sponsored the event.

Jack Jacobs,

757-298-6007,

jojacobs@vagazette.com,

@jajacobs_

Candidates talk policy and with voters at meet-and-greet

Seven candidates participated in an informal meet-and-greet at Williamsburg Regional Library before meeting attendees later on. (Madeline Monroe/staff)

By Madeline Monroe

Staff writer

WILLIAMSBURG — Local candidates talked policy and cracked jokes at a meet-and-greet with voters Wednesday evening at Williamsburg Regional Library.

Seven candidates running for state and local offices spoke to a group of about 100 people at the first of two events sponsored by the League of Women Voters of the Williamsburg Area and Greater Williamsburg Tourism and Chamber Alliance Business Council.

The night started with candidates introducing themselves before discussing policy.

Third Senate District Democratic candidate Herb Jones said his opponent had not taken care of resident’s healthcare needs, particularly for firefighters and first responders with cancer. For 96th House of Delegates District Democratic candidate Mark Downey, his experience as a physician led him to believe that mental health care services should be expanded.

“When I first started my practice, about 10% of my practice was mental health care,” he said. “Now it’s about 30%.”

Highlighting his record on Medicaid expansion, 93rd House of Delegates Democratic incumbent Mike Mullin praised Medicaid’s new enrollment of 330,000 low-income Virginians as an accomplishment.

“It’s making sure that almost 3,000 people here in the 93rd district have access to a doctor,” he said.

While talking with small business owners, 96th district Republican candidate Amanda Batten said they have trouble finding affordable health care for themselves.

As she knocked on doors to talk with constituents, Batten said she also learned that taxes which did not provide a perceived return on investment, such as the tourism tax, were viewed unfavorably.

“The widening of Interstate 64 is something where folks feel like they are receiving that return (from taxes),” she said.

For 93rd House of Delegates district Republican candidate Heather Cordasco, she said her goal is to make Virginia more business friendly and less taxing on constituents if elected.

“We must make sure that we keep our rainy day fund funded when times are good so that we can meet our promises and our responsibilities without immediately going to raise taxes,” she said.

On the topic of education, ensuring access to early childhood education should be a priority, Downey said.

“If people have a good foundation, then they’re less likely to drop out of school and more likely to attain higher education levels and be more successful adults,” he said.

In Mullin’s statement, he focused on raising pay for teachers. While he helped pass a 5% pay raise for teachers this year, he said legislators need to keep going. “We need to continue to at least get to the national average and hopefully exceed it.”

An advocate of common-sense gun reform, Mullin mentioned his co-sponsorship of universal background checks. Downey said addressing the link between mental health and gun deaths from suicide should also be a priority through red-flag laws. For Jones, nothing has been done to reduce gun violence in Virginia.

“Nothing has happened since Virginia Tech, and we had another incident (in Virginia Beach) this year.”

York County’s 1st District Board of Supervisors candidates discussed their backgrounds and spoke on local issues relating to education, inclusion, the economy, safety and York’s progress in those areas.

Challenging six-term Republican incumbent Walt Zaremba is Democratic candidate Dalila Johnson. After graduating high school in Colombia, South America, she came to the United States and enlisted in the U.S. Navy before working in banking.

“What we do here for the next couple of years, 10 years, is going to affect all of us,” she said.

As another veteran, Zaremba thanked Johnson for her service and noted his extensive service in the U.S. Army before he earned his law degree in 1992. Zaremba pointed to York’s achievements in education and safety and the county’s low tax rate during his tenure as supervisor.

“I still have spirit and desire and love for York County citizens to be their Board of Supervisor (representative) again,” he said.

Later in the evening, candidates mingled with citizens to discuss issues they cared about.

Cordasco, who voiced support for creating pathways for alternative education, said that at the meet-and-greet she had some conversations about her role in workforce development.

“I had someone come up to meet and didn’t know I was the one who brought Manufacturing Day to the county (schools),” she said.

When asked by a retired college professor if there was any one thing that he could fix, Jones responded that he would address issues in education. “I think early childhood education is key.”

Attendees approached Johnson about an idea she had shared to help make her district less isolated by creating a citizens’ council, she said, which would gather community leaders to solve problems alongside supervisors and make informing members of her district easier.

Madeline Monroe,

madeline.monroe

@virginiamedia.com

Chris Piper to speak at the annual meeting today!

Voters voting in polling place

LWV-Williamsburg Area Fall Reception is today, September 19 at 4:30 p.m. at Legacy Hall in New Town.
Speaker: Chris Piper, Virginia Department of Elections Commissioner. Hear the latest on election integrity in Virginia.
Our program BEGINS promptly at 4:30 p.m., so please arrive a bit early.
Wine & Cheese Reception will follow. No cost. New and interested members welcome.
If you are coming, don’t forget to RSVP by clicking here.

What does the League do?

We thought about what we’ve been up to the past year and wanted to share it with you. The League pursues non-partisan political work that educates voters and supports our community.

Voter Service

  • The League’s Voter Registration team attended a June 14, 2018, Flag Day Naturalization Ceremony, registering new citizens as voters.
  • The President wrote a formal letter to Virginia Elections Commissioner Chris Piper in June 2018, regarding League’s concern about mapping errors resulting in numerous voters being incorrectly assigned to the wrong polling places in the 2017 election.
  • Our Voter Education team distributed over 500 copies of Facts for Voters, a flyer listing names and contact information for all elected officials in James City County, Williamsburg, and York County as well as top officials in the Commonwealth.  Also included is information on voter registration.
  • Active Voter Registration volunteers visited high schools, community colleges, and senior residences in the early fall in preparation for November 2018 election, repeating these efforts again in the spring to register additional students.

Civic Education

  • 270 subscribers, both League and community members, participated in our Great Decisions, our signature foreign affairs lecture series, with topics on: Cyber Conflicts and Geopolitics; Nuclear Negotiations; US-Mexico Partnership; Regional Disorder in the Middle East; Rise of Populism in Europe; US-China Trade; State of US Diplomacy; Refugees and Global Migration.  The 8 lectures were presented on Tuesday mornings in February and March 2019.
  • Gun Violence Prevention event on May 13, 2019, attended by 58 members and friends, featured an update on the status of various legislative initiatives to curb gun violence and increase gun safety.
Lori Haas of
The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence
  • League presented public panel on January 24, 2019, discussing “Medicaid: Bridging the Cost of Health Care,” that included 4 healthcare professionals, economists, and community agency heads.
  • A dozen League members attended an April 26 Legislative Wrap-up Session hosted by the Greater Williamsburg Chamber & Tourism Alliance and featuring comments by Senator Monty Mason and Delegate Brenda Pogge.

Advocacy

  • On October 3, The Virginia Gazette, published the League President’s substantive commentary articulating the League’s mission and commitment to Voter Education.  The article called for civic and political involvement and urged informed voting in the midterm elections.  The timing of this article was prompted by the fact that the League was unable to host traditional pre-election Candidate Forums lacking the required participation of all candidates for each position. 
  • Launched Advocacy and Action groups on Election Integrity, Gun Safety Legislative Reform, and Civics Education in fall 2018.
  • President Schilling spoke in support of the Equal Rights Amendment at a January 9, 2019, meeting of the James City County Board of Supervisors.
  • At the May 2019 LWV-VA Convention, our League was awarded Third Place in the Advocacy Competition, measuring the number of individual advocacy initiatives based on membership size.  This is the second year we have placed third out of 13 Leagues across the Commonwealth.
  • League members joined students and community members for the March 23 March to End Gun Violence, hearing remarks by students, elected officials, and other community organizers for sensible gun reform.

Membership Events

  • Seven members (6 Board) attended the LWV-VA Council Meeting on June 16, 2018, in Henrico, with information shared on state positions and other priorities.
  • League President, Vice President, and Immediate Past President attended the July 2018 Biennial LWVUS Convention in Chicago, among 1,000 members from across the country.
  • W&M President Katherine Rowe spoke to 150 members and guests at our Fall Reception at Legacy Hall on October 10, 2018.
  • Twenty-three members attended the LWV-VA Fall Workshop Day at Colonial Williamsburg Conference Center on September 8, 2018, were who participated in training on advocacy strategies.
  • Fifteen members participated in the W&M Homecoming Parade on October 19, 2018, riding in a red convertible and marching, carrying banners celebrating W&M’s 100 years of admission of women and encouraging parade viewers to vote in November 6 Midterm Election in an effort to Empower Voters, Defend Democracy.
  • On November 10, 2018, 12 members attended opening day at Tenacity: Women in Jamestown and Early Virginia at the Jamestown Settlement museum.
League Members at the Tenacity exhibit at Jamestown Settlement
  • Four members attended the November 19, 2018,all-day symposium on the Equal Rights Amendment, featuring law school faculty, elected officials and others.
  • Sixteen members attended the LWV-VA December 5, 2018, Pre-session Roundtable in Richmond to hear speakers, lobbyists and representatives of non-profits who highlighted upcoming proposed bills in 2019 General Assembly.
  • Seventy-five members attended the annual Holiday Reception at Schilling home on December 6, 2018.
  • On January 19, 2019, members participated in an ERA Women’s March on DOG Street, featuring elected officials and non-profit speakers, with League members marching and carrying LWV-WA and ERA banners.
  • From January 31, 2013 to January 31, 2019, our League doubled in membership, from 100 to 200.  Current membership is at 232 — and still growing.
  • Our League was the most consistent League with the largest number of members participating in the Women’s Legislative Roundtable. The six Wednesday morning sessions during General Assembly featured Delegates and non-profit lobbyists discussing bills being forwarded through committees and to the floors of the House and the Senate.  League members sitting in the Senate gallery were recognized at League Day, February 6, 2019.
  • Our April 4, 2019 New Member Orientation Reception at Schilling’s home drew 17 of our newest members to learn more about the League from Board members and to get acquainted with one another.
  • Eleven Voting Delegates and 3 Observers participated in the May 17-19, 2019, LWV-VA Convention in Norfolk with outstanding speakers and breakout sessions, bringing together Leaguers from across the Commonwealth.

The April 2019 newsletter is here, & we’ve been busy!

Mary Schilling, President
Empowering Voters. Defending Democracy.

While it’s easy to get discouraged these days, there have been some positive signs of responsible engagement in the challenging issues of the day. Our League consistently was well represented at the weekly Women’s Legislative Roundtables during General Assembly. Each week also included opportunities to meet with our Delegates and Senators to advocate on legislation on which the we have League positions.

Don Shilling (left) and Mary Schilling & Bobbi Falquet (right) welcome former ambassadors Nancy Ely- Raphel and Thomas Pickering to Great Decisions on March 4. Career Ambassador Pickering, our speaker, served more than four decades as U.S. ambassador to Russia, India, Israel, El Salvador, Nigeria, Jordan and the United Nations, as well as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs—the third highest post in the State Department. His partner Ely-Raphael served as ambassador to Slovenia and legal affairs in the State Department.
Don Shilling (left) and Mary Schilling & Bobbi Falquet (right) welcome former ambassadors Nancy Ely- Raphel and Thomas Pickering to Great Decisions on March 4. Career Ambassador Pickering, our speaker, served more than four decades as U.S. ambassador. His partner Ely-Raphael served as ambassador to Slovenia.

The February/March Great Decisions lecture series was a huge success with outstanding speakers addressing eight of the thorniest and most critical issues in current foreign affairs. With approximately 270 in attendance each Tuesday morning, the signature program helps us reach out to the broader Williamsburg community.

William & Mary’s Students Demand Action group planned a full week of programs and events on gun violence prevention, culminating in a March to End Gun Violence at the Colonial Capitol Building on DoG Street on Saturday, March 23. The featured speaker at the rally was Rep. Elaine Luria, representing Virginia’s 2nd Congressional district. Our League Advocacy and Action program committee members have been hard at work examining Election Integrity issues and exploring initiatives in Civics Education in the public schools. As part of the Gun Violence Prevention initiative, Christine Payne has invited Lori Haas, Virginia Director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence to speak on Monday, May 13 at 7 pm at Stryker Building. I urge you and interested friends to attend.

While these programs and events may seem modest, this is what democracy looks like.

We are excited about the upcoming LWVVA Biennial Convention in Norfolk, May 17- 19. Our thanks to Anne Smith, vice president for programs on the State Board and a member of our own Board, for her masterful job in developing a substantive convention program. The speakers’ and session topics are timely: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; Election Security and Integrity; Redistricting; Defending Democracy; Women’s Issues-Sexual Harassment. While these programs and events may seem modest, this is what democracy looks like. Remember, “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” You can make a difference.

read the full newsletter

Welcome New Members!

We had a wonderful new members’ reception and enjoyed getting to know each other better. We hope each member can find an aspect of the League that helps them become more involved in local policy issues!

New 2019 Members

W&M President Rowe praises civic engagement

William and Mary president Katherine Rowe was the featured speaker of our fall membership meeting. Read the Virginia Gazette Coverage here!

by Amelia Heymann
aheymann@vagazette.com

 

Katherine Rowe, president of the College of William and Mary, said the school was celebrating 100 years of women at the college. Rowe said while changes were happening at the college, Virginia, its home, rejected the ratification of the suffrage amendment in 1920. The Commonwealth did not symbolically ratify suffrage until 1952.

“In alignment with these centennials, we find the opportunity to reflect on that generation who brought the franchise for women, particularly the women of that generation,” Rowe said. “I want to say that in our current generation of students now, I see a generation that is prime to make a similarly great impact on the world.”

Rowe discussed student civic engagement and was named the first honorary member of the Williamsburg Area League of Women Voters at its fall membership meeting Wednesday night.

One of the reasons Rowe said she felt the current generation of undergraduate students were poised to make an impact on the world was because they were more engaged with their communities than past generations.

“The world is here all the time and (students) are in it,” Rowe said. “There is no more bubble of college anymore…for better or for worse.”

She added while students are more aware of the immense challenges they have inherited, they are also are still optimistic about searching for solutions. Rowe said she is especially inspired by undergraduates’ sense of responsibility to build better communities.

“This generation of undergraduates are going to be the critical partners in sustaining our democracy,” Rowe said. “So we need to be listening and learning from them as they too need to be listening and learning from us.”

A member of the audience asked Rowe how the League of Women Voters could attract a younger and more diverse membership population. Rowe said she suggested simply asking younger voters what they thought.

“As a teacher, I would partner with students in the class because they knew things about what their learning process was like that I didn’t know, and if I engaged them as partners I would always come to better solutions,” Rowe said. “So my answer to you is ask, and you will get fantastically exciting ideas.”

Another member of the audience asked Rowe about the college’s Neighborhood Relations Committee. She said most people in the surrounding neighborhoods used the committee to complain about issues with college students. The woman asked Rowe if the committee could be used to create more positive interactions between the community and students, rather than just being used as a sounding board for complaints.

Rowe said she enjoyed the idea another person had brought up that evening, which was inviting college students over for dinner to get to know them.

“You have chosen to live right next to a college campus. It has its challenges, it has extraordinary benefits, so I would think about how we can embrace the vitality of that 18-22-year-old moment,” Rowe said. “And it starts with a nice dinner at midterms.”

At the end of the night, Mary Schilling, president of the Williamsburg Area League of Women Voters, named Rowe the first honorary member of the Williamsburg League.

Rowe reflected on her first memory of voting from when she was 6 or 7 years old. Rowe’s said she was allowed by to follow her mother into a voting booth by their local League of Women Voters. There Rowe looked up curiously as her mother cast a ballot.

“It was thrilling to be able to watch an adult vote,” Rowe said.

Later in life, Rowe said she volunteered for the Judge of Elections in Philadelphia.

“It was inspiring to be part of a democratic process,” Rowe said. “I owe a lot to the League of Women Voters, and to everyone who has helped to foster a commitment to (civic) participation.”

Voting Rights: Recent Decisions

Have you noticed the US Supreme Court’s three recent decisions about voting rights? The League of Women Voters advocates for voters’ rights and has press releases on each of these major decisions.

    1. Supreme Court Upholds Ohio Law Allowing Voter Rolls to Be Purged After Missing Two Elections
      June 11, 2018
      Should a registered voter ever be removed from a state’s voter lists, and how does a state know when to do so? Ohio has a strict standard for removing voters – missing two consecutive years of November elections can get you un-registered, even if you haven’t moved – and the Supreme Court upheld the state law. (Virginia also removes voters after missed elections, but not as quickly as Ohio – read a short discussion of the process on a William & Mary blog here.) The League’s statement here is opposed to the Ohio law.

2. Supreme Court Clarifies First Amendment Protections at Polling Places
June 14, 2018
Should voters wearing political clothing be allowed in a polling place? Minnesota had a law against it, which the Supreme Court struck down because it was too vague. A future law could prohibit political clothing, if it was more specific about what was not allowed. Read the League position here; read a blog post from the non-partisan Scotus Blog here.


3. The Supreme Court Sends the Wisconsin Gerrymandering Case Back to District Court
June 16, 2018
Who gets to allege that gerrymandering is harmful, and how much proof do they need – and how much time will all that take? Wisconsin voters will need to make a stronger case if they want the Supreme Court to weigh in. Read the League statement here and a helpful blog post from Scotus Blog here.

 

Your next election

hands voting
November elections are familiar, but what’s going on with these spring elections you’ve heard of? Visit the Virginia Department of Elections website for the official source on where and when these elections are held.

The Citizen Portal shows the next election in which you can vote, and which offices, candidates, and issues will be on the ballot. Research information before entering the polling place, since once you’re inside the voting booth it’s hard to get information about the candidates and issues on the ballot.

Most of us have a hard time remembering which congressional district we’re in. Go to vote411.org and enter your address for a quick reminder.

The next election will be the June Primary (June 12, 2018) and both the 1st and 2nd District in Virginia (affecting City of Williamsburg, James City County, and York County) will have Democratic and Republican primaries for the National House of Representatives. Read more about candidates here (links go to vote411.org, a site run by the educational non-profit wing of the League of Women Voters):

Congressional District 1 Republican incumbent Rob Wittman does not have a primary challenger.

Congressional District 1: Democratic Candidates

Congressional District 2: Democratic Candidates

Congressional District 2: Republican Candidates

As we all learned in the last November election, ballots can be confusing. The Virginia Department of Elections publishes a guide to marking the ballot.

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