First, the easy one for me to handle is the House of Delegates. I live in the 35th District. Mark Keam (D) is running unopposed. I don’t like it that there is only one candidate. But he has been in office since 2010 and I have generally been pleased with Keam’s performance and I agree with most of his positions. In particular, given the current political environment, I think it is good to have an immigrant (Keam was born in South Korea, and lived in Vietnam and Australia before coming to the U.S.) in office. And, of course, our district has a large Korean (and South Asian) population.
Now, let’s move on to the big deal – the statewide offices.
For Attorney General, Mark Herring (D) Is the incumbent. He is being opposed by John Adams (R). Herring has made a positive impression on me during his time in office for two reasons. First, he is actually doing something about the backlog of untested rape kits in the state. As far as I can tell, Adams has not said anything about sexual and domestic violence. The even bigger deal is that shortly after taking office in 2014, Herring refused to defend a Virginia constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. It would have been a moot point given the later Supreme Court ruling, but, to me, it demonstrates integrity on defending the interests of all Virginians. I also think he’s doing a good job in addressing opioid addiction. I do have some reservations about the use of proceeds from asset forfeiture, which Herring has used to pay for staff raises. But, overall, given that Adams supports several positions I consider harmful to women (on contraceptive coverage and on abortion rights) and is unlikely to oppose the federal government’s anti-immigrant measures, my endorsement goes to Mark Herring.
The candidates for Lieutenant Governor are Justin Fairfax (D) and Jill Holtzman Vogel (R). This one is fairly simple for me. Vogel has focused on extreme tea party social views, e.g. her sponsorship of a bill in the State Senate that "Provides that unborn children at every stage of development enjoy all the rights, privileges, and immunities available to otherpersons, citizens, and residents of the Commonwealth ..." She opposes additional restrictions on firearms, removal of Confederate monuments, and Medicaid expansion. Fairfax is talking about things like expanding workforce training and development, expanding access to early childhood education, and supporting mental health reforms. While I wish he had more experience, it’s clear to me that Fairfax is much more in line with my views.
Now, for the big one – Governor. There are actually three candidates for this one – Ralph Northam (D), Ed Gillespie (R), and Cliff Hyra (Libertarian). We can pretty much dismiss Hyra, which is rather a pity since he has an undergraduate degree in aerospace engineering (from Virginia Tech). Aside from him having no chance of winning (I didn’t even know he was in the race until I looked at ballotpedia), his positions generally go too far towards favoring the individual over the public good, e.g. by eliminating licensing for many jobs. And he hasn’t said anything about a number of important issues for the state – infrastructure, immigration, women’s rights.
The choice between Northam and Gillespie should be hard. Gillespie was, historically, pretty moderate for a Virginia Republican, which is why his long-term nickname has been "Establishment Ed." But he moved rightward in the primary where one of his opponents was Cory Stewart, a guy who drove around the state waving Confederate battle flags. Since winning the primary, Gillespie has more and more aligned his positions with Trump’s – which includes outright lying on such things as universal background checks for firearms purchases and loss of manufacturing jobs. Northam has talked about a number of issues that matter to me – including transportation infrastructure and women’s rights. I particularly like his proposals to expand internship and apprenticeship programs and his willingness to defy the NRA. I’m not crazy about the amount of negative advertising his campaign has indulged in. But we need someone who will stand up to the Trumpists. My vote will go to Northam.
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