Drennan Subramanyam Debate Crop

Candidates running for Virginia’s 87th District House of Delegates’ seat clashed on environmental policy, independent redistricting and gun reform in their first debate in Haymarket Monday night.  

Democrat Suhas Subramanyam, a former White House technology policy advisor to President Obama, is running against Republican Bill Drennan, a retired Air Force veteran, in the Nov. 5 election. The seat is currently held by Democrat John Bell who is leaving his post to run for Senate in the 13th district.  

The forum was hosted by the Regency at Dominion Valley with help from the Prince William Area League of Women Voters. Jill Palermo, managing editor of the Prince William Times, served as moderator. 

Climate change 

During the debate, Drennan labeled himself a “climate change skeptic” and called into question scientific research showing the existence of climate change. Drennan said the issue of climate change had become “a religion … not based on science.”  

By contrast, Subramanyam has made climate change and environmental policy a top priority of his campaign. Subramanyam is a member of Zero Carbon Virginia, a group of experts and citizens promoting non-partisan environmental policy solutions.  

Subramanyam said climate change and environmental policy should be a bipartisan priority in Virginia’s General Assembly.  

“This is one of the greatest dilemmas that we will be facing, and we will be facing them whether or not we believe it’s a real thing,” Subramanyam said. 

The vast majority of scientists say climate change is a growing, man-made threat to the planet, and has become a pressing issue for localities along Virginia’s coastline where communities are already being impacted by sea-level rise.  

Gun Laws

The two candidates also had contrasting views on whether they would support legislation changing Virginia’s gun laws. Subramanyam said he supports strengthening gun background checks and laws preventing domestic abusers from accessing firearms.  

Currently, Virginia does not require private sellers, sellers who are not licensed dealers, to initiate a background check when transferring a firearm.  

Subramanyam said red flag laws, which allow authorities to temporarily confiscate firearms from people who are deemed to be a danger to themselves or to others, had worked in other states and should be considered in Virginia.  

“If we know they’re going to be a danger to themselves or others, we should be able to do something about it,” Subramanyam said. 

Drennan said he is opposed to further gun regulations and said the Constitution and the right to bear arms is “under assault.”  

“When you hear a politician say ‘commonsense,’ reach for your wallet, reach for your constitution,” Drennan said.  

Redistricting 

Subramanyam and Drennan are also at odds on how to address redistricting and gerrymandering in Virginia.  

Responding to a question about whether the candidates would support an independent redistricting commission to combat partisan gerrymandering, Drennan said the redrawing of district lines is best left to politicians in the General Assembly.  

“If you don’t like the way they drew those boundaries … then vote them out. That’s what elections are for,” Drennan said. “I don’t want to see politicians get off the hook by saying, ‘we turned it over to a non-partisan commission.’” 

Virginia has been forced to redraw districts twice in the last decade as a result of the General Assembly’s 2011 redistricting process. Virginia courts ruled in 2015 and 2019 that state legislators had unconstitutionally gerrymandered U.S. congressional districts and state delegate districts on a racial basis.  

The state House and Senate passed a constitutional amendment earlier this year to create a bipartisan independent redistricting commission to take the redistricting process out of the hands of legislators, but it must pass a second legislative session in 2020.  

Redistricting for the state legislature takes place once every 10 years to coincide with the release of new census population and demographic data. New lines will be redrawn in 2021. 

Subramanyam said redistricting and voting rights are a top priority of his campaign. Subramanyam said he would support an independent redistricting commission but expressed concern over whether commission members chosen by legislators would be truly independent 

“I want to make sure that the commission is independent,” Subramanyam said. “And then I would want to make sure the criteria for how they draw the districts is something that makes sense and is not political.”  

Reach Daniel Berti at dberti@fauquier.com 

 

 

 

 

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(4) comments

Diogenes

I respect Mr. Drennan's service in our military and with the Federal government. Unfortunately I do not see anything in his resume that qualifies him to make statements about the validity of the science behind the current concern about the climate crisis.

I have a doctorate in science (Chemistry) and worked 26 years with a major oil company. I have been very much aware of the growing evidence for human activity having a significant impact on the world's climate for most of the last thirty years and have stayed current with much of the peer-reviewed research in this area. My employer was also aware, and regrettably, spent large sums of money to support a counter-narrative. This has been very effective over the years, leaving folks like Mr. Drennan sincerely believing this story. All the "facts" Mr. Drennan cited in his brief dismissal of this subject can be found on any of a number of scientifically worthless websites that continue to peddle these conspiracy theories.

If Mr. Drennan would like to update his knowledge on the subject I suggest he contact former colleagues in the Pentagon who are taking the climate crisis very seriously indeed and are assuming it as a given in their planning activities.

He should also check with any of the major oil companies who have almost all publicly acknowledged their past role in obfuscating and encouraging deniers, and who now concede that climate change is real. A few have even supported a carbon tax.

Since Virginia, like most coastal states, will be losing a substantial portion of its real estate over the next twenty years to rising sea levels we need people in Richmond who can accept this reality and plan how to effectively deal with it.

Omarndc72

Democrat Suhas Subramanyam,? Another obama era looser. No thanks.

ed1

Drennan said the issue of climate change had become “a religion … not based on science.”

That's not quite right; Denying climate change has become a religion … not based on science.

Visit the glaciers; Canada, Switzerland etc. I have and they are disappearing fast.

You may not have noticed but it's almost October and we're still in the 90s. I know that's short term but there isn't space here to explore historical statistical trends.

zcxnissan

It's hit 90's or higher historically in October on several occasions. Then again it was much warmer if not downright freakishly hot in dinosaur times. We also did not break as many records as one would presume with an above-average temperature in summer. Incidentally, we are in an interglacial. If it doesn't get warmer, then something is really, really wrong.

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