The Jan. 5 special election to fill Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy’s 2nd District seat in the Virginia House of Delegates is approaching fast.
The Prince William Times posed five questions to the two candidates, Republican Heather Mitchell and Democrat Candi King, the answers of which are below. The candidates were asked to limit their responses to 100 words.
Mitchell is a former senior aide to the Prince William Board of County Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart (R). This marks Mitchell’s second time running for the seat. She ran and lost against Foy in 2019.
Drive-thru early, no-excuse absentee voting is under way for the Jan. 5 special election to …
King is a program assistant with the Washington office of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. She said she has been interested in running for elected office since she helped pass a statewide higher education bond referendum in the early 2000s, when she was a college student.
Why should residents of your district vote for you?
King: I’m best positioned to hit the ground running to deliver for the people of the 2nd District because I started my career in the General Assembly advocating for more funding for our public colleges and learning from former state Sen. Yvonne Miller, and state Sens. Louise Lucas, D-18th, and Lionell Spruill, D-5th.
Furthermore, as a former small business owner and a working mom with three children doing virtual learning, I understand firsthand the challenges that families like mine are facing during this pandemic. I can be a voice for them in Richmond because my family is facing the same struggle.
Mitchell: I would be extremely honored to have the support of the citizens of the 2nd House district and be their voice in Richmond. I previously worked for the Prince William Board of County Supervisors and live in Stafford County, so I have garnered an immense amount of knowledge of the concerns and issues that face the entire 2nd House District.
If elected, I will listen to every constituent, no matter their locality or political affiliation, so that I can better understand the issues they are facing and how to better assist them.
What will be your top priority if elected?
King: This area has been hard hit by COVID-19, and my top priority will be building a safe and strong COVID recovery that leaves no one behind. Our workers, small business owners, teachers, students, parents and families are struggling. We have to make sure our schools have the tools they need to re-open schools safely. My sister is a talented and passionate math teacher who almost quit her job because she didn’t feel safe. We have to make sure teachers and all essential workers are treated with the respect they deserve.
Mitchell: If elected, my top priority will be to work to keep our families safe by opposing the dangerous defund the police agenda while providing resources for our police and first responders. I will also stand up for our military families who live in this area and work tirelessly to improve constituent services, cut taxes, and work to solve the transportation crisis on U.S. 1 and Interstate 95.
I also promise to communicate with the residents of the 2nd District on important issues facing our community, something that was lacking during the term of our last delegate.
What are the most critical issues: 1) facing your district? 2) facing the state? How will you address these issues?
King: COVID recovery is the most important challenge facing both our district and the state, but recovery encompasses many issues: expanding access to affordable health care, especially for those with long-term health issues related to COVID. Re-building our economy that works for both our workers and our small businesses.
We need to pass paid sick leave, safely re-open schools and figure out how to close the gap for the students who fell behind. Getting all of our teachers a meaningful voice on the job through collective bargaining rights would help solve many of the challenges with schools.
Mitchell: The most critical issue facing the 2nd House district is transportation. The 2nd is unique because it lies in two different transportation regions; the northern half (Prince William) is in region 9, whereas the southern half (Stafford) is in region 6. Each region has uniquely different transportation needs and issues.
This past session, Stafford’s delegation to Richmond voted for HB 1414 and HB 1726, which stripped an estimated $1 million in transportation funding from Stafford County. We need a delegate who understands our transportation issues and does not vote to take away funding from our community.
The most critical issues facing the commonwealth are education and the economy. Like many families over the past year, my kitchen table has been turned into a classroom for my son and daughter. We need to support teachers and students and implement a plan to safely move to in-person learning. Because of COVID-19 and the ensuing regulations placed on small businesses, many are closing permanently. This has led to Virginia’s unemployment rate to increase from 2.7% to 4.9% in one year. We must provide support to businesses so they can re-open safely and hire back employees.
What is an issue that doesn't get enough attention from the legislature?
King: 1.2 million Virginia workers have no access to paid sick leave, including two-thirds of workers at Virginia’s largest service industry employers. Our health is dependent on the health of other people, yet workers are afraid of getting tested because they can’t miss a paycheck.
House Democrats had a paid sick days bill that passed the House but not the Senate. Yet eight out of 10 Virginians, including 96% of Democrats, support a paid sick leave policy. Other states have expanded paid sick leave during the pandemic. We have a Democratic trifecta; we need to get it done.
Mitchell: I would focus on having Virginia join the 20 other states that do not tax military retirement. Every year, hundreds of military personnel around the commonwealth retire and move out of state due to Virginia being one of eight states that do not exempt military retirement pay from taxes.
Since many veterans are relatively young (under 50) when they retire, starting a second career is a natural progression. These veterans are now being taxed on two income sources. Many veterans choose to move with their families out of state where their retirement income isn’t taxed, which results in a growing loss of revenue in the commonwealth.
How will you involve citizens in local and state government matters?
King: We have to meet people where they are. We can’t expect people to make an appointment in our office in Richmond. People have jobs, kids, lives. I will hold town halls at locations where people already are spending their time. I’ll do town halls in schools, I’ll set up outside grocery stores to talk to people on their way in and out. I will also build a Spanish outreach program.
Participating in government is a luxury for those with time, and I think that’s why we sometimes end up with a government that isn’t representative of working people.
Mitchell: I will involve citizens in local and state government matters by incorporating legislative updates on my website, social media, email list and hosting town halls.
Additionally, I disagree with the action taken by the Democratic leadership in the General Assembly who recently decided that the Pocahontas Building, which contains the offices of the legislators, will only be accessible by credentialed employees and current legislators. This is a violation of the 1st Amendment and the citizens of Virginia deserve to have access to those that represent them.
Reach Daniel Berti at email@example.com