EDITORIAL: Davis, Villanueva for the House [The Virginian-Pilot]
(Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, VA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Oct. 16--Five years ago, this page endorsed technology entrepreneur Glenn Davis in his run for Virginia Beach City Council. The same editorial recommended Brent McKenzie, then a Norview High School teacher, for the Beach School Board. Both men won and served the city well.
Now the two are competing for the District 84 seat in the House of Delegates left vacant by Sal Iaquinto, who resigned and is a judge.
Davis, a Republican, and McKenzie, a Democrat, are both qualified: knowledgeable about state issues, how the General Assembly works and what needs to be done to improve the economy and education in Virginia.
Both support the transportation bill that passed the General Assembly this year. Both oppose lifting the ban on uranium mining. Neither believes homeschooled students should be allowed to play sports at public high schools. Both say Virginia should allow greater flexibility in absentee or early voting.
Each would be an asset in the legislature. We recommend Davis, whose high energy level and ability to think creatively have made him a critical negotiator when the City Council splits -- and who could make a difference in the partisan atmosphere in Richmond.
Davis -- like his opponent -- is a Green Run High School graduate who has served as a legislative assistant in the General Assembly. He led the council to outsource operations at the Sportsplex, turning a money-losing operation into a profitable venture for the city. He has served on a committee working to find ways for Chesapeake, Norfolk and Virginia Beach to combine some services and save money.
Last year, while running for reelection, Davis helped broker a politically risky budget that increased the city's real estate tax 6 cents, dedicating 4 cents to schools and 2 cents to road improvements. The tax increases were tied to state funding and will be reduced in future years if the legislature raises more money for schools or roads.
Davis, who owns a telecommunications firm, would bring small-business and local government experience to Richmond. He knows the effects of exploding health care costs on both -- "Last year, the Affordable Care Act was a $9 million hit to our health care costs for Virginia Beach," he said. If Virginia expanded Medicaid and could use more waivers, the state could control some of the costs. "We take the money, or it goes someplace else."
McKenzie argues persuasively that he would be one of only a few in the General Assembly with expertise in education. He would be able to articulate, from the perspective of teachers as well as policymakers, the effects of legislation.
He advocates changing testing methods to establish a baseline at the beginning of school and measure progress made by the end. He wants to shift lottery money to provide scholarships for every Virginian in public schools who graduates with at least a 3.0. He wants to audit all tax credits and have them expire after five years.
And unlike Davis, who supports drilling off Virginia's coast for oil and natural gas, McKenzie wisely concludes it's too great a risk for Virginia Beach's top two industries: the military and tourism.
McKenzie served on the School Board from 2008-2012 but did not run for re-election last year. But eight of the 11 current School Board members recommend Davis for the House. We agree.
In House District 21, which includes parts of Virginia Beach and a small piece of Chesapeake, Ron Villanueva has represented residents for the past four years.
Voters should send him back for a third term.
Villanueva, a partner in a defense contracting firm and former Coast Guard reservist, spent seven years on the Virginia Beach City Council before unseating Democratic Del. Bobby Mathieson by 16 votes in 2009. Since then, he has maintained a relatively low profile within the Republican caucus and the House of Delegates.
Villanueva sits on the courts, finance and transportation committees and last year was among the Republicans who helped push a transportation funding package onto the House floor and then to the Senate. That effort led to bipartisan negotiations that provided significant, and long overdue, new revenue to repair the commonwealth's deteriorating transportation network.
Villanueva opposes lifting the state's ban on uranium mining because of the risk to residents' drinking water. He supports expanding and reforming Medicaid concurrently and capping payday lenders' interest rates at 36 percent, and he has pledged to continue his push for early and no-excuses absentee voting.
While he has not fixated on social issues, Villanueva has been complicit in the lower chamber's approval of some recent ill-advised measures. He has voted for a personhood bill, opposed a ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation in public workplaces and affirmed a resolution that pandered to his party's extremist wing by opposing a nonbinding United Nations policy vision known as Agenda 21.
Villanueva insists he remains focused on economic and business-oriented policies, and he argued recently that he would not support the personhood bill again. He still opposes the discrimination ban but pledged to support repeal of Virginia's constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. "Like most people, I've evolved," he explained.
Villanueva's challenger is Susan Hippen, a retired master chief whose primary quibble is Villanueva's low profile. The veteran, who retired after 25 years of service, has crafted a campaign that mirrors the priorities outlined by Democratic candidates seeking statewide office, touting general support for universal preschool and general displeasure with the legislature's recent focus on micromanaging women's health.
Hippen's passion appears to be in the community and in public schools, and she has acknowledged her campaign for the House, rather than the City Council or the School Board, was influenced by timing, her lack of teaching credentials and her unwillingness to condone House incumbents running unopposed.
That is not enough, however, to warrant change.
Villanueva has served the interests of the 21st District reasonably well. His record, his experience and his promises provide ample reason to re-elect him.
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