Age: 34 Personal information:
Significant other – Stephanie Monasky, no kids (yet)
Why are you running for delegate?
Seizing opportunity and not waiting for things to drop in my lap is how I live my life. It’s why after graduating from college, I moved to Memphis, TN and worked as an entertainer, actor and singer playing music in clubs on Beale Street. It’s why I auditioned for NBC’s The Voice, beating out 100,000 other hopefuls and went to Los Angeles, CA, to be on TV’s most popular reality show. It’s also why I decided to move back to the Piedmont to start my own media business. And now, it’s why I’m running for Virginia State Delegate here in District 18. We need new and better leadership in Richmond. Rural Virginians are not being represented in the statehouse. I’m the only candidate in the 18th District who’s not a transplant.
Healthcare has been a major topic of discussion for years now, should Virginia opt into Medicaid and if they don’t are they losing out on federal dollars?
We are giving away millions of dollars every day we don’t expand Medicaid. $10.4 billion to date. That money is going to other states so that their citizens get the healthcare that over 400,000 Virginians need. This is not fiscally responsible. At the same time, we need to be smart about expanding Medicaid and be ready for whatever form of TrumpCare arrives at our doorstep, assuming Republicans in Congress can get their act together. We need to rethink healthcare, especially for women. Whether it’s Medicaid, Medicare or TrumpCare, access to affordable healthcare is crucial for families and women of all ages.
What can be done to drive more industry to the area and what is the best use of economic development dollars in District 18?
Forbes recently reported that “Over 62% of millennials have considered starting their own business, with 72% feeling that startups and entrepreneurs are a necessary economic force for creating jobs and driving innovation.” On the flip side, the self-employment rate among workers 65+ is the highest of any age group in America (15.5%). To encourage our millennial talent to stay in District 18 and to help our baby boomers retire into entrepreneurship we need policies that reflect these realities. We also need to ensure that our people have the skill set that local businesses require and entrepreneurs can acquire. We need skills training for our veterans, our young people, and our transitioning adults. The community colleges which serve the 18th are Lord Fairfax and Germanna. My own brother, Rory, graduated from Lord Fairfax in Warrenton. Improving and supporting career development opportunities through local community colleges will be another priority in my first term.
Broadband access in rural parts of the district is limited, what legislation can be passed to help improve access for those who may want to telecommute?
Living in Rixeyville, I know all about fair access, high cost and bad connections. Access to affordable, high quality Broadband is a topic close to my heart. It is essential to grow the rural economy in District 18 and to keep our talent here. Access needs to increase, prices need to come down. Many of us in District 18 receive our power from Rappahannock Electric Cooperative. Rural electric cooperatives (REC) are one of the most successful public/private business initiatives in the history of the United States. We need an internet version of that success story if we want to keep people from moving away from the 18th District. Making affordable broadband available for every Virginian will be a priority in my first term.
The heroin epidemic has been detrimental to our community, what legislation can be passed to help combat the epidemic?
Opioid addiction is a huge problem. Over 1,420 Virginians died of a drug overdose in 2016, and the emotional and economic drain is especially hard on rural communities. I see a two-step approach: First, Prevention: 80% of opioid addictions start with a prescription. We need to increase our ability to shut down “Pill Mills” and over-prescribers. We can do that by streamlining and strengthening the under used and confusing Prescription Monitoring System we currently have in Virginia. Second, Intervention: We need to view this epidemic like the health crisis it is, both physically and mentally. That means treating people like patients rather than criminals.
What makes you the best option for delegate?
I know how hard it is to be an entrepreneur in this area. Young people leave and rarely come back. We need to keep our talent here by expanding opportunity. I am one of the few younger people in this region who came back to run a business. It’s a primary reason why I decided to run for political office. I have been in the music business during the most tumultuous time ever for that industry. Technology and changing distribution systems have completely displaced a generation of creative professionals. Learning to pivot, bounce back, fail, try new things are all essential skills necessary to live and lead today. I know how to be a leader and make things happen.
Today’s disruptive economy and uncertainties demands leaders who see opportunities among the fog and have the courage to act. Thinking and acting collaboratively, learning fast, and keeping the people of the Piedmont first is what makes me the best option for Delegate.