Gille­spie, Northam out­line plans for Vir­ginia

Gu­ber­na­to­rial can­di­dates an­swer ques­tions about sev­eral key is­sues

The Progress-Index Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - John Adam Staff Writer

RICH­MOND — Af­ter many months of cam­paign­ing, the Vir­ginia gu­ber­na­to­rial race will come to an end when vot­ers head to the polls on Tues­day to vote for ei­ther Demo­crat Ralph Northam or Repub­li­can Ed Gille­spie.

Northam is the cur­rent Lt. Gov., and was for­merly a physi­cian be­fore em­bark­ing on a po­lit­i­cal ca­reer, start­ing with the Vir­ginia State Se­nate in 2007. He is also an Army Vet­eran.

Gille­spie is a former Chair­man of the Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee, and is also a found­ing mem­ber of the lob­by­ing firm Quinn, Gille­spie, and As­so­ci­ates. He was later a coun­selor to Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush.

Both can­di­dates sat down with the Progress-In­dex staff to an­swer sev­eral ques­tions about the race, and their stances on sev­eral is­sues.

On a larger scale, the Vir­ginia gu­ber­na­to­rial race - which is the only com­pet­i­tive state gover­nor’s race in the coun­try this year - is be­ing billed as a ref­er­en­dum of sorts on Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s poli­cies. Both can­di­dates had dif­fer­ent re­sponses to this.

“I think it’s twofold,” said Northam. “One, vot­ers want some­one who will stand up to Washington, and two, some­one who will take Vir­ginia to the next level. There’s a lot of peo­ple pay­ing at­ten­tion to what’s go­ing in Washington, and it started with the cam­paign that was run in 2016 (Trump’s) that

was based on a lot of big­otry, dis­crim­i­na­tion and fear. And now we’re see­ing poli­cies that are com­ing out of Washington that are both­er­some to this coun­try, to Amer­i­cans, and cer­tainly to Vir­gini­ans.

“Things like the Mus­lim ban, the re­ver­sal of DACA, pulling out of the Paris ac­cords (the global warm­ing agree­ment), de­fund­ing Planned Par­ent­hood, and now most re­cently with the health­care-putting a plan on the ta­ble that puts up to 30 mil­lion Amer­i­cans at risk of los­ing their cov­er­age, so yes it is about some­one stand­ing up to the detri­men­tal poli­cies com­ing out of Washington.”

Gille­spie - who crit­ics have pointed out has de­clined to align him­self with the Pres­i­dent -of­fered a dif­fer­ent take.

“I’m on the cam­paign trail ev­ery­day, and what Vir­gini­ans want to know is what are you do­ing about jobs, what are you do­ing about the econ­omy, schools, trans­porta­tion and ad­dress­ing this aw­ful heroin and opi­oid epi­demic, and that’s what the vot­ers of Vir­ginia are fo­cused on,” he said. “I know that be­cause we’re one of only two gover­nor’s races, and a very com­pet­i­tive one, that the na­tional me­dia is fo­cused on na­tional is­sues, but the vot­ers them­selves, they’re fo­cused on these poli­cies that I’ve put for­ward.”

ED­U­CA­TION

Both can­di­dates also talked about re­cruit­ing new teach­ers, as many Vir­ginia school dis­tricts, in­clud­ing Peters­burg, cur­rently have a teacher short­age.

Both can­di­dates have plans on re­struc­tur­ing the Stan­dards of Learn­ing (SOL) tests that all Vir­ginia stu­dents in pub­lic schools are re­quired to take.

“I’m very open to look at what we’re mea­sur­ing, and how we’re mea­sur­ing it,” said Gille­spie. “In ad­di­tion to mea­sur­ing where stu­dents are, we need to see how we’re do­ing in­side those schools. Mea­sure­ments of growth are im­por­tant as well.”

But Gille­spie dif­fers on the is­sue with Northam in that Northam­thinks a more dras­tic over­haul is needed.

“The SOL sys­tem was de­signed with good in­ten­tions, but what both­ers me about it is that it’s teach­ing our chil­dren how to take mul­ti­ple choice tests,”said Northam. “We re­ally need to teach our chil­dren to think cre­atively.”

Gille­spie calls his ed­u­ca­tion plan T.I.M.E, stand­ing for Teacher lead­er­ship, In­no­va­tion, More op­por­tu­ni­ties and Ex­cel­lence. This in­cludes a focus on “clos­ing the achieve­ment gap.”

“We see this huge gap in pro­fi­ciency scores for schools in low-in­come ar­eas ver­sus schools in high-in­come ar­eas: we’ve got to close that gap,” said Gille­spie. “I’ve put for­ward a plan to cut the achieve­ment gap in half over the course of a decade.”

Gille­spie also talked about in­te­grat­ing more en­trepreneur­ship skills into schools’ cur­ricu­lum, and work­ing more closely with the pri­vate sec­tor to im­prove school dis­tricts.

“Gov­ern­ment has a crit­i­cally im­por­tant role in ad­dress­ing these chal­lenges we face, but so does the pri­vate sec­tor,” he said.

Gille­spie is also an ad­vo­cate for pub­lic char­ter schools, of which Vir­ginia only has 9.

‘We should make it eas­ier for par­ents to have that op­tion,” he said.

Northam’s plat­form­fea­tures the G3 Plan, which stands for “Get Skilled, Get a Job, Give Back.” Un­der this plan, young stu­dents would go to com­mu­nity col­lege for free to learn a cer­tain trade or skill, and would pay it back in the form of pub­lic ser­vice af­ter they get ed­u­cated.

“That will al­low stu­dents to get ed­u­cated, be­come cer­ti­fied and have a skill,” said Northam. “And it will al­low them to do that with­out in­cur­ring any debt.”

Northam, an Army Vet­eran, said the G3 plan is based off a sim­i­lar con­cept of get­ting ed­u­cated, then giv­ing back.

For K-12 ed­u­ca­tion, Northam plans on mak­ing kinder­garten and pre-kinder­garten more avail­able.

“A lot of peo­ple ask why pre-k is im­por­tant, but it’s about giv­ing ev­ery­body the same op­por­tu­nity, and get­ting our chil­dren off to a good start,” he said. “I re­mind peo­ple all the time that if one fam­ily has the means to send their child to pre-k, and an­other fam­ily does not, that is what starts the gap.”

“We need to fos­ter op­por­tu­nity here, and up­ward mo­bil­ity, and im­prove our roads and pub­lic schools. I’m not run­ning to be gover­nor of the com­mon­wealth for the ti­tle, I want to do a lot of things.” And all those things en­tail mak­ing life bet­ter for all Vir­gini­ans.” Ed Gille­spie

ECON­OMY

Both can­di­dates talked about their plans for grow­ing the econ­omy. Peters­burg, as well as sur­round­ing lo­cal­i­ties like Hopewell, have be­come pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tions for small busi­nesses. Gille­spie and Northam have put forth plans to focus on har­ness­ing these sorts of busi­nesses.

Northam said a large part of his eco­nomic plan in­volves grow­ing smaller busi­nesses, say­ing he wants to ex­pand the re­sources avail­able to en­trepreneurs like grant pro­grams.

“I be­lieve in in­vest­ing in Vir­gini­ans and when we do that, no one can beat us,” said Northam. “Small busi­nesses, those are the back­bone of our econ­omy. If we can help peo­ple start restau­rants, small re­tail shops, that how we drive our econ­omy.”

Northam said as gover­nor, he would “stream­line” the process of be­com­ing a small busi­ness owner.

“When some­one shows in­ter­est in be­ing an en­trepreneur, they have to be shown how to get cap­i­tal, how to hire peo­ple, how to deal with the tax code.”

Northam also said mak­ing sure cap­i­tal is avail­able to Vir­gini­ans would be a top pri­or­ity.

“That’s one of the chal­lenges we have,” he said. “There’s cap­i­tal in places like New York and out west, but we need to make sure we have ac­cess to it in Vir­ginia. I’ve had a lot of dis­cus­sions on mak­ing that hap­pen.”

Northam also talked about ex­pand­ing ac­cel­er­a­tor pro­grams like Go Vir­ginia to aid new busi­nesses.

Gille­spie said his plan will focus on the “or­ganic growth” of the Vir­ginia econ­omy.

“Rather than try­ing to re­cruit­ing com­pa­nies to move here-which I’m all for, I’ll make a run at Ama­zon just like any other gover­nor-but we also need for the next Ama­zon to be a Vir­ginia com­pany,” he said.

He talked at length about mak­ing it eas­ier for small busi­nesses to start and grow, with a greater focus on star­tups.

“We need to make it eas­ier for start-ups and scale-ups to flour­ish in the Com­mon­wealth,” he said. “I think for ar­eas like Peters­burg and the Shenan­doah Val­ley, these are ar­eas where small busi­ness for­ma­tion and ex­pan­sion is the key to eco­nomic op­por­tu­nity.”

Gille­spie said his poli­cies will move away

from “whale hunt­ing” to “grow­ing our own whales.” Gille­spie also said that he plans on en­cour­ag­ing lo­cal­i­ties to make lo­cal tax laws more busi­ness-friendly.

“We have a lot of lo­cal taxes that are a drag on small busi­nesses,” he said. “I would work with our lo­cal­i­ties to find al­ter­na­tives means of rev­enue.”

HEROIN AND OPI­OID EPI­DEMIC

The Tri-Cities area has felt the im­pact on the na­tion­wide heroin and opi­oid epi­demic. The en­tire re­gion has seen a dra­matic in­crease in the amount of over­doses over the past sev­eral years. In 2016, over 1,400 peo­ple died from over­doses in the Com­mon­wealth. Both can­di­dates plan on tack­ling the is­sue.

Gille­spie’s plan says that ad­dic­tion to opi­oids is a “dis­ease, not a moral fail­ing” and that “the prison sys­tem is not the ap­pro­pri­ate venue to treat ad­dic­tion.” Gille­spie’s plan calls for more cre­ative al­ter­na­tives for treat­ing ad­dic­tion, and rec­og­niz­ing mul­ti­ple path­ways to re­cov­ery.

Northam said he will work with med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als to look at al­ter­na­tive ways to treat pain, as op­posed to pre­scrib­ing opi­oid painkillers, which is how many vic­tims got ad­dicted in the first place.

“We put so many re­sources into treat­ing dis­eases that are pre­ventable, like di­a­betes and car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease,” said Northam. “We need to shift our re­sources to preven­tion, and that’s what I’ll do as we move for­ward.”

CON­TRO­VER­SIES

Both can­di­dates have faced some back­lash on sev­eral is­sues. The con­struc­tion of the At­lantic Coast Pipe­line has drawn the ire of some Democrats in the Com­mon­wealth who op­pose it. The At­lantic Coast Pipe­line is a pro­posed un­der­ground pipe­line that will carry fracked nat­u­ral gas along a 600 mile route from West Vir­ginia down to North Carolina. Led by en­ergy com­pa­nies Duke En­ergy and Do­min­ion En­ergy, the project will cost ap­prox­i­mately $5 billion dol­lars.

Gille­spie sup­ports the con­struc­tion of the pipe­line, say­ing in a state­ment that it is “crit­i­cal to Vir­ginia’s en­ergy needs.”

Northam has faced crit­i­cism for also sup­port­ing the pipe­line.

“If the pipe­line is go­ing to move for­ward, it has to be done en­vi­ron­men­tally re­spon­si­bly, and has to be done with peo­ple’s land rights in mind,” said Northam. “I’ve said all along if our agen­cies in Vir­ginia, the DEQ and Corps of En­gi­neers, if they say it’s be­ing done re­spon­si­bly and with land rights in mind, then the pipe­line will move for­ward.”

For Gille­spie, he drew crit­i­cism for sev­eral tele­vi­sion ads de­pict­ing the MS-13 gang, which is a gang mostly made up of im­mi­grants from Cen­tral Amer­i­can coun­tries like El Sal­vador and Hon­duras. Gille­spie’s cam­paign came out with sev­eral con­tro­ver­sial ads in Septem­ber that de­picted the gang, and sought to tie Northam’s poli­cies to the threat of gang vi­o­lence.

“We have a prob­lem with surg­ing gang vi­o­lence, es­pe­cially in North­ern Vir­ginia and in the Shenan­doah Val­ley,” said Gille­spie. “The Washington Post re­ported that there are 2,000 gang mem­bers in North­ern Vir­ginia, and 1,400 of them are MS-13.”

The Washington Post, how­ever, later said that those num­bers are just es­ti­ma­tions.

Gille­spie said he has put forth a plan for a gang task force, in an ef­fort to stop the gang vi­o­lence.

“There have been eight MS-13 re­lated gang in­ci­dents since Novem­ber [of 2016],” said Gille­spie. “We’ve got to ad­dress it.”

Sev­eral crit­ics, in­clud­ing the Northam cam­paign, deemed Gille­spie’s ads as “fear mon­ger­ing” in na­ture, and said the ad falsely ac­cuses Northam of al­low­ing il­le­gal im­mi­grants into Vir­ginia.

The Vir­ginia Gen­eral As­sem­bly did put forth a bill that would ban sanc­tu­ary cities - cities such asNew York and San Fran­cisco that refuse to help de­tain and de­port peo­ple who are in the coun­try il­le­gally - from Vir­ginia. As Lt. Gover­nor, Northam cast the de­cid­ing “no” vote af­ter the Gen­eral As­sem­bly came to a tie. Gille­spie’s ad, ref­er­enc­ing House Bill 2000, said that Northam “cast the de­cid­ing vote in fa­vor of sanc­tu­ary cities” when Vir­ginia tech­ni­cally doesn’t have any sanc­tu­ary cities, and Northam’s vote didn’t cre­ate any sanc­tu­ary cities-it just pre­vented them from get­ting banned. Non­par­ti­san web­site factcheck.org called the at­tack “mis­lead­ing.”

The sum­mary of HB 2000 as passed reads: “Sanc­tu­ary poli­cies pro­hib­ited. Pro­vides that no lo­cal­ity shall adopt any or­di­nance, pro­ce­dure, or pol­icy that re­stricts the en­force­ment of fed­eral immigration laws.”

“I sup­ported leg­is­la­tion while in the state se­nate to make penal­ties tougher on gang-mem­bers,” said Northam. “I have al­ways sup­ported law en­force­ment.”

FI­NAL MESSAGE

Gille­spie said he wel­comed peo­ple to go to his web­site, as well as Northam’s, and com­pare and con­trast their poli­cies, say­ing that if Vir­gini­ans are mak­ing an in­formed de­ci­sion, they will vote for him.

“We need to fos­ter op­por­tu­nity here, and up­ward mo­bil­ity, and im­prove our roads and pub­lic schools. I’m not run­ning to be gover­nor of the com­mon­wealth for the ti­tle, I want to do a lot of things,” he said. “And all those things en­tail mak­ing life bet­ter for all Vir­gini­ans.”

Northam also en­cour­aged vot­ers to “look at our re­sumes,” and said that he has run an “inclusive and pos­i­tive cam­paign.”

“I’ve been in pub­lic ser­vice all my life, serv­ing in the Army, then tak­ing care of fam­i­lies, and serv­ing as Lieu­tenant Gover­nor,” he said. “I would com­pare that to my op­po­nent who was a Washington lob­by­ist. That’s his ex­pe­ri­ence.”

The elec­tion will take place on Tues­day, Nov. 7. You can find your polling place on the web­site for the Vir­ginia Department of Elec­tions.

Lib­er­tar­ian can­di­date Cliff Hyra will also be on the bal­lot, in ad­di­tion to Gille­spie and Northam. John Adam may be reached at jadam@ progress-in­dex.com or 804-722-5172.

“I’ve been in pub­lic ser­vice all my life, serv­ing in the Army, then tak­ing care of fam­i­lies, and serv­ing as Lieu­tenant Gover­nor. I would com­pare that to my op­po­nent who was a Washington lob­by­ist. That’s his ex­pe­ri­ence. Ralph Northam

[SCOTT P. YATES/PROGRESS-IN­DEX.COM]

Vir­ginia Repub­li­can gu­ber­na­to­rial nom­i­nee Ed Gille­spie speaks with re­porters in a cam­paign of­fice in Rich­mond, Va., on Oct. 27.

[SCOTT P. YATES/PROGRESS-IN­DEX.COM]

Demo­cratic can­di­date for Vir­ginia gover­nor Ralph Northam speaks to re­porters at The Progress-In­dex build­ing in Peters­burg on Oct. 28.

[SCOTT P. YATES/ PROGRESS-IN­DEX.COM]

[SCOTT P. YATES/ PROGRESS-IN­DEX.COM]

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