Why I’m not run­ning for the Vir­ginia House — yet

The Washington Post Sunday - - LOCAL OPINIONS -

For the sec­ond elec­tion cy­cle in a row, it ap­pears my Vir­ginia House del­e­gate will en­ter a gen­eral elec­tion un­con­tested, as did my state sen­a­tor in 2015. With fil­ings for in­de­pen­dent can­di­dates due June 13, I had con­sid­ered but de­cided against a House of Delegates run. And it’s bug­ging the hell out of me that I came to this de­ci­sion.

First, spend­ing more than a month in Rich­mond each year isn’t very con­ducive to fam­ily life. I know that 140 mem­bers do it now; God love ’em. Sec­ond, del­e­gate pay is $17,640 a year. You need a sec­ond, non­con­tin­u­ous source of in­come. It’s im­pos­si­ble to hold a worka­day job and a seat in the Gen­eral Assem­bly. Last, run­ning as a rookie in­de­pen­dent means lit­tle to no chance of win­ning. My district strongly leans to­ward one party and is rep­re­sented by a four-term in­cum­bent with al­most $250,000 cash on hand.

And here’s what really bugs me: I have the gump­tion to make a dif­fer­ence and some good ideas to make Vir­ginia bet­ter for all its res­i­dents. But I’m at a se­vere com­pet­i­tive dis­ad­van­tage in put­ting them to the test on the po­lit­i­cal stage.

How do we make th­ese elec­tions more com­pet­i­tive?

For starters, we need to pay Gen­eral Assem­bly mem­bers a salary that will at­tract a more di­verse set of can­di­dates — can­di­dates who don’t have to rely on their own for­tunes to be­come leg­is­la­tors (and who may then be tempted to fur­ther en­rich them­selves). Oh, I’m sure I’ll hear grum­bling about “ca­reer politi­cians” on this point. But vot­ers have a tool to limit terms: It’s called a bal­lot. And Gen­eral Assem­bly mem­bers grum­ble, too, as their ten ure be­comes un­cer­tain with a more com­pet­i­tive po­lit­i­cal land­scape.

We also need to over­haul a cod­i­fied elec­toral sys­tem that fa­vors the con­tin­ued dom­i­nance of the two ma­jor par­ties.

To make the com­mon­wealth a bet­ter place to live and work, we need em­pha­sis on busi­ness growth rather will than busi­ness en­trench­ment. We can re­duce oc­cu­pa­tional li­cens­ing re­quire­ments to open up the door to new en­trepreneurs and work­ers. We can bar salary his­tory from em­ploy­ment ap­pli­ca­tions to pro­mote pay eq­uity, ren­der all non­com­pete agree­ments un­en­force­able to in­crease com­pe­ti­tion, and make pa­role de­pen­dent on com­ple­tion of ed­u­ca­tion or train­ing to re­duce re­cidi­vism.

We can make Vir­ginia friend­lier for con­sumers by elim­i­nat­ing the in­ef­fec­tive an­nual ve­hi­cle safety-in­spec­tion pro­gram, end­ing bar­ri­ers to en­try to In­ter­net providers and car re­tail­ers, and get­ting out of the al­co­holic bev­er­age dis­tri­bu­tion and re­tail busi­ness.

We need to over­haul an in­come tax sys­tem that was built for the 1920s, not the 2020s. We need to elim­i­nate all tax ex­pen­di­tures that pro­vide fa­vor and ad­van­tage. And we must main­tain our roads with the knowl­edge that the gas tax pro­vides only 25 per­cent of the rev­enue that’s needed.

Maybe this can be a project for me when the kids move out. But for now, I’m hop­ing that some­one in dif­fer­ent cir­cum­stances with good, dy­namic ideas will step up. Vir­ginia is a pretty ter­rific place to live. We can do even bet­ter.


The Vir­ginia Capi­tol in Rich­mond is en­shrouded in fog in 2015.

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