Webert joins, Benson leaves delegate race
In an exclusive interview with the Rappahannock News on Monday, Michael Webert announced his intention to run in the Republican primary to represent the 18th District, which includes all of Rappahannock County, in the General Assembly’s House of Delegates.
On Wednesday, Rappahannock resident Todd Benson, who’d announced his intention to run for the 18th District seat last month, withdrew from the race, citing health reasons.
Webert breeds and grazes cattle in Fauquier County. Being a farmer goes handin-hand with caring for the land, Webert said.
Webert’s grandmother, Magalen (“Maggie”) Bryant, of Middleburg, is a well known and ardent conservationist. “ She walks the walk of a conservationist,” Webert said.
“The agricultural land use act is designed to set aside land for future production, so we can feed our children as our civilization goes forward,” said Webert. But he wants to modify the tax credit received on land easements granted by owners.
“I believe it can be made better,” said Webert.
Webert has fenced his cattle away from waterways running through his property, but he opposes mandatory requirements. Although farmers are reimbursed for the project, his concern is that the State will end up passing the cost onto farmers.
In Webert’s view, most pollution in the Chesapeake Bay originates further north and from development rather than from agriculture.
After studying at Union College in Schenectady and Shenandoah University in Winchester, Webert graduated from George Mason University in 2011, majoring in communications. He was inducted into Lambda Pi Eta, the communications studies honor
While attending George Mason on a part-time basis and working full-time, Webert was on the staff at GreenWave Radio, which informs listeners about environmental issues, earthfriendly business trends and green technologies. After four years, he left as the executive producer.
If elected, Webert said that he will advocate for balance in preserving rural beauty and development. He proposed using the the 15/85 rule as a guide, where 15 percent of pristine land will be developed, with 85 percent remaining as open space.
“Growth is going to happen whether we like it or not,” said Webert. A farmer is better suited to represent this region, which is 80 percent rural and agricultural, Webert said. He and his wife run Black Locust Livestock Marketing. This experience enables him to relate with the concerns of small business owners, he said.
Webert is 31 years old, and a newlywed of one month. He moved to Fauquier County in 1999, and plans to live there the rest of his life.
Webert describes himself as politically conservative and Republican.
In a letter dated June 15 to Jim Fisher, who chairs the Fauquier Republican Committee, Huntly resident Todd Benson withdrew his candidacy for the Republican nomination, according to Yak Lubowsky. Lubowsky is a member of the Warrenton Town Council, and received a copy of Benson’s letter.
Benson, 58, cited health concerns.
“He [ Benson] is a good guy, a good friend,” said Lubowsky. ‘The District loses a singularly qualified representative in Richmond.” In his view, a candidate of Benson’s qualities only comes along once in every two generations.
For the past seven years, Benson, an attorney, had served as a field officer for the Piedmont Environmental Council ( PEC) and as an assistant zoning officer for Fauquier County. He favors low taxes to grow businesses and jobs. He champions farmers’ concerns and conservation principles.
Kevin P. Kelley, also a Republican, remains in the race with Webert. He lives in Fauquier County and owns a business consulting company in Manassas. Like Benson, he approves of low taxes. He would want the state budget to be tightly focused on priorities. Small government as well as business and economic development are important to Kelley, who is 52.
The Republican primary will be held Aug. 23.
Del. Clifford L. “ Clay” Athey, Jr. ( R-Warren County) has chosen not to seek reelection after serving 10 years in the House of Delegates. At about the same time the General Assembly’s redistricting plan took Rappahannock County out of the district now represented by Todd Gilbert and into the new 18th, which includes parts of Warren and Culpeper counties, and a significant portion of northern Fauquier.