Jeanine Lawson: ‘I’m from Iowa...and certainly I’m a supporter of our agricultural economy. ’
Jeanine Lawson is a two-term Prince William County Supervisor running for the Republican nomination in Virginia’s 10th Congressional District, with her campaign focused on conservative values and local control.
Q: How should Congress support agritourism in small communities like Rappahannock?
A: I'm very familiar with agribusiness and agritourism because I represent a district in Prince William County that has a rural area. And if you know anything about me, as I work on the county board, I'm a big defender of preserving Prince William County's rural area. Certainly, we need to do all that we can to promote this … little niche or micro economy for communities. … But I'm not willing to sit here and commit to certain legislation to promote a micro economy as a member of Congress. I think it's more relevant for local communities and for state government, there [are] state government funding programs, like the Purchase of Development Rights and things that will continue to preserve open land and agriculture in general. But I would argue that by and large, that's more of a responsibility of localities and states.
Q: How can Congress help bring cell phone coverage to rural areas without cell towers to protect rural viewsheds?
A: I do think that there is a role for the federal government to play, but I don't think it's solely the responsibility of the federal government to expand broadband. And there are a lot of grant funding opportunities that localities have taken advantage of, especially in the last few years, even prepandemic. And I think there are partnerships that localities can utilize with internet service providers and have a public private partnership. But again, I want to remind you that I don't think that that's the sole responsibility of the United States federal government.
Q: Is there any way the federal government can incentivize service workers to relocate to rural areas like Rappahannock?
A: Let me think about that, because this is where I get very sensitive about the role of the federal government. And I don't know, I would want to do more research and give you an answer that I'm more comfortable with related to that speci c question.
Q: What role, if any, should Congress play in supporting small family farms?
A: I certainly believe in the free market, the free market enterprise. And I'm from Iowa, as you know, and certainly I'm a supporter of our agricultural economy. But I also don't think that the federal government should be interfering in the free market system. And therefore, I don't think that we should just hand out subsidies to small family farms. That again, goes back to the state and local governments' considerations.
In Prince William County, we have a program called Use Value, where landowners … can apply for a reduced assessed value of their land, but they have to show receipts of $1,000 or more generated revenue from the land. You could have a pumpkin patch, you can have a farm of soybeans, you can have livestock — you have to use the land for agricultural business. And because of that, then you have a reduced assessed value. So you're paying less in property taxes. That's a local program that the state allows localities to hold. Those are the types of programs that I support, rather than federal handouts.
Q: How would you address a lack of housing and a ordable housing stock in Rappahannock and other similarly situated rural communities?
A: What I just learned from my conversation with [the Rappahannock County] sheri is that there are some zoning restrictions in place … which makes it more di cult for people to buy and build. Right. And again, that goes back to a local issue. One thing I will be an ardent supporter of, is empowering localities to make local decisions,
Congress should not be weighing in on local zoning laws. That is the role of local government. And I know that because I've lived it for the last 30 years. I don't want members of Congress or even members of the State telling localities what's best for their local zoning ordinances.
There is an agenda from the far le that thinks that they know how to plan and build communities more than your local representatives, and zoning has always been under the authority of localities.
Q: Does solar energy have a place in Rappahannock County?
A: In a limited capacity, I think that there are arguments on both sides. There have been some localities in Virginia that have probably embraced too many solar farms, and then you have the concerns from the community that it is ruining the viewshed, it's a ecting bird life. There's a lot of di erent arguments. But I would again say that is more of a local issue.
There's one solar farm in Prince William County that has been approved through a special use permit and is under site plan approval, and it's in my district, and I supported it. And just by that alone would indicate that I'm open to it, but I'm open to it in balance.
Q: How much environmental regulation is necessary to protect Rappahannock’s streams and waterways, many of which empty into the Chesapeake Bay?
A: Are you familiar with the Chesapeake Bay Act of 1988? Are you familiar with the stormwater rigs and the improvements that were implemented about six years ago? … They are more stringent stormwater regulations for nonpoint pollution sources, and those were obviously needed. We need to do everything that we can within reason to make sure that we are preserving the Chesapeake Bay. And there are many di erent ways that you can look at that, but reducing soil erosion and pollutants into our waterways is obviously the main goal to preserve our clean water.
Q: How will you balance the rural interests of Rappahannock and Fauquier voters against the suburban interests of Prince William and Loudoun counties?
A: I do it all the time in Prince William County. I would absolutely not forget the rural area of the 10th District — as a matter of fact, I probably spend just as much time on my rural area in Prince William as I do in the development area. So it would become natural to me, because I already live by that role in Prince William. It's a great question. And I come from a small town in Iowa, so I naturally have a love for rural America.