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About the Candidates: State Senate Election Could Determine Party Control


On Tuesday, residents of the state’s 22nd district will elect a new senator, and Democrats are watching closely – noting a victory for one candidate could end GOP domination in that branch of the General Assembly.

Sandy Hausman reports on who’s running, and why Democrats could win in a largely Republican district.

The 22nd senate district is home to just under 200,000 people.  It stretches from Short Pump outside Richmond to Lynchburg, from suburban Charlottesville to Farmville, encompassing Amherst, Appomatox, Buckingham, Cumberland, Fluvanna, Goochland and part of Louisa counties.  

The seat had sent Republican Tom Garett to Richmond with 58-percent of the vote – but now he’s off to Congress, and Republican Mark Peake hopes to replace him.

“I’m pro-life, I am pro-family. I’m pro second amendment, and I believe in traditional marriage, and I believe God gave us our private parts so we would know where to go to the bathroom,” said Peake during a forum hosted by Hampden Sydney this week.

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A lawyer from Lynchburg, Peake ran for the office in 2011, losing to Garrett with 23-percent of the vote in a five-way primary. Now, he’s borrowed a line from Garrett in claiming he would never support a tax hike.

“We don’t have a revenue problem," he says. "We have a spending problem.”

And he’s against raising the minimum wage, arguing government has no business deciding what people should be paid.

The Democrat running against him, Ryant Washington, disagrees.

“I’m not sure what the magic number ought to be, but I do know people can't live off $7.25 an hour,” argued Washington during the same forum. 

As sheriff of Fluvanna County, he also wants a wage hike for deputies.

“A deputy who is on a state starting salary, married and has two children qualifies for public assistance.  Unacceptable!”

And while Peake is strongly opposed to expanding Medicaid, Washington would consider it.

“I am concerned about access to healthcare for all folks.  How do we get there? Medicaid expansion was just one way. There are millions of dollars every year that are given by the state to community health centers.  I know because I was a product," he says. "I grew up in a family that didn’t have health insurance, gut going down 15 to Buckingham Community Center was a blessing for me.”

Are you eligible to vote in the special elections? Click here to find out if you live in the State Senate's 22nd or 9th Districts. 

And then there’s the wild card in this race – Joe Hines.  

Hines grew up on farm where he says he learned his work ethic and core Christian values.  With an MBA from Duke, he’s all about business.

“My platform is real simple," Hines said during the forum. "It’s about economic development – creating more jobs, better jobs and greater economic opportunity for the 22nd district.  As I travel around the district there are two things that constantly come to the forefront.  First, everyone is worried about their jobs and the economy.  They are tired of living hand to mouth, paycheck to paycheck, and worrying how they’re going to pay their bills.  Second, they’re tired of not being heard, of gridlock in Washington and Richmond and the inability to get things done.”

Which is why he’s running as an independent – someone who will devote himself to economic development.  And as for Medicaid? He’s not quite sure.

“To be quite frank, I would need to take a closer look at what he’s actually proposed and the impacts of that.” 

On abortion, Peake is opposed. Washington says it’s between a woman and her doctor, and Hines seems to waffle in the middle.

“A woman’s reproductive rights are her rights," Hines says. "Every child deserves a chance to succeed in life, but I do think there are certain cases where a woman needs to be considered, and it comes down to faith, family, doctor and the circumstances she’s dealing with.”

While political pundits aren’t making predictions about this race, they agree – it will come down to enthusiasm. 

Turn-outs for special elections are usually low. But as an African-American, Washington may enjoy some advantage because about 26-percent of district residents are black. And the Democrat likes to recall that many doubted he’d become sheriff of Fluvanna. He won that race, and has since been re-elected three times.  

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