© 2024
Virginia's Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Fredericksburg area to decide close legislative races

Fredericksburg is one of the fastest growing areas in Virginia and one of the most politically influential with two highly competitive votes for the state senate and house.
City of Fredericksburg
Fredericksburg is one of the fastest growing areas in Virginia and one of the most politically influential with two highly competitive votes for the state senate and house.

The views of candidates in Senate District 27 are not surprising when you consider their political parties. In a debate hosted by the University of Mary Washington, Republican Tara Durant said she would support a ban on abortion after 15 weeks – the position backed by Governor Glenn Youngkin. Democrat Joel Griffin disagreed.

“I refuse to stand by and allow politicians to tell my wife or my daughter what they can do with their own bodies.”

But there’s an independent candidate in this race – Monica Gary – and she has some surprising things to say. On abortion, for example, she opposes any new restrictions.

“I’ve actually had abortions unfortunately. I was in a very abusive relationship, and that was part of what happened during that time – when I was trying to leave.”

Republican Durant likes to talk about public safety and limited government spending.

“What matters most to Virginians, what matters to all of us here in this district is that we are able to support our families – so that we have a strong economy," she says. "That is my focus – that we keep out taxes low, we keep our spending low so that Virginia has a strong economy and is secure.”

But the independent, again, offers a surprising response when asked about taxes.

“If we’re going to talk about over taxing citizens, I think we should also talk about giving huge tax incentives to large corporations, or the fact that some people would cut the grocery tax but not tell you that tax actually goes to transportation,” Gary asserts.

And on the subject of transit Durant attacks Democrats for what she calls radical policies.

“They have made it clear that they really don’t want us to be able to drive our car. They’ve got us on a path to not purchase gas burning vehicles by 2035, and they’ve prioritized other projects like bike lanes and rail instead of really focusing on road construction and what matters I our district so that you’re able to get home from work on time, to get your kid to practice, hear them at their concert, and to have the proper dinner with your family instead of that late-night snack at 10 p.m.”

Democrat Griffin vows to increase spending for schools.

“My wife has been a Stafford County Public Schools teacher for 17 years, so I’ve seen first-hand that our schools and our teachers are underfunded.”

And he pledges support for mental health services.

Independent Gary agrees and identifies a revenue source for doing so.

“We’re going to set up the retail market for cannabis, and we’ll generate millions in tax revenue. Maryland opened theirs, and the first weekend they had over $100 million in revenue.”

The same issues came up when two candidates for House District 65 met at UMW. Republican Lee Peters III cited a poll showing public support for a ban on abortion at 15 weeks except in cases of rape, incest or risk to the mother’s life.

“Sixty-one percent of people, they all said this is what we’ll agree on, and my job, if you hire me for this job, is to take what you say to Richmond.”

The survey involved fewer than 600 people and was commissioned by two anti-abortion groups. Democrat Joshua Cole said he would oppose any new limits on the procedure.

“Women have told me they are pro-life, but they do not want a ban in Virginia. They’re a little older than me. I don’t remember the 50‘s and 60’s before Roe versus Wade, but they do, and they remember the alleyways, and they don’t want Virginia to go back to that.”

On the subject of schools, clergyman Cole preaches against Republicans who would restrict what teachers can teach.

“We want to + make sure we’re recruiting great teachers to this region, and we’re not able to do that if we have a school board or people in certain offices who say we can’t teach certain history. You have to teach how we tell you to teach, and only how we tell you to teach.”

Peters, a retired law enforcement officer, prefers to focus on safety in schools.

“Do you know what happens if two students get into a fight? They both get suspended. Do you know what happens if a student touches a teacher? They get put right back in the classroom. Teachers don’t feel safe.”

The Virginia Public Access Project reports Republican Peters has raised about $550,000 while Democrat Cole has nearly a million bucks in the bank, but at UVA’s Center for Politics, Kyle Kondik notes there could be an effort to fix the financial disparity.

“Governor Youngkin has this PAC called Spirit of Virginia, and he’s been raising a lot of money for that, and down the stretch it’ll be interesting to see what money the PAC spends, and if they can help Republicans against Democrats who generally speaking have more money in key races.”

The editor of a non-partisan newsletter on American campaigns, Kondik notes both districts backed Joe Biden for president, but a majority cast votes for Glenn Youngkin in the governor’s race.

Sandy Hausman is Radio IQ's Charlottesville Bureau Chief