Del. Alfonso Lopez (D) and Republican challenger Adam Roosevelt clashed on whether Virginia should expand Medicaid, but found agreement on immigration, during a candidate forum on Tuesday night (September 5).
Lopez, who has represented the 49th District for three terms in the Virginia House of Delegates and serves as the Minority Whip, said expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act should be done for moral and economic reasons. That plan has been unsuccessful both through the General Assembly and executive action.
“There are working families without health insurance in Virginia,” Lopez said. “It’s immoral not to expand Medicaid.”
But Roosevelt, who is challenging Lopez in the district that includes neighborhoods along Columbia Pike, around Pentagon City and west to Bailey’s Crossroads and Seven Corners in Fairfax County, said it is unaffordable and will cost Virginians more in tax dollars.
“That is what they will not tell you: your taxes will increase, and we have enough taxes as it is,” Roosevelt said. The debate, at Virginia Hospital Center, was attended by about 100 people.
The rivals appeared to be in broad agreement on immigration and the status of illegal immigrants, the same day as President Donald Trump announced he would rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. To start, they agreed that illegal immigrants who commit crimes in this country should be deported.
Both also pledged to protect legal migrants and undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country as children and have otherwise not committed crimes. Lopez said decisions about immigration must come from the federal level, not the state.
“What we have is a fundamentally broken immigration system at the federal level,” he said.
At times, there were frosty moments between the two as they sparred over issues like climate change, a woman’s right to choose and redistricting reform. After Lopez outlined his record on the environment, including co-founding the Virginia Environment & Renewable Energy caucus to advocate for issues in Richmond and across the state, Roosevelt cut in.
“I’ll remind my opponent we’re talking about the 49th District here,” Roosevelt said, arguing that the discussion should be focused more on local issues than statewide topics.
Later, the two disagreed on how boundaries should be redrawn for Virginia’s Congressional and General Assembly. Boundaries will be redrawn after the next census in 2020, but that could come sooner depending on a case making its way through the courts.
Lopez called for a non-partisan commission to draw new boundaries separate from General Assembly leadership, but Roosevelt said he had not done enough in Richmond to bring about such changes.
“My opponent has quite a voice tonight and quite a position to stand in to effect these changes,” he said.
And the pair differed on their belief in a woman’s right to choose whether to have an abortion. Roosevelt said the life of both the woman and a fetus must be protected and said the issue should not be politicized, but Lopez did not equivocate in his view and criticized others in the General Assembly who have tried to take the right to choose away.
“How many times do we have to get up on the floor of the House of Delegates and fight people who want to take away a woman’s right to choose?” he asked.
Lopez and Roosevelt are on the ballot on November 7, while Arlington’s three other delegates are all unopposed.
In a position he describes as the “greatest honor of my life,” three-term Del. Alfonso Lopez (D) said he finds it most rewarding to help his constituents with issues they may be having.
Lopez said he likes to help his constituents in the 49th District with issues like wanting a new stop sign, or help with filing their taxes. And he and his staff run events such as health insurance enrollment fairs and stream cleanups.
“I do it because I love it,” Lopez said. “I love giving back, I love the opportunity to help people that I’ve never met before. To literally help change people’s lives that I don’t even know but who need help. I’m proud of the fact that with things I’ve accomplished I think I’ve done that. And I want to keep doing that.”
But the three-term delegate, whose district includes neighborhoods along Columbia Pike, around Pentagon City and west to Bailey’s Crossroads and Seven Corners in Fairfax County, said he has plenty to be proud of.
He said that desire to protect those people is rooted in his family history. Lopez’s father came to the United States in the 1950s from Venezuela and overstayed his tourist visa. He then worked, learned English, became a citizen and graduated from Northern Virginia Community College. His mother was a guidance counselor at Washington-Lee High School and helped more than 1,000 students get to college.
Lopez said them and a shared desire to live the American Dream are a reminder each day of the importance of helping immigrants.
“[E]very time I see a DREAMer kid, I see my father,” Lopez said. “Every time I look in the eyes of some young student trying to make a better life for themselves here, I see my dad.”
(Updated 3:45 p.m.) Three of Arlington’s four members of the Virginia House of Delegates are without an opponent this fall.
Given the lack of locally competitive races in November, when the House’s entire 100 seats are up for grabs, the lawmakers are looking at opportunities to help fellow Democrats to pick up seats elsewhere.
Democratic Dels. Mark Levine and Rip Sullivan — who are unopposed, as is Del. Patrick Hope — say they have their eyes on the statewide races, and have thrown their support behind Democratic nominees Ralph Northam, Justin Fairfax and Mark Herring, who are running for Governor, Lt. Governor and Attorney General, respectively. Additionally, in the House, local elected officials see real opportunities to make gains.
So instead of having to purely campaign to defend their own seats, they have looked further afield to try and cut into Republicans’ advantage, particularly through fundraising for candidates.
Democrats now have 88 candidates for the House, including incumbents running for re-election. That list includes more women running than men, four LGBT candidates as well as African-Americans and Asian-Americans.
Sullivan, who is the House Democratic Caucus’ campaign chair, launched Project Blue Dominion, a Political Action Committee to help recruit, train and fund candidates across Virginia.
He has sent out regular emails entitled “Flip-a-District Fridays” profiling the new candidates, and the PAC reported to the Virginia Department of Elections that it received $4,296 in contributions through the end of the last filing period on June 30.
“We are very excited about our current position,” Sullivan said. “We have a remarkably diverse group of candidates, some very accomplished candidates. It is the largest group of candidates we’ve had in a long, long time… We are running in parts of the state we haven’t run in in a long time.”
Political newcomer Adam Roosevelt said he knew at the age of 13 years old that he wanted to run for the Virginia House of Delegates.
He grew up in Norfolk, Va., in what he described as a “ghetto” neighborhood that struggled with gangs and poverty.
But at 13, he was inspired after meeting a local woman named Mrs. Bell, who spent her life donating money to the needy and taking trips to Africa to feed the hungry.
The 25-year-old began by serving in the U.S. Army, which included two tours in Afghanistan and a stint at NATO. He filed to run for the 49th District of the House of Delegates earlier this year on a platform he calls “Let’s Secure Virginia,” focusing on education, transportation, small business and veterans’ affairs.
The Pentagon City resident faces the task of trying to unseat Del. Alfonso Lopez (D), a three-term incumbent who also serves as Minority Whip for the Democratic caucus. The district includes neighborhoods along Columbia Pike and near the Pentagon, as well as parts of Bailey’s Crossroads and Seven Corners in Fairfax County.
If elected, Roosevelt said one of his major priorities would be improving education in the district. With a focus on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), as well as encouraging more students to study medicine, he said he wants to help young people be competitive in the job market.
And to help do that, Roosevelt said he would be open to adding more charter schools and vouchers, which would provide government money redeemable for tuition fees at a non-public school. He said the growth of such schools helps encourage competition.
“It forces our teachers to have to get more certifications and get more education, and we’re going to start providing a system there that by competitive nature allows for higher quality and it allows our parents to have the opportunity to say, ‘I want my son to go to that school, I like the curriculum, that school’s doing very well,'” Roosevelt said. “It forces the other schools to compete now, and I think that’s healthy.”
Roosevelt now works as a contractor in cybersecurity and intelligence for the Department of Homeland Security. He said that helping small businesses grow is another priority, by reducing the corporate tax rate from 6 percent to 4 percent for small businesses and working with Arlington County to make the Business, Professional and Occupational License (BPOL) tax less burdensome.
Also on Roosevelt’s agenda is improving transportation, which he said should be invested in wisely, and be made as reliable as possible.
“I’m big on cutting down on waste, fraud and abuse,” Roosevelt said. “Our contracting processes are causing us to purchase things that are too much money, like $1 million for a bus stop. We could have bought a few bus stops, we could have had three full-time employees under a small business and we could have had some more labor there.”
Anyone else get a text message like this today? The recipient of this text was NOT the voter whose name and address was listed. pic.twitter.com/RPbgeBX46p
— Arlington News (@ARLnowDOTcom) June 9, 2017
(Updated 5:55 p.m.) With statewide primary elections just days away, late last week numerous local residents reported receiving text messages encouraging them to vote, but with incorrect information including their name and polling place.
Multiple readers reported receiving texts this weekend from a group identifying itself as “NextGen Virginia.” The texts use what they say is publicly available information on voters’ names, addresses and polling place, and reminds them to vote on Tuesday in the primary elections for Governor and Lt. Governor.
But for many, the information was incorrect.
Some, who live in the Fairlington area, were to vote at Abingdon Elementary School, which is under construction and so not a designated polling place this year. More received texts intended for someone else, sometimes containing that individual’s address; one, for instance, was sent to the mobile phone number of the intended recipient’s sister.
— Kevin (@surrrewhynot) June 9, 2017
I got two of these both addressed to my wife. Couldn't find anything about them. Blocked both numbers. https://t.co/jwkb3kfbUB
— Frank L (@nationals101) June 10, 2017
I just got one too. Right name, wrong address, and I've never been registered because I'm not a citizen.
— Alex Perry (@alexandertperry) June 10, 2017
Linda Lindberg, the county’s director of elections, said she had no details on the group involved but said voters should check all their information before going to the polls. The county has been tweaking its precincts and voting locations since last year, when two new voting districts were added.
“We encourage all voters to check their voting locations at vote.virginia.gov before they go to the polls,” Lindberg said. “This is especially important because we’re had some changes since the last election. All affected voters were sent notices in April, but some may have overlooked the notices.”
A representative of the state chapter of NextGen Climate, which advocates for political action to prevent what it calls “climate disaster,” said it has been sending text messages to potential voters, and may have received incorrect data to help it do so.
“NextGen volunteers are sending text messages to a list of young people from numbers we get from a reputable political data firm,” a NextGen spokeswoman said. “No list is perfect, which may occasionally lead to people getting text messages intended for other people. Our text messages inform people that if they live at the address that we assume they live at based on publicly available data, then they vote at a particular voting location. Again, this is based on the best publicly available election data.
“Our goal is to increase turnout in the gubernatorial primaries, and we believe text messages will help us do that. Texting can provide the electorate with critical information on how to participate in the voting process.”
(Updated at 3:05 p.m.) House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) lost a primary challenge last night to David Brat, a professor at Randolph-Macon College.
The result stunned the political world, as did Brat’s convincing margin of victory: 56 to 44 percent.
The D.C. punditocracy, trying to comprehend Cantor’s unprecedented loss, floated a number of theories: conservative voters were upset with Cantor about possible immigration reform, talk radio hosts endorsed Brat, Brat captured the anti-establishment Tea Party vote, Democrats voted in the open primary to spite Cantor, etc.
It has also been suggested that Cantor spent too much time in D.C. and not enough time in his Richmond-area district. Cantor maintains a condominium in Arlington, near Pentagon City, public records show.
Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), speaking to ARLnow.com outside of Don Beyer’s victory party in Alexandria, said he had just seen Cantor on the House floor earlier that day and was “shocked” that he was voted out of office, presumably by the same conservative voters that Cantor had tried so hard to court over the years.
“Compared to this guy Brat, Eric was so much more competent, informed, and showed leadership in his party,” Moran said. “I disagree with his positions but between the two of them he was by far the more accomplished, capable statesman.”
Moran marveled at the irony that someone regarded as a “young gun” conservative leader was apparently considered not conservative enough by Republican voters.
“He was very conservative,” Moran said. “If you’re conservative, he’s the guy you should have voted for, not some guy to doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Eric is very much anti-immigration… I was bitterly opposed to his position. But the idea of voting against him because he wasn’t sufficiently anti-immigration is nonsense.”
In a press release Wednesday morning, the Democratic polling group Public Policy Polling claimed voters in Cantor’s district actually support immigration reform, but were unhappy with Cantor and with the GOP leadership in the House.
“Both Cantor and the GOP House leadership are deeply unpopular, even with Republican voters, and that likely led to his loss,” Public Policy Polling concluded, based on a poll conducted Tuesday night.
“I think the fringe of the Republican Party is taking over the party,” Moran said. “The Republican Party has lost control, it has a tiger by the tail and it can’t rein it in. It’s bought in to the Fox News and the hate radio stuff and now it’s out of control. You need some government, and yet these people want no government. ”
Moran said redistricting in Virginia might have hurt Cantor.
“When you gerrymander a district so you only put conservatives in there, you don’t get a balanced district and this is what you get,” he said. “I think a more moderate district, it turns out, probably would have been in his favor. But Eric didn’t want a moderate district, he wanted as much concentration of conservatives as possible, and this is what he wound up with.”
Despite the fact that the news about Cantor was a couple of hours old, Moran, who is retiring after 12 terms in the House, was still battling disbelief.
“Wow, isn’t that something,” he reflected.
Peter Rousselot, who wrapped up a four year term as the chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee earlier this year, is hoping that fellow Dems choose him to lead the state Democratic party. Members of the party’s Central Committee will choose the next state party chairman by a vote at a meeting in Newport News on Saturday.
But Rousselot has formidable competition in the form of Brian Moran, brother of Rep. Jim Moran.
Moran, a top lobbyist for the for-profit college industry, is benefiting from his family pedigree, his 13 years in the Virginia House of Delegates and a long list of key endorsements. Rousselot, fighting an uphill battle, cites the work he’s done for the party in Arlington and the full-time commitment he’d be able to give to the job of chair.
“If you elect me as DPVA Chair, I pledge to serve out the entirety of my term, devoting myself full-time to my role until May 2013,” Rousselot said in an email to committee members. Moran, on the other hand, would likely keep his day job.
Rousselot says the party should contest all 140 Virginia Senate and House of Delegates seats, rather than “targeting” a portion of the seats. Moran has a similar message. Both men say the party should develop a stronger communication strategy for statewide races.
Rousselot says he’s confident heading into Saturday’s vote, but is not making any predictions regarding his chances of winning.