The Virginia Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce, held a Virginia General Assembly Candidate Forum at the Chamber’s office on the morning of September 12. Attendees and candidates were welcomed by Virginia Chamber President & CEO, Barry DuVal, and Hampton Roads Chamber President & CEO Jack Hornbeck, CCE.
This forum provided an opportunity for the business community to hear from each candidate and learn their views on topics including transportation, healthcare, economic development, education, energy, and Virginia’s Right to Work laws. Chamber members had an opportunity to submit questions to be asked of candidates by moderator Shep Miller (KITCO Fiber Optics), Chair, Hampton Roads Business Action Committee.
Attendees heard from:
6th Senate District
Senator Ralph Northam (D)
Ben Loyola, Jr. (R)
21st House District
Delegate Ron Villanueva (R)
Adrianne Bennett (D)
14th Senate District
Senator Harry Blevins (R)
Senator Ralph Northam told the group “We need to sit down and find a sustainable source to fund transportation.” Being a pediatric neurologist, Northam shared his views on health care by explaining that there are three legs to the issue: quality, access and cost. He stressed the importance of electronic medical records and said we must change the incentive from “quantity” to “outcomes.” Northam supported the Governor’s Opportunity Fund and is an advocate for Virginia’s Right to Work laws. He said we must prepare young people to enter the job force and partner businesses with local colleges, universities and high schools. On the topic of energy, Northam said, “Offshore drilling concerns me,” explaining its potential threat to the military’s needs, tourism, and the NASA space program on the Eastern Shore. More about Senator Ralph Northam.
Northam’s opponent, Ben Loyola, stressed the importance of our Port and the Panama Canal expansion. He said businesses should be provided with incentives in order to compete regionally and globally. Loyola said, “Our country is overtaxed, over regulated, over litigated and over unionized.” He stressed keeping taxes low, explaining the correlation between taxes, unemployment and crime. States with higher taxes have higher unemployment and higher crime rates. On education, he said, “Money needs to get to the classroom and to our teachers. Too much money is going to the federal government.” When asked about offshore drilling, Loyola said, “We need to be able to drill.” He explained that we have great natural resources that will bring jobs to the region. More about Ben Loyola.
Delegate Ron Villanueva told the crowd of his successes and accomplishments during his Freshman year in the General Assembly. He gave an update on regional transportation projects and says he supports Patriot’s Crossing and the widening of I-64. “Our delegation protects our road dollars,” he said. “Tolls are a necessary evil.” “Virginia is in competition with the world. I’ve worked hand-in-hand to bring new businesses here.” He supports the state’s Right to Work laws, as well as offshore drilling. Villanueva, a small business owner, said the two biggest problems facing small business is access to credit and too many government regulations. More about Delegate Ron Villanueva.
Challenger Adrianne Bennett is also a small business owner. In regard to transportation projects, she believes in public/private partnerships and is concerned with tolls. Bennett says early childhood education is key to a strong workforce and would make education a top priority if elected. She said that the state needs to come up with another way to fill the hole of the Business, Professional and Occupational License (BPOL) Tax. “We need to look at renewable energy resources,” she said, going on to say that she is concerned wind farms and offshore drilling may affect keeping our military community in Hampton Roads. More about Adrianne Bennett
Incumbent Senator Harry Blevins says we have to vote for new revenue for transportation, but added, “I will not vote for a tax increase.” Blevins says that if we do nothing, our transportation problems will worsen. He supports Virginia’s Right to Work laws. Blevins explained that our state has to be competitive and he says there should be more oversight when providing incentives to businesses. More about Senator Harry Blevins.
Elections for these Virginia General Assembly seats will be held on Tuesday, November 8, 2011. Information from the Virginia State Board of Elections on voting.