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In the race to fill the vacancy in the Virginia House of Delegates 6th District left by the retiring Anne B. Crockett-Stark, three candidates will appear on the ballot Nov. 5 in the Twin Counties.
The candidates seeking to become the next representative for Carroll, Smyth and Wythe counties are Democrat Jonathan Lee McGrady of Hillsville, Republican Jeffrey L. Campbell of Saltville and independent Barbara T. Hall of Marion.
The Gazette reached out to the three candidates to ask them to describe their platform, their reasons for running for the office and their experiences that would assist them in serving.
A former mayor and council member of Saltville for about 15 years and member of the Saltville Industrial Development Authority, Jeff Campbell says he has experience overseeing a municipality that employs 25 and has an annual budget of more than $2 million.
“My experience gives me expertise in all local governmental functions, public safety and — most importantly — economic development and industrial recruitment,” he told The Gazette. “ My extensive governmental experience substantially better positions me to be able to timely address the needs of the 6th District and to manipulate the bureaucracy in Richmond.”
If elected, economic development in the 6th District will be his number one priority, Campbell said.
Carroll, Smyth and Wythe counties need help in recovering from the effects of the North American Free Trade Agreement in the plant closures in woodworking and textile industries.
Localities lack the funds to pay for redevelopment efforts themselves.
“As a result, our county governments have been forced to rely on the referrals we get from the economic development authorities in Richmond,” Campbell said.
Historically, the more promising prospects have been directed to the more affluent and politically influential areas of the Commonwealth.”
Campbell wants to work to change this economic development imbalance in Virginia.
“I will propose, if elected, to appropriate more discretionary money for localities to hire industrial recruiters and economic development professionals to level the playing field with other areas of the Commonwealth,” he said.
A greater emphasis also should be placed on workforce training to teach the skills that can attract high paying, high tech jobs to the district.
“I will propose in the budgeting process that the 6th District get its fair share to better equip our citizens for job opportunities already existing and to better position the 6th District in future industrial and economic recruitment efforts,” he said.
Economic development efforts focus closely on the possibilities with agribusiness, Virginia’s main economic driver.
“We are blessed with some of the most rich and fertile farms anywhere in the Commonwealth,” he said. “Our farmers need more diversity in their marketplaces to become profitable once again.”
He promised to encourage legislation to promote the local farmers’ efforts and discourage overregulation.
In terms of education, Campbell said public school systems need proper funding, and the candidate expresses concerns about the emphasis on Standards of Learning tests.
The tests happen too often and across too many areas, he said.
“The enormous pressure to meet these demands has led to a diminution in the quality of the educational experience for the children,” Campbell said. “Teachers no longer have enough classroom time to give attention to the children that need it most. The demands to cover the testing objectives have destroyed the flexibility for educators to teach children the process of how to learn.”
Campbell has received the endorsement by the National Federation of Independent Business, the Virginia Citizen’s Defense League, the National Association for Gun Rights and the Virginia Realtors Association.
“In the House of Delegates, where Republicans currently hold a 68-seat majority, it is critical that the Delegate for the 6th District be a Republican to be able to generate the necessary support for legislative and budgetary needs,” Campbell said. “If either of my opponents is elected they will not be very effective as a minority member.”
Marion real estate broker Barbara T. Hall, running as an independent, supports stronger state disclosure laws, providing support for teachers and improvements to the redistricting process as part of her platform, as the candidate answered at the Vote411 Voter Guide, located at http://onyourballot.vote411.org/race-detail.do?id=11745700#.Um66mY7KYRw.
Education, healthcare, human trafficking would be among her legislative priorities if elected to the General Assembly. Other important issues include preventing child abuse and endangerment and benefits for veterans.
“Education is top of my priorities and I intend to work tirelessly to make sure our teachers’ pay is, at least, at the national level,” Hall said. “Also advanced learning resources should be made available to all schools in Virginia.”
Asked about her views on Virginia’s gift disclosure laws, Hall responded that after reports of Gov. Bob McDonnell accepting gifts from businessman Jonnie Williams that she would recommend forming an ethics commission.
All monies and gifts given to state officials and candidates should be reported, she said.
The process of the majority political party controlling the redistricting process in which state House and Senate districts are divided up is a true sore spot for her.
“Currently, redistricting is at the mercy of the ruling party,” Hall said. “My solution would be to use county lines! No half of a county for one district and half for another.”
Jonathan McGrady’s focus on jobs would begin with working to save the 500 at Southwestern Virginia Training Center by keeping the facility for the intellectually and developmentally disabled open.
Retaining this significant employer, slated to close by state officials by 2018, and attracting and retaining other businesses for job creation makes up the central focus for McGrady, if elected, he told The Gazette.
“Having lived in Carroll County my whole life, I know how important the training center is to the thousands of residents it has served through the years and the hundreds of dedicated employees that work there,” he said. “Additional parts of my job plan include: recruiting new business to fill our empty buildings at the Carroll Industrial Park and helping land a mega business at Exit 19 Wildwood Park.”
He foresees fighting for business incentives, cutting taxes for small businesses and cracking down on high utility rates from Appalachian Power.
The high rates could keep businesses from locating here and force families to choose between paying for heating and eating, the candidate said.
Instead of seeing stores and manufacturing plants close and people moving away, McGrady says he wants to help create new opportunities.
“I am a father of three children and I want to make this a better place for my kids and your kids,” he said. “I want to ensure that our kids have opportunities to stay in Southwest Virginia once they graduate from high school or return from college.” McGrady said he would fight to make sure the 6th District and its schools gets its “fair share” of funding from Richmond, so state officials don’t try “to pass the buck to local taxpayers.”
He also wants to help preserve the family farm by cutting red tape and regulations on agribusinesses and protect citizens’ Second Amendment rights.
A native of Carroll County, McGrady graduated from Carroll High in 1987, from Hampden-Sydney College in 1991 with a political science degree and from William and Mary Law School in 1995 with a doctorate in jurisprudence.
But McGrady says that he learned common sense while growing up at his great-grandfather Clinton Webb’s Country Store and on his grandfather Harry McGrady’s farm.
His business management experience comes his family law business, McGrady and McGrady, for 18 years and from running the family tree farm, Greenbrier Ridge Farm.
Civic offices include serving on the executive board of the Twin County Regional Chamber of Commerce for the last seven years and as president in 1997, as well as serving on the New River Valley Workforce Investment Board.
“I gained a tremendous amount of budgetary and state level experience by representing all private attorneys on the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services Board from 2005-2010 where our board administered approximately $289 million per year in grants to local police departments and other agencies related to criminal justice including funding for school resource officer positions, bullet proof vests, battered women’s shelters,” McGrady said.
Community service has included being active with Shriners and raising money for the children’s hospitals, being a deacon at Hillsville Christian Church; helping with the Carroll Christmas Fund and other causes.
McGrady’s campaign has the endorsement of the Virginia Farm Bureau, Virginia Education Association, Virginia Professional Firefighters Association. He also received an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association.
It has been 12 years since the district had a delegate that hailed from Carroll, and McGrady said he wants to keep this race about the local issues.
“My opponent has tried very hard to make this a one-issue national race when this is local race with local issues about who can best represent Carroll, Wythe and Smyth counties,” he said. “I believe that I can best work with people who have different views.
“It is high time to put people before politics and I think I can find compromise in the middle. I am the type of person who is not afraid to express my views and have no problem embracing an idea, even if it is an idea from a different political party, if it is good for our area.”