Ever since veteran legislator Marian Van Landingham announced she would not be running again this November, several Democrats have expressed interest in running for her seat. Four have formally announced.
Former state Del. Richard Hobson, who served in Richmond from 1976-80, formally announced his candidacy for the 45th Assembly District this week. An active member of the Democratic Party in Alexandria, Hobson was awarded its outstanding legislative award in 1978 and has continued to be closely involved in the local political arena since he left office. His previous experience, he said, is his strongest asset in the race.
“I feel I can hit the ground running,” he said. “I’ve had this job before. I can provide experience in serving this District because of my familiarity with the issues.”
Hobson is an attorney with the Tysons Corner-based firm McGuire Woods. On education policy, Hobson said he supports the initiative of Gov. Mark Warner and several Northern Virginia lawmakers to pass legislation that would ensure that foreign-born students can attend state-funded colleges by paying in-state tuition costs.
“I support what Gov. Warner did when he vetoed the bill that would have prohibited undocumented students from attending state schools with in-state tuition,” he said, adding that legislators could seek to find compromise on the issue by setting distinct standards to determine which students qualified for the tuition rate. If a foreign student graduated from a Virginia High School, for example, or the student’s legal guardian is a U.S. citizen, Hobson said, he should qualify for in-state tuition.
Putting more money into Virginia schools, he continued, should be among the Assembly’s priorities in the coming years. Hobson criticized the commonwealth for failing to match federal education money with state funds.
Yet the 45th District faces a different kind of funding crisis when it comes to transportation. Hobson applauded the efforts of the Warner administration to set aside money for infrastructure costs in Northern Virginia, saying that work must continue if a viable solution to the region’s traffic and transit woes is to be found anytime soon.
There are short-term solutions, but the region is going to need a dedicated source of funding, he said.
Urged to run by colleagues in the District, Hobson said he now relishes the chance to return to Richmond.
The serious challenge he faces right next is getting nominated, he said.
PROGRESSIVE DEMOCRAT David Englin is a newcomer to campaign politics. Englin is a former public affairs officer in the U.S. Navy with eight years of service on his record and is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy. In Richmond, Englin said he wants to champion Democratic values in the face of Republican-dominated state politics.
“I have a 5-year-old son,” he said. “This race is about his future. I want to serve in Richmond as an unabashedly progressive voice, a voice to defend our progressive values, the values of inclusiveness that are under attack in the commonwealth by Republicans.”
After leaving the Navy in 2004, Englin began his own online lobbying group aimed at encouraging U.S. officials to declare the ongoing atrocities in the Sudan’s Darfur region a crime against humanity. Using an online journal known as a Web-log, www.rippleofhope.net, Englin lobbied to have the Darfur conflicts declared a genocide. His background in public affairs, he said, has prepared him for a life in policy and politics.
“Over the years, I worked on policy issues that dealt with the environment, with public health and with meeting the needs of military families,” he said.
On transportation, Englin believes the best remedy to his district’s traffic woes is widening the diversity of transit options.
“I would take a very holistic approach,” he said. “We need investment, but it is important that we think of all the different modes of transportation. Those of us living on a lower income tend to use the buses instead of Metrorail. We need to invest in a safe, convenient bus system.”
As a father, Englin said education is an issue that touches home, and raising teacher salaries is an integral part of raising the academic bar statewide.
“I’ve always thought that we don’t pay teachers enough,” he said. “They are partners in raising our children. My son’s teachers can’t afford to live in the town where they teach. That’s just wrong.”
Englin, a member of Alexandria’s committee on affordable housing, said the increasingly expensive proposition of finding a place to live in Northern Virginia could be made easier if local governments took it upon themselves to work together.
“We need to take a regional approach to affordable housing,” said Englin, who attended the ground-breaking ceremony for the Chatham Square complex in Alexandria this week, a project designed to offer affordable housing mixed with market-value housing. The governments in Arlington, Alexandria and Fairfax counties need to cooperate on that, working with housing groups and developers, he said.
ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION is a top priority for Elsie Mosqueda, the current legislative aide to Del. Brian Moran (D-Alexandria). With the coal-burning Mariant Power Plant in her district’s backyard, Mosqueda said Richmond must pass air-quality legislation that would place tighter regulations on the plant, which many have called one of the top sources of pollution in the nation.
“Taking care of the environment means clean air, but it also means clean water,” said Mosqueda, adding that she wants to siphon more state money to improving water quality in Northern Virginia.
“Expanding recycling programs in the commonwealth,” she said, “would reduce the environmental impact of solid waste.
“Id like to see more of an effort to recycle in Virginia,” she said.
Turning to education policy, Mosqueda said the commonwealth must overhaul its approach to students learning English in the public schools and take measures to reduce overcrowding.
“We need to concentrate on students by reducing class sizes,” she said. “We need to focus on our students who are learning English as a Second Language. We have a very diverse community, and we need to be taking care of all our students. That includes those from other countries.”
Crime and public safety, she said, are an urgent need in the 45th District. Mosqueda, who holds a master’s degree in forensic science, said the local police need to put more officers out on the streets and to have more funding. “And, we need to ensure that they have the latest equipment.”
Raising police salaries, she added, is the first step.
“We’re losing many of our state police officers to the private sector,” she said.
On public health, Mosqueda — a longtime proponent of the Northern Virginia AIDS ministry, an AIDS education group — said she wants to see the state expand its role in combating the epidemic despite recent cuts in such programs. Mosqueda added that she also wants to pursue laws to address the needs of battered women.
“I want to be an advocate for women in Richmond,” she said.
THE CURRENT CHAIRPERSON of the Arlington School Board, Libby Garvey, announced her candidacy last week, stating that the primary focus of her campaign is education. A PTA activist turned education official, Garvey wants to revamp how the commonwealth addresses the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), the federal law she strongly spoke against during her 2004 election campaign.
The way the NCLB is dealt with changes constantly in Richmond, and sometimes, the people casting votes to determine how it is handled don’t quite seem to understand the impact, Garvey said. A lot of the NCLB testing requirements use standards of quality that are woefully out of date.
For an example, Garvey pointed to the testing standards applied to elementary-school students with a limited English proficiency (LEP).
“We require LEP students to take the test on writing, but we’re not testing English-speaking students because we know that they are too young to know how to write,” she said.
Foreign-born students, she added, must have the right to in-state tuition if they are awaiting an answer on their immigration status.
“These students come to us as little children,” she said. “These are our kids, and seeing them through to completing their education really is in the best interest of this state,” she `added.
Turning to taxes, Garvey said that as long as the county struggles to find new ways to create revenue, the issue will be linked to Arlington’s economic growth.
The idea that higher taxes slow growth doesn’t make much sense, she said, and added, “what will slow growth is not using the revenue we have to invest in the future.”
Creating a new warning system for residents in her district is also among her legislative goals, as is safeguarding the environment. Garvey said she would support the measure put forth recently by Del. Marian Van Landingham to place tighter regulations on the Mariant Power Plant in Alexandria. On transportation, Garvey said she wants to see a diversified approach to the problems facing her District.
“That means making walkable streets, improving roads, improving the transit system, and really looking at multiple solutions,” she said.