Frustrated with the conventional two-party system of government, Springfield resident Richard Lee Herron decided to take matters into his own hands and run as the Independent Green party candidate for the 39th district in the Virginia House of Delegates
"I grew up a Democrat, but I was disgusted with the two-party system, so I never voted," said Herron, an artist who has worked with Carol Shelby, designer of the Shelby Cobra Mustang, on several projects. "When I met Carey Campbell in 2000 and he asked if I wanted to run for Congress with the Independent Green Party, I told him yes but I had to register to vote first. I never registered to vote because I had never met a party that fit my needs."
A graduate of the University of Virginia at Wise in English Literature, Herron admitted the irony of making a living painting cars while advocating rail transportation.
"There are many people, especially out in California, who are involved with cars but promote mass transit," he said.
As Herron grew up, his father was in the foreign service, giving Herron an international education and leading him to become fluent in Spanish. He and his wife, Victoria, also have a home in her native France.
When Campbell asked him to consider running in the 39th District, Herron agreed because he wanted to promote rail transit. "There are a lot of issues in Virginia," he said. "I'm an advocate for rail, but I'm also an environmental candidate."
VIRGINIA'S GOVERNMENT has been "run by conservatives" in all areas "with the exception of the governor," Herron said. "A lot of our state budget has been decreased and the car tax has slowly been eroded. But because of (current governor Mark) Warner and some conservatives, the Republicans have sided with him and the hemorrhaging of the budget has subsided."
Within the school system, the government needs to pay more attention to education, Herron said. "We do not have a competitive work force in this country. Our state is ranked 28 in science and 22 in math because of our state-run school programs. We need to increase our areas of study. The United States population does not understand the concept of global warming," which combines the issues of science and math with transportation problems.
"The high price of gasoline and heating oil should be a top issue," said Herron. "I would support a tax on fuels now instead of paying for it later with higher home heating costs. The state government should get the money now and not pay to oil barons later."
Herron also advocates the expansion of the Metro system to include a Purple Line around the Beltway instead of widening I-66 or other roads.
"We need rapid transit and high-speed rail through the Shenandoah Valley instead of widening Route 81," he said. "We need high-speed rail down Route 1, which would help to get some of the big trucks off the road. We need to follow the mode Europe is taking, especially Germany, and use our renewable resources."
IF ELECTED, Herron said he wants to "move the state into the 21st century in terms of the environment and technology. Rail is the key to that. Rail and energy are key to move into the 21st century."
Carey Campbell, chair of the Independent Green Party in Virginia, said Herron is "a great guy, very dedicated to green causes. Rick has strong moral values. He understands the key issue in this campaign is transportation and he knows we need more transportation and less traffic."
Campbell considered having an Independent Green candidate on the ballot in the 39th district a victory in itself. "We'll see how folks vote," he said.
Campbell has not had the chance to go door-to-door campaigning with Herron, who has said he hasn't done much talking with residents either.
One of his opponents, Republican candidate Michael Meunier, praised Herron for using his right to participate in the political process. "I couldn't find a Web site for him, so I don't know what ideas he's put forth," said Meunier. "I was told he was just running so his party would have someone on the ballot."
Meunier said he'd be "more than happy" to talk with Herron regarding any ideas he may have on improving the state legislature.
Del. Vivian Watts (D-39), the incumbent, said she remembers meeting Herron when campaigning in 2001 and had him on her list as a supporter. "We had a great talk about transportation and education," Watts said. "I'm on the same wavelength as him when it comes to transportation and the environment."