Column: Which Way Virginia?

Column: Which Way Virginia?

From reading previous columns that I have written or having heard me speak over the last year as well as hearing my message reinforced by others, you are aware that as an historian as well as an elected official I believe that the last two years in Virginia have been the most transformative in the Commonwealth’s history. I spend considerable time reading, writing, and teaching about our state’s history. It is a subject that obviously is of great importance and interest to me.

I could not be more pleased and excited than I am about being a part of the transformation that has occurred. No longer does present-day Virginia fit into a category of Old South or socially regressive. Consider what has happened in the General Assembly over the last two sessions as I have enumerated in previous columns.

Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment after decades of struggles to do so. We lifted barriers to abortion and asserted a woman’s right to choose. Jim Crow era laws that were among the most discriminatory in the South were repealed, and the Virginia Values Act prohibiting discrimination in housing and employment was passed. Important steps were taken to reduce the school to prison pipeline. Gun safety legislation was signed into law including my universal background checks bill.

Criminal justice reform continued to ensure that our laws were not racially discriminatory. We increased pay and training for our police to ensure that they can do their jobs fairly. The death penalty was abolished, and criminal defendants and civil litigants were granted an automatic right to appeal that exists in every other state. My bill that ended excessive fines and prison time for petit larceny passed. Criminal records for many nonviolent offenses will be expunged under a new law. And more. Details for both sessions are at

None of these bills passed easily. Some passed by a single vote. Many bills that passed the House of Delegates did so with a 55 to 45 vote reflecting the partisan membership of the House. Gov. Ralph Northam signed the bills into law as he had campaigned among legislators to get the bills passed. Although most of these bills had been debated for decades over their merit and political implications, it was the outcome of the 2019 elections that put progressive Democrats in control of the General Assembly to work with Governor Northam who had come into office in 2018 that brought about this transformation.

In many regards the election that is taking place now with early voting and election day on Nov. 2 will decide if Virginia continues a common-sense approach to governing or slips back into a state where the rich get richer and the poor and minorities are subject to unfair discrimination. Election fraud or the “big lie” is not an issue. The choice is clear for Virginia voters for there are candidates for governor and the House of Delegates who would turn back our progress in their first year in office. Virginia has come too far to turn back now, but Virginia voters will make that determination at the ballot box!