Editorial: Candidates for 51st District Delegate Face Off in Lake Ridge

| October 7, 2013 | 0 Comments | News

(Left) Reed Heddleston and (right) Del. Rich Anderson at the Lake Ridge Debate.

51st District Delegate Rich Anderson, Republican, and Reed Heddleston, the Democratic challenger, debated the major issues affecting Northern Virginians in Lake Ridge Wednesday night in an event hosted by the Committee for 100.

Although the two men agreed on some points-like strong penalties for the “egregious” act of human trafficking, (we should hope so), on other points, they displayed the differences generally reflective of their respected parties. Meanwhile, both candidates claimed to be pro-business and fiscally responsible.

On Business

Heddleston tried to present himself as the pro-business candidate. Both men had served in the Air Force, but while Anderson stayed in the military, Heddleston also had a career in the private sector. As such, he promised to keep Virginia a Right to Work state and encourage businesses to relocate to the Commonwealth.

Anderson’s argument was essentially that you don’t need to fix what isn’t broken. Virginia was ranked best state in the nation for businesses by Forbes magazine. Why would anyone need to change the folks in Richmond who made that happen?

“We have to continue to keep this business climate in the future what it is today,” said Anderson, saying Republican tax policies have helped create the fruitful climate for businesses.

On the Governor’s Transportation Bill

But Heddleston did not credit Anderson with contributing to that ranking. Rather, he credited the legislatures who signed on to the Governor’s bipartisan Transportation Bill. Heddleston believes this bill is a win-win for Northern Virginians who will get back much of the tax money they send down to Richmond and be able to use it on their own roads.

Like many of the Republicans who voted against the bill, Anderson has his reasons for doing so. They are all legitimate reasons, which perhaps the average citizen had not been aware of- tax hikes in our region, which are the highest in Virginia’s history; higher taxes than competing counties, such as Stafford and Fauquier, especially on real estate; 70 percent of the funds going to the overall region and likely toward the Beltway neighborhood.

These arguments made Anderson and his fellow Republicans either look like the more experienced legislators, or to some,  like flip-floppers unable to commit to common sense legislation.

On the Bi-County Parkway

However, If the Transportation Bill remains a bit of a Schrödinger’s Cat, now try predicting the outcome of the Bi-County-Parkway, a bill which both men are opposed to.

Taking notes from the 2004 presidential campaign, Heddleston grilled Anderson for supporting the road before opposing it, but the same could be said about most legislators, and it’s hardly damaging.

The movement against the Bi-County Parkway originated with people whose homes would be displaced. Many convinced legislatures to support their cause as it gained popularity with constituents. Politicians claim they are educating themselves, which is likely true, but a big part of it is bending to the will of the people, which, after all, is what a democracy is all about.

So where are the differences between the candidates?

Heddleston portrays himself as the more flexible candidate, as any Democrat from suburban Virginia would have to be. Anderson’s record shows he is more likely to vote along party lines and for conservative ideas like restricting abortion and loosening gun control. Which approach is better? That is something each voter gets to decide for him or herself.

On “the War Against Women” 

Heddleston levied the charge that Anderson is fighting a “war against women.” “It is a fictional construct,” Anderson responded. But what is true is that Anderson did vote for some of the most restrictive abortion bills in the country. Would the Personhood Bill have denied birth control? Anderson said that was never the intent.

Heddleston, meanwhile, is clearly pro-choice.

“As a husband, father and a grandfather, the last thing politicians need to be is involved in health care between a woman and her doctor. The government does not belong in our personal lives,” Heddleston said.

While some women feel strongly there is a war on women in this country, others firmly support Republican bills limiting women’s health for personal and religious reasons. Voters should look past the rhetoric and simply be informed enough to vote their conscience on these issues.

Furthermore, Anderson said he is practical on the issue of abortion, knowing the decision ultimately lies with the Supreme Court.

In juxtaposition to those weighty issues, some points in the arguments seemed petty. Anderson contended he was more out in the community, had knocked on more doors. Certainly, those involved in the community see Anderson just about involved in everything, but shouldn’t that involvement speak for itself?

On Education 

When it came to education, Heddleston came armed with the support of the Virginia Education Association. He stood firmly that public funds should fund public education, while Anderson took an all of the above approach.

However, Heddleston revealed his misunderstanding of standardized testing when he argued the unpopular opinion that Virginia needed to adopt the Common Core so that it does not fall behind others states. Meanwhile, he incorrectly claimed the Standards of Learning had been softened in recent years.

Anderson called him out, saying  that it was untrue. Standards of Learning have actually become more rigorous. Actually, the idea the revision of the assessments was to better assess critical thinking, not just memorization. Maybe there are some educators in the community willing to educate them on the issue.

On Who Won he Debate

Throughout most of the debate, Heddleston played offense, forcing Anderson to play defense. However there were no clear winners or losers, and no impartial audience. [Only three audience members admitted to being undecided at the time of the debate. But consider that one-third of the audience members were family, employees or volunteers of the candidates.]

Predicting the Outcome 

Involved residents already know Anderson and have likely made their minds up about him, whereas Heddleston had to introduce himself as the alternative.

Heddleston will likely play well with those unhappy about the way legislation is unfolding in Richmond. He may get a boost from those frustrated from the government shutdown; although on second though who is to blame for the shutdown, also depends on which side of the aisle you are standing down the road on Capital hill or for us perhaps which bumper stickers we attach to our mini-vans.

Generally, more Republicans show up for state elections; if that trend changes this year, Heddleston might have a fighting chance. But perhaps President Obama has inspired his base to vote in this election, especially with the governor’s race being so divisive. This election will decide how red or blue Virginia will be, so it is advisable everyone show up to vote his or her conscience.



© 2013, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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