Election 2017, House of Delegates, 18th District candidates

Michael Webert

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Republican (incumbent)

Age: 38

Years serving as delegate: 6 years

Personal information: I’m married to my lovely wife Rebecca, and have two amazing kids. Why are you running for delegate?

Over the past six years, we have gotten a lot accomplished in the House of Delegates, with more to do! I co-founded the Business Development Caucus and worked to promote a pro-business atmosphere. With regard to our education, I have worked to fund underfunded schools, consistently voted against tax increases, led common-sense efforts to preserve our land and environment, and carried legislation that expands the number of states where Virginians with concealed carry permits can carry firearms. While we have made considerable progress over the past few years, there is still much to be accomplished. We also have a growing opioid epidemic in the Commonwealth that must be addressed. On average, nearly three people die every day from a drug overdose. We passed bills this past session – HB 1453, HB 1750, HB 1845 and several other bills to combat this epidemic. I want to return to the House of Delegates to continue the fight against this terrible epidemic that has claimed the lives of so many of our friends and family members.

Healthcare has been a major topic of discussion for years now, should Virginia opt into Medicaid and if they don’t are they losing out on federal dollars?

No, and this myth needs to quit being perpetuated by my opponents. Medicaid expansion would cost $2 billion per year when you combine state and federal dollars – 2 Billion Dollars. Other states have expanded Medicaid, and it’s been an absolute nightmare. Oregon’s Medicaid program was the largest factor in the state’s recent $1.6 billion shortfalls; Kentucky’s Medicaid expansion is $3.3 billion over budget in the first two and a half years.

Instead of focusing on expanding Medicaid – which would leave us in financial disarray – we should focus on all the achievements over the past few years and continue that work.

What can be done to drive more industry to the area and what is the best use of economic development dollars in District 18?

The 18th District is primarily an agricultural district, and we should also focus on creating a business environment that encourages the agri-tourism industry to thrive. Great Meadow is a great example of bringing in agri-tourism dollars that benefit the local horse and wine industries. Bright Farms is an example of utilizing state resources, like the AFID grant, to help grow industries in the district. Working to create opportunities for our smaller and larger producers will enhance and sustain our agricultural industry. In our commercial and industrial areas, we can expand opportunity. A great example of this is our work with Miles Friedman, Director of Economic Development in Fauquier County, to pass HB 1565 – a bill that allows localities to create green development zones and provide certain tax incentives for businesses operating in an energy-efficient building of businesses that produces products to reduce negative impacts on the environment. Legislation like this gives localities tools to attract and expand businesses in the 18th District.

Broadband access in rural parts of the district is limited, what legislation can be passed to help improve access for those who may want to telecommute?

There is no silver bullet for this issue. We need to insure that localities can find workable solutions to their issues – a one size fits all approach will not work. A possible solution is to allow more flexibility to localities when negotiating broadband deals. Innovation and working together at all levels of government and the private sector will enhance the probability of broadband expansion.

Following the incidents in Charlottesville earlier this summer, there has been much discussion about rising tensions in our nation? Should the state and localities remove Confederate statues to help alleviate the issue?

No, localities should not remove Confederate statues. In 2016, I, along with several Democrats, voted for HB 587, a bill that would have protected memorials and monuments regardless of when they were erected. I still stand by this vote, and I would vote for HB 587 should it come before the House again. Removing the statues and attempting to erase our history is not the answer.

What makes you the best option for delegate?

Like the corn I grow, my roots run deep in the 18th District. I live here, I work here, and my children attend school here. I am invested deeply in the district. The seeds that I have sown as a resident and businessman of the 18th District have grown into understanding and deep appreciation for our community. The seeds I’ve sown in Richmond have resulted in achievement: funding for our schools, enriching our business and agriculture industries and helping my fellow citizens create a better community. It has been my esteemed honor to serve, and I humbly ask for the opportunity to continue to represent the people of the 18th District.

Will King

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Green Party/Independent

Age: 46

Personal information: Married, lives in Bealeton

Why are you running for delegate: After serving my country for 25 years, I wanted to be more involved in my community. Being a veteran and a police officer, once you’ve served people it’s hard to stop.

The heroin epidemic has been detrimental to our community, what legislation can be passed to help combat the epidemic?

Instead of introducing new legislation, I’ll use the existing legislation to fund county sheriffs and police departments to give them the tools and the manpower to fight drug epidemic.

Healthcare has been a major topic of discussion for years now, should Virginia opt into Medicaid and if they don’t are they losing out on federal dollars?

Access to healthcare should be a right of citizenship. Medical treatment should not be limited to the privileged. One out of every seven people in the 18th district has no health insurance. The under-insured and those with unaffordable coverage is staggering. We must come together, across party lines with solutions.The expansion of Medicaid as it presently stands is both a good business decision as well as a moral one. Virginians have this money withdrawn from their paychecks to pay for it, and have been for years. Even at the 10% liability to the state, the increased revenues and job creation will add more to the state budget than the cost. This is certainly not the long-term solution for healthcare, but rather an immediate stop gap that would benefit 2,600 district residents and should be done. “Obamacare” was not the answer, and the proposed “Trumpcare” is even worse. If the Congress is not willing, or able, to address this crisis then we, as Virginians must. I am prepared to lead the way on this, looking at what other states are doing.

What can be done to drive more industry to the area and what is the best use of economic development dollars in District 18?

Enacting agricultural, environmental conservation programs with the emphasis on small business and job creation. Let’s take solar power, the 18th District does not have its own solar power company. Going into solar, for every one person that works on a solar panel that creates three or four jobs. So just imagine if we can bring something like that in Fauquier County. If you have a strong environmental platform, people are going to vote for you regardless of what party you belong to. We oppose all pipelines, all fracking, all coal ash and uranium mining. We can strengthen and expand our community college system to include more vocational training and post-high school certification while assisting other students to begin their academic journey before advancing to four-year institutions. Tax incentives for developers and localities who are willing to invest in diversified farms, agricultural activities, to promote more agri-hoods, productive conservation, community-supported agriculture and community food co-operatives. Schools, correctional facilities, hospitals and long-term care homes funded by state should have support sourcing from local farms and be encouraged to engage in public-private partnerships to increase distribution to these facilities. School budgets, healthcare and correctional workers should allow for compensation to include reimbursement for participating in community-supported agriculture.

Following the incidents in Charlottesville earlier this summer, there has been much discussion about rising tensions in our nation? Should the state and localities remove Confederate statues to help alleviate the issue?

All humans are entitled to rights that are inalienable to all of us regardless of nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, language, or any other status. All of humanity is entitled to these basic human rights without discrimination. The following are examples of these rights and are interrelated, interdependent and indivisible:

The right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness

The right to live your life free of discrimination

The right to grow old with dignity

The right to a fair trial and due process of the law

The right to be free from slavery

The right to freedom of speech.

What makes you the best option for delegate?

We’re the rational alternative.The big parties are pointing figures at each other. What I represent is a swing vote. I’m there for the people, nobody is going to tell me how to vote.

Look at Delegate Webert’s record, tell me what stands out. It’s nothing personal against him, but when you look at him you look at an established bought and paid for legislator. People are always going to lean a certain way, when you are able to talk to a person at a ground level and find out what’s important to them, and explain how you’re going to help them, they are more than happy to listen to it.

Tristan Shields

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Democrat

Age: 34

Personal information: Significant other – Stephanie Monasky, no kids (yet)

Why are you running for delegate?

Seizing opportunity and not waiting for things to drop in my lap is how I live my life. It’s why after graduating from college, I moved to Memphis, TN and worked as an entertainer, actor and singer playing music in clubs on Beale Street. It’s why I auditioned for NBC’s The Voice, beating out 100,000 other hopefuls and went to Los Angeles, CA, to be on TV’s most popular reality show. It’s also why I decided to move back to the Piedmont to start my own media business. And now, it’s why I’m running for Virginia State Delegate here in District 18. We need new and better leadership in Richmond. Rural Virginians are not being represented in the statehouse. I’m the only candidate in the 18th District who’s not a transplant.

Healthcare has been a major topic of discussion for years now, should Virginia opt into Medicaid and if they don’t are they losing out on federal dollars?

We are giving away millions of dollars every day we don’t expand Medicaid. $10.4 billion to date. That money is going to other states so that their citizens get the healthcare that over 400,000 Virginians need. This is not fiscally responsible. At the same time, we need to be smart about expanding Medicaid and be ready for whatever form of TrumpCare arrives at our doorstep, assuming Republicans in Congress can get their act together. We need to rethink healthcare, especially for women. Whether it’s Medicaid, Medicare or TrumpCare, access to affordable healthcare is crucial for families and women of all ages.

What can be done to drive more industry to the area and what is the best use of economic development dollars in District 18?

Forbes recently reported that “Over 62% of millennials have considered starting their own business, with 72% feeling that startups and entrepreneurs are a necessary economic force for creating jobs and driving innovation.” On the flip side, the self-employment rate among workers 65+ is the highest of any age group in America (15.5%). To encourage our millennial talent to stay in District 18 and to help our baby boomers retire into entrepreneurship we need policies that reflect these realities. We also need to ensure that our people have the skill set that local businesses require and entrepreneurs can acquire. We need skills training for our veterans, our young people, and our transitioning adults. The community colleges which serve the 18th are Lord Fairfax and Germanna. My own brother, Rory, graduated from Lord Fairfax in Warrenton. Improving and supporting career development opportunities through local community colleges will be another priority in my first term.

Broadband access in rural parts of the district is limited, what legislation can be passed to help improve access for those who may want to telecommute?

Living in Rixeyville, I know all about fair access, high cost and bad connections. Access to affordable, high quality Broadband is a topic close to my heart. It is essential to grow the rural economy in District 18 and to keep our talent here. Access needs to increase, prices need to come down. Many of us in District 18 receive our power from Rappahannock Electric Cooperative. Rural electric cooperatives (REC) are one of the most successful public/private business initiatives in the history of the United States. We need an internet version of that success story if we want to keep people from moving away from the 18th District. Making affordable broadband available for every Virginian will be a priority in my first term.

The heroin epidemic has been detrimental to our community, what legislation can be passed to help combat the epidemic?

Opioid addiction is a huge problem. Over 1,420 Virginians died of a drug overdose in 2016, and the emotional and economic drain is especially hard on rural communities. I see a two-step approach: First, Prevention: 80% of opioid addictions start with a prescription. We need to increase our ability to shut down “Pill Mills” and over-prescribers. We can do that by streamlining and strengthening the under used and confusing Prescription Monitoring System we currently have in Virginia. Second, Intervention: We need to view this epidemic like the health crisis it is, both physically and mentally. That means treating people like patients rather than criminals.

What makes you the best option for delegate?

I know how hard it is to be an entrepreneur in this area. Young people leave and rarely come back. We need to keep our talent here by expanding opportunity. I am one of the few younger people in this region who came back to run a business. It’s a primary reason why I decided to run for political office. I have been in the music business during the most tumultuous time ever for that industry. Technology and changing distribution systems have completely displaced a generation of creative professionals. Learning to pivot, bounce back, fail, try new things are all essential skills necessary to live and lead today. I know how to be a leader and make things happen.

Today’s disruptive economy and uncertainties demands leaders who see opportunities among the fog and have the courage to act. Thinking and acting collaboratively, learning fast, and keeping the people of the Piedmont first is what makes me the best option for Delegate.

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