By Michael Webert
The election for the Fifth Congressional District in Virginia is rapidly approaching. On Nov. 8, Virginians across the Fifth Congressional District will head to the polls to cast their ballots for the general election. Republicans have selected their standard bearer for this race — state Senator Tom Garrett. I was an early supporter of Sen. Garrett during his congressional primary, as he is the one individual that I believe is the best suited to reduce onerous regulations on farmers and small businesses, make college education more attainable and social security solvent, defend our constitutional rights, and serve with integrity.
In the Virginia House of Delegates, I serve on the committee that addresses issues pertinent to the agricultural communities. When I am not in Richmond for the General Assembly session, I am back in my district where I farm for a living. As one in agriculture, I have seen first-hand how burdensome federal regulations can adversely impact those of us who make a living in agribusiness. Many farmers would like to pass along their operations to their children and other family members; unfortunately, the federal estate tax prevents many families from being able to transfer their farms along to next of kin.
Another federal restriction that hinders farmers is the Waters of the U.S. rule, which has been promulgated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and would expand federal control over ponds and intermittent streams. This regulation would encumber many agricultural activities, as farmers would be forced to comply with costly decrees and what amounts to a large land grab — Sen. Garrett understands that policy needs to be made by our representatives, not a Washington bureaucrat.
Agriculture is the largest sector of Virginia’s economy. The industry provides almost 311,000 jobs and has an annual economic impact of $52 billion. To ensure that Virginia agriculture continues to grow, we in agriculture need a leader who understands and is willing to protect our way of life.
Sen. Garrett will fight to permanently end the punitive death (estate) tax and work to open new markets for our agricultural industries. We in Virginia would benefit enormously not just with the sale of our products but with the goods shipped to and from our port.
As a small business owner, Sen. Garrett has seen how government mandates and regulations crush employers which is why he has consistently stood against increased regulations on Virginia job creators. In fact, the nation’s leading small business organization, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), recently endorsed Sen. Garrett in his congressional race. NFIB cited his “commitment to issues that small business owners care about makes him an ideal candidate for Congress.”
While Sen. Garrett’s positions on agriculture and small businesses were crucial components of my decision to endorse him, these are not the only reasons I stand with him. His plan to address the challenge of college affordability and ensuring social security is the sort of comprehensive and creative solution that we need from our next congressman. His proposal would create a program in which a student can have $10,000 of their college loans eliminated in exchange for raising their age of Social Security eligibility one to two years. The plan sets a cap on debt relief at $100,000 and a delay on receiving entitlement benefits at 15 years.
When it comes to protecting our constitutional rights, Tom Garrett has distinguished himself as a champion of our civil liberties. Tom will stand against attempts to subvert all our rights as enumerated in the U.S. Constitution. He won’t pay lip service to our freedoms. He will remain steadfast against attempts to criminalize private transfers of firearms, as such measures would significantly burden law-abiding gun citizens who lend a shotgun to a neighbor for duck hunting, or selling a firearm to a family member.
As a former prosecutor, Sen. Garrett knows that the best approach to combat firearm-related crime is to enforce existing laws which already stipulate it’s illegal to transfer a firearm to felons and other prohibited persons. He also knows that the focus should be on straw purchasers which are the primary source for criminals to acquire firearms.
In addition, Tom Garrett will oppose efforts to subvert constitutional rights on the basis of an esoteric “no fly list” that affords no defined process for removal of individuals accidentally added to the list. Much like the ACLU, he understands that due process protections in the 14th Amendment are critical to the fabric of our free society.
Integrity is a characteristic that defines Sen. Tom Garrett, and this trait ensures that he would be an principled and independent voice for limited government. How do I know this? In the Virginia General Assembly, when Sen. Tommy Norment sought to consolidate power as both the chair of the Senate Finance Committee and Majority Leader, Sen. Tom Garrett stood up to his own party’s leadership.
As a result of his stance, power in the Senate Finance Committee was eventually divided between two co-chairs. Further, when the Senate rules were changed to bar the press from the floor, Tom Garrett introduced a resolution to allow the media to regain floor access. He pushed back in these instances because he is a man of honor, who took his oath to defend and uphold the constitution seriously when he joined the Army — an unbridled dedication to limited government principles that he will bring to Congress.
For these reasons, I am supporting Tom Garrett in the race for the Fifth District and I urge my fellow Virginians to support him as well.
Michael Webert is the Virginia House of Delegates representative for the 18th district, which includes Rappahannock County.