In the Tuesday, June 11 Democratic primary for District 18 delegate, Rappahannock voters can choose between two long time Virginia residents — Laura Galante of Marshall and Tristan Shields of Rixeyville. In the November election, one of them will face the incumbent, Republican Michael Webert, who is running for his fifth two-year term.
Galante: Cyber security, farming
As a young girl growing up in Fairfax, Laura Galante, now 33, competed in 4-H poultry, livestock, and meat judging competitions, and now owns a sheep farm near Marshall, where she lives with her husband and small son.
After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, she became interested in international relations and national security issues. Today, after several years working in the private sector, the University of Virginia graduate with a law degree from The Catholic University of America is a sought after cyber-security expert .
On the campaign trail she addresses “the real challenges in people’s lives instead of using national political dialogues to activate people’s worst instincts.”
“How do I do that?” she asks. “On three issues.”
Local economy: We have jobs in the trades — electricians, carpenters, plumbers, HVAC — that we can’t fill. Those are local jobs. We’ll never be able to automate a carpenter. These are jobs we have to get the next generation, and the people who are saying, ‘I’m 50 and I’m out of work and I need to figure out what to do next,’ to consider. These are the kinds of jobs that are paying close to six figures. We’ve got to change our educational system in Virginia to be able to value those skills.
Agriculture: For years, we’ve been losing farmers for a lot of reasons. But in the 18th District we have innovative farming practices here in Rappahannock, such as Sunnyside Farm and Waterpenny Farm. These farmers said, ‘We think we can create a model that is farm-to-consumer, and we’re going to raise really good produce and livestock humanely, sustainably, process them well, harvest them well. And we’re going to figure out how to sell to Arlington, to Fairfax, so that we’re not dependent on a corn/soy/cow operation with China, Virginia’s biggest trading partner.’
Community feeling: We talk about how we’re close knit out here, we’re small town. You walk into your coffee shop and you know someone no matter what time of day. That’s what’s cool about living here. To keep that feeling we have to have a community that’s undergirded by a strong education and health care. For education, we need to rethink how the small school systems are funded and what access they have.
The other piece in community is health care. On the state side, we can go after the affordability challenge by making sure we have the technology to deliver health services at home and remotely through telemedicine and telehealth.
But all of this, whether it’s access and supply chain and agriculture, whether its world class schools, whether it’s telehealth, whether it’s getting people into trades — the jobs that are going to be a part of our future — you have to have good internet here. Fiber optic technology has to get further into the counties. We have to set a goal at the state level if we want to do it.
Shields: Musician, businessman
Tristen Shields, 36, first ran for delegate against the incumbent Michael Webert in 2017. Raised in Warrenton, he graduated from Highland School and earned a B.A. in theatre at The College of Charleston. He was the 1997 children’s equitation champion of Virginia and earned money in college as a groom and stable hand. In 2012, he and his brother appeared on the popular singing show, The Voice. Tristan now runs his own media production company from his home in Rixeyville.
From a long list of issues he cares about, here are his top challenges for the 18th District:
Teacher pay. There is a huge gap in teacher pay between our area and the areas north and east of here. When I say huge, I mean like a $25,000 [difference in] pay for the same job. So what happens is our teachers leave and don’t come back. You can’t have stable education if you have 12 percent of your teachers leaving every year. We need to return to 2008 level of funding from the state. Right now I think the state is not paying its fair share.
Opioid epidemic: A lack of investment in our infrastructure leaves us with few resources to deal with this problem. We need to find a way to get affordable recovery centers in our communities. This is an issue that affects everyone. It doesn’t discriminate by party or gender or race or any other dividing line you want to put on it.
Broadband: The reality is that a modern economy requires people to have access to the internet. It would be good for getting cars off the road, allowing people to work from home. It would be good for telemedicine, for kids to do their homework . . . I wish the national level would take responsibility for it. We need to completely re-examine investment in rural areas. Having innovation and preservation and conservation and growth — these things don’t have to be opposing. You have to be smart about it. If we’re just hostile toward progress, eventually progress is going to catch up.