The Democratic candidates seeking the 57th District seat in the House of Delegates met for the first time on Thursday.
Charlottesville City Councilor Kathy Galvin, an adjunct professor in the University of Virginia’s architecture school, and Sally Hudson, an assistant professor of public policy, education and economics at UVa, discussed their campaigns in front of about 60 people at a forum hosted by the League of Women Voters at Monticello High School.
Galvin and Hudson are battling for the seat being vacated by longtime Del. David J. Toscano, D-Charlottesville.
Since 2005, Toscano has held the 57th District seat, which covers Charlottesville and parts of Albemarle County, including the Pantops, Mill Creek and Georgetown areas. Toscano, who attended Thursday’s forum, hasn’t endorsed either candidate.
Galvin chose to forgo a third four-year term on the City Council to seek the seat. Previously, she served one term on the city’s School Board.
Hudson founded FairVote Virginia in 2017, a bipartisan organization focused on ranked choice voting. She is also a member of Indivisible Charlottesville, Women of the Fifth and OneVirginia2021.
Galvin discussed her 10-plus years in local government, saying her priorities are housing, education and transportation funding.
“Those things are the type of issues that affect the lives of each and every resident of the 57th District,” she said.
In her answers, Galvin highlighted past accomplishments and ways that she has worked with others on the City Council and with the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors.
Hudson said her legislative priorities would focus on election reform, particularly with campaign finance, expanding early voting and automatic registration.
“These are the kind of big ideas that I think we deserve,” she said.
Both candidates agreed that the General Assembly should expand education funding.
“We have to stand up loud and proud for public education for those districts that won’t have as loud of advocates,” Hudson said, adding that teachers should receive pay raises.
Galvin said the state’s portion of funding for schools has dropped off since the recession, during which she served on the Charlottesville School Board.
Galvin highlighted the Local Composite Index, which uses an area’s wealth to calculate funding for school divisions, saying it should be revised to consider poverty in the school system.
The state also should invest more in community colleges, Galvin said, to allow parents to succeed and provide an example for their children.
“When the children see their parents succeed,” she said, “the children themselves will succeed.”
The candidates also took similar approaches to criminal justice reform, advocating for legalized marijuana and investing in housing and jobs for low-income people. They both support ratification of an Equal Rights Amendment and other women’s rights issues.
The candidates also discussed climate change and what should be done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Galvin said the state needs to further invest in solar and wind energy. She also advocated for a more robust public transportation system, primarily with electric buses, that would get people out of their cars.
“Transportation is critically important,” she said.
Hudson countered that transportation investment makes a difference on the local level, but to make a statewide impact, the General Assembly needs to limit Dominion Energy’s ability to provide large campaign contributions.
“If we want clean energy, if we want clean water and clean air, we first need clean government,” she said.
Hudson also referenced a need for Democrats to retake a majority in the House of Delegates, where the GOP holds power by two seats.
The 57th District is a Democratic stronghold. No Republican, third-party or independent candidates had announced a campaign by Thursday, so the winner of the June 11 Democratic primary likely will win the seat.
If any Republican plans to seek the seat, the party would have to nominate by canvass or convention and file paperwork by June 11, the same day any other candidate would need to file.
One question focused on the candidates’ residence in Charlottesville and how they can reassure Albemarle County voters that they’ll care about more than the city.
Hudson said the city and county have some of the same concerns.
“I really do see us as a broader Charlottesville community,” she said. “We’re all in this together no matter where the district drops off.”
Galvin highlighted her work on several regional planning organizations, including a recent agreement to keep the Albemarle County General District Court within Charlottesville city limits.
“Great ideas will only be great applause lines if we don’t have the ability to get people to the table to get what we need,” she said.
In closing, Hudson acknowledged that Galvin has more government experience.
“There is an experience gap in public office, but I think I’ve logged more hours in Richmond,” she said.
The Democratic candidates will face off again at a debate hosted by the University Democrats from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Monday at UVa’s Nau Hall, Room 101. They also will meet at a forum on May 8 at The Haven in Charlottesville.