Two Democrats and an unaffiliated candidate told local voters Wednesday why they should represent the area in the House of Delegates.
Democrats Jenni Kitchen and Elizabeth Alcorn and Janice Lee Allen, an independent, spoke at a debate hosted by the Senior Statesmen of Virginia at The Center.
Kitchen, an Augusta County activist, and Allen, a former congressional candidate from Rockingham County, are running against Republican Chris Runion in the 25th House District, which covers parts of Albemarle, Augusta and Rockingham counties.
Del. R. Steven Landes, R-Weyers Cave, didn’t seek re-election to the seat. He is running instead for Augusta County Circuit Court clerk.
Alcorn, of Greene County, is challenging incumbent Del. Rob Bell, R-Albemarle, in the 58th District. The district, which Bell has represented since 2002, covers all of Greene County and parts of Albemarle, Rockingham and Fluvanna counties.
Runion, a Rockingham businessman, and Bell, an Albemarle lawyer, were invited but were unable to attend.
Alcorn and Kitchen pitched their ideas to rural voters, and Allen painted herself as an alternative to Runion and the “Harrisonburg Republican machine.”
Asked later what she meant by that comment, Allen referred to Runion’s campaign announcement at Bridgewater Town Hall surrounded by several longtime Rockingham County officials. Among those in attendance were two county supervisors who have each served more than 30 years, the county treasurer and clerk of court and the mayor of Bridgewater.
The district, however, doesn’t include the city of Harrisonburg, which votes largely Democratic.
Allen had hoped Albemarle County farmer Richard Fox would win the GOP nomination for the seat, urging his supporters to back her. She said that if residents don’t want to vote for her, they should vote for Kitchen.
Kitchen and Alcorn shared similar views on many of the topics, which covered taxes, education, gun control and legislative reform.
The two Democrats supported increased investment in public education and rural broadband, as well as a Virginia Green New Deal. The progressive proposal focuses on clean energy investment.
Allen often answered after the Democrats and responded with “I concur” or “I really think we need to take a hard look at that.” Her answers centered around cutting taxes and addressing student loan debt.
“We need to cut taxes, we need to look at the budget, we need to tighten it up,” she said. “Government has just gone haywire.”
On guns, Alcorn and Kitchen acknowledged that their districts are largely rural and has many hunters and gun owners. Both railed against “weapons of war.”
“Weapons of war belong in war, they do not belong in homes,” Kitchen said.
Alcorn supported universal background checks, elimination of high-capacity magazines and a so-called “red flag law,” which allows for temporary removal of firearms when someone is deemed a threat to themselves or the public.
Allen said “I concur” with the Democrats and acknowledged her “pro-gun” stances in previously unsuccessful congressional bids.
Alcorn and Kitchen advocated for better use of tax dollars and reforming the tax code. Kitchen said the state should provide low-interest loans to farmers to diversify their productions.
Allen said farmers shouldn’t pay any taxes.
All the candidates supported ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment and nonpartisan redistricting.
They also supported term limits, with Alcorn saying 12 years, Kitchen calling for 10 and Allen calling for eight.
Allen differed from the Democrats on the Green New Deal, saying it was “another line item” in the budget and she wants to cut spending.
“I believe in coal and coal protection,” she said. “We cannot depend totally on the wind blowing tomorrow, so we need to be very realistic and look at all the alternatives”
Allen supported erasing all college debt, while Alcorn supported debt-free education.
Kitchen wants free community college and more investment in trade schools.
“As much as we need to make college affordable,” she said, “we need to make it a lot more affordable to not go to college.”
The election is Nov. 5.