Seal of Virginia

In the open race to serve as the Lieutenant Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, the Reverend E.W. Jackson (R) is up against state Senator Ralph Northam (D-VA 6th). Incumbent Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling (R-VA) is not seeking reelection, having lost his Republican primary candidacy for governor.

The office of lieutenant governor is established by the Constitution of Virginia, and the office holder’s primary duty is to serve as the president of the Senate of Virginia. The lieutenant governor may vote in the state senate only to break ties. In addition, the lieutenant governor is first in the line of gubernatorial succession, and would serve as governor in the event of the governor’s death or incapacitation. Because Virginia governors may only serve one consecutive term, lieutenant governors are typically nominated by their parties to serve as the gubernatorial candidate in the following election cycle.

Virginia lieutenant governors must be at least thirty years old, citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and have been a resident and registered voter in the commonwealth for five years preceding the date of the election. They are elected to four-year terms and there are no term limits.

The Senate of Virginia is made up of senators elected from forty districts across the entire commonwealth. It is currently split evenly with twenty Democrats and twenty Republicans. The next senate election will be held in 2015, so the office of lieutenant governor is unusually important this year. Virginians’ votes in this race will determine which party holds a [razor-slim] majority in the Virginia Senate.

The Republican: E.W. Jackson

The Reverend E.W. Jackson (R) is seeking his first elective office after following a unique path that took him from the United States Marine Corps, to a fifteen-year law career, to ordained Christian ministry. He has also taught law at Northeastern University, hosted a syndicated talk show, owned a radio station, served as the Protestant chaplain for the Boston Fire Department, and more. He has lived in Virginia since 1998, and is the minister of the non-denominational Exodus Faith Ministries church in Chesapeake, Virginia.

There are four key issues that deserve Virginians’ attention when selecting a lieutenant governor for the next four years.

First, the commonwealth must repair and reform our dysfunctional public education system. Jackson’s education proposals revolve primarily around parental choice, and he rightfully characterizes parents’ right to decide how their children will be educated as a civil rights and liberty issue. He claims that school choice—letting parents choose what school their children will attend, whether it be public, private, or at home—will result in significant improvements in educational quality, and I am inclined to agree.

However, Jackson makes no education proposals beyond this. Permitting school choice and re-asserting parental rights is an essential part of fixing Virginia education, but we have much more to do. Letting parents pick between their selection of failing public schools doesn’t accomplish anything, the private school network is not large enough (or affordable enough) to pick up the slack at this time, and many parents are ill-equipped to home school for financial or other reasons. Jackson’s proposal is among the best proposed by any politician on the ballot this year, but it is still woefully vague and insufficient.

Second, particularly affecting those of us here in northern Virginia, the commonwealth needs to drastically improve and expand our road and transportation networks. I am unable to find any position statements from Jackson on this topic. Unacceptable.

Third, the commonwealth must continue to maintain a business-friendly environment that fosters job growth. Jackson plans to fight for low taxes and proposes reducing both the income and business income taxes. He supports reforming the tax code to eliminate loopholes and eliminate policies that unduly harm small businesses, wants to establish a taxpayers’ bill of rights, and seeks a ban on unfunded mandates for Virginia local governments. Most notably, Jackson calls for fighting federally-imposed restrictions that prevent Virginia (and Virginian businesses) from tapping our natural energy resources, including oil, gas, and coal. He does, however, oppose lifting the state’s inexplicable ban on uranium mining. Overall, Jackson’s business-friendly policies would help Virginia’s economy and benefit all citizens.

Fourth and finally, our elected officials must protect and defend all citizens’ human rights, especially those enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, against all encroachment. Jackson is especially strong in this area. In addition to the aforementioned support for school choice, Jackson is also a staunch defender of First Amendment religious liberty and the Second Amendment right to bear arms. He also seeks to reassert the Ninth and Tenth Amendments, which were intended to draw a clear line between state and federal authorities but have largely been ignored by the burgeoning federal juggernaut. He would also work to support all citizens’ right to life and attempt to eliminate morally-reprehensible government funding for abortion. Jackson is clearly the most pro-liberty candidate on the ballot this year.

The Democrat: Ralph Northam

State Senator Ralph Northam (D-VA 6th) represents the oddly-constructed 6th District, which is located in southeast Virginia and encompasses the northern half of the city of Norfolk, the largely-rural Eastern Shore of Virginia, and a small section of the Middle Peninsula between the Rappahannock and York rivers. Before being elected to the Virginia Senate in 2007, Northam served as a U.S. Army physician and, later, established a private pediatric neurology practice. He also serves as an assistant professor of neurology at the Eastern Virginia Medical School. Northam considers himself to be fiscally conservative, but socially liberal.

As mentioned above, there are four key issues that deserve our attention as we consider our lieutenant governor vote.

First, education. Northam claims, rightfully, that our children are our future and they deserve a world-class education. You will get no argument from me on this point. But our dysfunctional public schools are certainly not world-class, and they are not going to be until we embark on a top-to-bottom, results-driven reform of public education in the commonwealth. Northam calls for significant increases in education funding, even though our schools are among the best-funded in the world, and makes no apparent calls for reform. Disappointing. Northam does, however, call for improving our research universities and creating a hub of innovation in Virginia akin to that in North Carolina’s research triangle. This sounds good, and I could get behind it, but details are scarce and it is unclear how this would be funded.

Second, transportation. Unlike his opponent, Northam is aware that transportation is a serious issue here in the commonwealth, and the state government has done an incredibly poor job of keeping pace with growth, particularly here in northern Virginia. As a state senator, Northam worked across the aisle with Governor Bob McDonnell (R-VA) to begin addressing the mess that our highways have become with the recent bi-partisan transportation plan. This plan increased overall funding for roads and highways, made investments in mass transit, and directed a more appropriate percentage of road funding to the parts of the state that need it the most. Northam says that he will continue to make transportation a priority if elected lieutenant governor. He points out, correctly, that an insufficient transportation network both drives away business and negatively affects citizens’ quality of life.

Third, business and job growth. In addition to recognizing how essential transportation improvements are to our long term economic health, Northam also calls for a hiring tax credit, targeted government investment in job-making projects, and more. However he is suspiciously silent about whether the income and business income taxes should be reduced. With regard to energy, which could be a huge driver of Virginia’s economy in the coming years, Northam only discusses ‘alternative’ energy like wind, solar, and bio-diesel. He is silent about our abundant oil, gas, and coal reserves, which could be utilized more cheaply (and nearly as cleanly) as these ‘alternative’ sources if our governments would simply permit businesses to access them. More depressingly, Northam—even though he is a doctor—supports the Affordable Care Act (‘ObamaCare’), which has been a proven job killer in the commonwealth and across the country and is unlikely to make care either affordable or accessible to those who need it. Northam is well-positioned to propose a more workable, more beneficial alternate plan, but has chosen instead to toe the party line.

Lastly, human rights. We already know that Northam supports unnecessary federal government intrusion into the healthcare market (in violation of the Tenth Amendment), and he is suspiciously quiet on the freedom of religion and the right to keep and bear arms. He also publicly denies the right to life, and proudly displays photos of himself standing along-side the president of Planned Parenthood, a non-profit organization that performs abortions (in addition to other services).

Although he claims that he supports ‘women’s rights,’ he opposed legislation that would have required abortionists to provide women with an ultrasound image of the child to be terminated—something that they should have been providing anyway under the age-old medical doctrine of informed consent. A doctor would not remove a cancer, or a diseased gall bladder, without showing you a picture of it first. If an abortion is truly an innocuous medical procedure, as its proponents would claim, then why should it be held to a different standard than any other medical procedure? Northam also opposes the personhood bill, which would merely codify into law the biological fact that an unborn child is a human person—something that should be completely obvious (and non-controversial) for a trained medical doctor. Including the ‘right’ to kill a child under the mantra of ‘women’s rights’ is Orwellian double-speak of the highest order, but this kind of euphemistic nonsense has become all-too-common on the political left.

Conclusion

Both Jackson and Northam, like so many other candidates on the ballot this year, are woefully misguided with education policy . . . although Jackson deserves some credit for his solid support for school choice. Northam makes a strong showing in the transportation area, easily trouncing Jackson (who couldn’t be bothered to craft a transportation policy at all). But Jackson comes out far ahead with his business-friendly and pro-liberty positions. Northam makes a tepid showing with regard to business and job growth, and falls completely flat on human rights and liberty with a barrage of nonsensical ‘war on women’ rhetoric and a denial of the most fundamental human right of them all, the right of every person to live.

I applaud Northam for refraining from the kind of lies and slime-throwing that have characterized so many Democratic Party campaigns both up- and down-ticket. He deserves credit for running a much more honorable campaign than many of his ballot-mates. But in the end, despite a better track-record on transportation than his opponent, Northam simply cannot be trusted with regard to driving job growth or protecting human rights and liberty. I endorse the election of the Reverend E.W. Jackson as Lieutenant Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Scott Bradford has been building web sites and using them to say what he thinks since 1995, which tended to get him in trouble with power-tripping assistant principals at the time. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Administration from George Mason University, but has spent most of his career (so far) working on public- and private-sector web sites. He is not a member of any political party, and brands himself an ‘independent constitutional conservative.’ In addition to holding down a day job and blogging about challenging subjects like politics, religion, and technology, Scott is also a devout Catholic, gun-owner, bike rider, and music lover with a wife, two cats, and a dog.