The Virginia General Assembly is composed of two houses, the Virginia House of Delegates and the Virginia Senate. Members of the House of Delegates serve two-year terms, and members of the Senate serve four-year terms, elected at a two-year offset from our gubernatorial elections. This year, both houses are standing for election.
British colonists established what is now called the General Assembly in 1619 at Jamestown, where it was called the House of Burgesses. It moved to Williamsburg in 1699, and then became the General Assembly in 1776 when the American colonies declared independence. It moved to Richmond when that city became the state capital in 1780.
The Virginia General Assembly is the oldest extant legislative body in the western hemisphere.
Virginia Senate, 13th District
The Virginia Senate is the upper house of the General Assembly. There are forty senators representing forty districts across the commonwealth. Today, the Republican Party holds a narrow twenty-one seat majority, and the Democratic Party holds the remaining nineteen seats.
The Senate’s thirteenth district includes much of northern and central Loudoun County, as well as an area of southeastern Loudoun and an area of northern Prince William County. Communities in the thirteenth district include Hamilton, Hillsboro, Gainesville, Lovettsville, Purcellville, Round Hill, South Riding, and Waterford.
The Incumbent: Richard “Dick” Black (R)
Senator Dick Black (R-VA 13th) is completing his first term in the Senate of Virginia, and is seeking reelection.
Black began his career by enlisting in the United States Marines Corps, where he served in the Vietnam War and was awarded the Purple Heart. After the war, Black continued serving in the Marines until he left to seek a college education, and eventually earned a law degree. He worked in private practice for a period of time, and then accepted commission in the United States Army. There, he served in the Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) corps and later as the head of the Army Criminal Law Division at the Pentagon.
He retired from the Army in 1994 and returned to private practice. In February 1998, he was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates from the thirty-second district and served four terms. He was elected to the Virginia Senate in 2011, after redistricting, to represent the newly-formed thirteenth district.
Black is an unapologetic conservative, and has been a consistent defender of human rights and advocate for fiscal responsibility. As a state senator, and as a delegate before, Black has opposed new taxes and unnecessary government regulation, and has repeatedly shown his support for citizens’ rights to free speech, freedom of religion, the right to bear arms, and, most fundamentally, the right of every human being to live.
If reelected, he promises to continue to support sound legislation in these and other areas. Black advocates business-friendly, low-tax policies, a crackdown on dangerous illegal immigrants, and stronger anti-gang policies and enforcement. He also plans to continue pushing the General Assembly to send a fairer share of state transportation money to Northern Virginia, and has supported an amendment to the state constitution that would prohibit the legislature from raiding the highway trust funds for other purposes.
Black has also been an advocate for reasonable policies with regard to abortion. He supported a successful, bipartisan effort to outlaw gruesome ‘partial birth’ abortions, and to require parental consent when minors seek abortions. These policies are broadly popular in the commonwealth, even among supporters of ‘abortion rights.’ He has also supported reasonable, but controversial, safety regulations that have now been applied to abortion facilities in Virginia. Although abortions are never safe for the children they kill, there is no reason they should not be made as safe as possible for the women who seek them.
There have been a number of shameless smear campaigns by Black’s opponents (past and present) that have attempted to brand him as some kind of radical, but in fact he is part of a growing majority of Americans who find abortion abhorrent and would like to see it more restricted. Most of the policies he has supported in this area have had broad bipartisan support. Those that have been more controversial, like the aforementioned safety regulations, have broad public support after having been accurately described.
The Challenger: Jill McCabe (D)
Doctor Jill McCabe (D) stands as the Democratic Party nominee to represent the thirteenth district in the Virginia Senate. McCabe is a medical doctor who has worked as a primary care pediatrician and then as an pediatric emergency physician. She has also held a number of medical administration positions, including vice chair and then chair of pediatrics, and is now the medical director of three departments at Inova Loudoun Hospital.
McCabe has advocated for a number of laws relating to pediatric health, including one that requires bicycle helmets for children under fifteen and others that help to protect student athletes. She identifies herself as a “community leader and education advocate.”
In her campaign to represent the thirteenth district, McCabe focuses on her ‘outsider’ status as a non-politician, and also on her ability—as a physician—to make difficult decisions when faced with them. She says that she is “tired of the damage that partisan games and special interests have created in Richmond,” and would “set aside partisan politics and make commonsense decisions.” She also claims that she will support ethics reform in Richmond, and fight to outlaw lobbyist gifts to legislators.
On some of the specific issues she raises in her campaign, there is little to differentiate her from incumbent Senator Dick Black (R-VA 13th). She says she will fight to get our fair share of transportation dollars from Richmond, strengthen small businesses and economic growth, support low-tax policies, and help ensure that our tax dollars are spent wisely. Although McCabe and Black may differ on some of the actual policy details, in these areas they sound broadly similar.
McCabe also claims that she would ensure quality education by supporting a proposed all-day kindergarten program in Loudoun County and by trying to make our colleges and universities more affordable. She does not explain how she would accomplish this, and does not make any serious proposal for the kind of top-to-bottom education reform that really ought to be on the table. Of course, neither does Black, who barely mentions education at all in his campaign.
Unfortunately, McCabe says little about our fundamental human rights. She does not clearly state a position on free speech or religious liberty, nor on the right to bear arms, nor on the fundamental right to life. Given her party affiliation and the absence of reassurance, it is safe to assume that McCabe will oppose, or only tepidly support, these and other rights.
Specifically with regard to the right to life, McCabe—who, as a physician, ought to know better than most when human life begins—only speaks in the Democratic code-words that redefine abortion as just one of many nebulous, private “women’s healthcare decisions.” This, of course, is patent nonsense. I also want to keep politicians out of private healthcare decisions. But a decision that results in the death of another human being is not—and could never be—a private decision with no public import.
Taking both candidates at their word, there would appear to be little difference between them with regard to taxes and transportation—two perennially important issues in the General Assembly. It is also likely irrelevant which candidate we choose when it comes to education; our education system is terribly broken and neither candidate makes any compelling proposals to fix it.
But McCabe’s silence with regard to fundamental human rights is telling, especially given her party’s increasing hostility to these rights in recent years. My freedoms of speech and religion, my right to bear arms for my own defense, and my right to life—from its very beginning—are not negotiable. These are the bedrocks upon which free civilization has been built. If we repudiate these principles, or support politicians who do not fervently defend them, we set ourselves on a path to chaos and barbarism.
In these badly misguided times, it is more important than ever that our representatives in the Virginia General Assembly be fully in-tune with, and supportive of, these fundamentals. We have been blessed in our district to have a senator who is, and who makes no apologies about it. I endorse the reelection of Dick Black to represent the thirteenth district in the Senate of Virginia.
Virginia House of Delegates, 87th District
The Virginia House of Delegates is the lower house of the General Assembly. There are one hundred delegates representing one hundred districts across the commonwealth. Today, the Republican Party holds an overwhelming sixty-seven seat majority, and the Democratic Party holds thirty-two seats. One seat is currently vacant.
The house’s eighty-seventh district includes much of the eastern border area of Loudoun County and a small portion of northern Prince William County. Communities in the eighty-seventh district include Antioch, Arcola, Dulles, South Riding, and parts of Ashburn, Broadlands, Cascades, and Sterling. Incumbent Delegate David Ramadan (R-VA 87th) is not seeking reelection.
John Bell (D)
John Bell (D) stands as the Democratic Party nominee to represent the eighty-seventh district in the Virginia House of Delegates.
Bell enlisted in the United States Air Force immediately after high school, later earning a degree in business administration and earning commission as an officer. He served as a finance officer, winning a number of awards for effective management and identifying cost savings. Bell retired from the Air Force in 2007, having served nearly twenty-six years, and now works as a financial professional for a federal contracting firm.
In both 2009 and 2011, Bell made unsuccessful runs for the House of Delegates. In 2011, he was the Democratic Party nominee for the eighty-seventh district, and lost by less than two hundred votes to incumbent Delegate David Ramadan (R-VA 87th), who is not seeking reelection this year.
If elected, Bell proposes obtaining a fairer share of state education money to assist in establishing full-day kindergarten in Loudoun County, promoting economic development, finding cost-effective solutions to our transportation problems, and exploring public-private partnerships for “green industries.” As is too often the case, details about these proposals are thin-to-nonexistent.
I am very pleased to see that Bell proposes ending private ownership of the Dulles Greenway, a badly underutilized and over-priced privately-owed freeway that is being operated in violation of Virginia law (which requires that tolls be set so as to not ‘materially discourage’ use). Bell would purchase the highway and reform its pricing model, which would be an improvement, but the only proper solution is to make the Greenway an integral part of our transportation network by eliminating the tolls altogether. Highway are a public good, and should be free-access and funded through state and local taxes.
Bell apparently buys-in to the unsupported and unscientific claim that human action is causing serious harm to the global climate. Although I too support the development of more environmentally friendly ‘alternative’ energy sources, we must do so in a scientifically defensible way, and it makes absolutely no sense to let Virginia’s coal energy resources go to waste in the mean time. Bell’s opposition, with many of his Democratic peers, to clean coal energy in the commonwealth is indefensible. I want to see our state use our natural resources, both to put more Virginians to work, and to keep energy prices as low as possible for all citizens.
Bell also takes the standard Democratic Party positions in opposition to fundamental human rights and women’s health and safety. He opposes the inoffensive and rational safety regulations that have been imposed on abortion clinics, regulations that merely treat them the same as any other outpatient surgical clinic, and deceptively claims that these regulations somehow “decrease access to health care” or impose upon women’s “health care choices.”
This is, of course, patently absurd. You cannot claim to support women’s health and then oppose common-sense clinic safety measures that are protecting women. I would also question the honesty of anybody who refers to abortion as just one of many “private medical decisions,” when it is in fact an indefensible assault on a fundamental human right. If Bell does not acknowledge and defend this right, which is a prerequisite for all other rights, then it is unlikely that he can be trusted to defend any of the others.
Chuong Nguyen (R)
Chuong Nguyen (R) stands as the Republican Party nominee to represent the eighty-seventh district in the Virginia House of Delegates. Nguyen has been endorsed by incumbent Delegate David Ramadan (R-VA 87th), who is not seeking reelection.
Nguyen escaped Communist Vietnam with his family in the aftermath of the Vietnam War. In a small fishing boat, they made a dangerous journey to Malaysia and then ended up in a refugee camp. They later immigrated to the United States, where Nguyen became a naturalized U.S. citizen.
He began his career as a high school language teacher, teaching both Greek and Latin. Later he went to law school, and after graduating became a clerk at the Supreme Court of Virginia. More recently, he served as an assistant commonwealth’s attorney here in Loudoun County and was responsible for prosecuting the perpetrators of serious crimes in our community. He now works in private law practice.
If elected, Nguyen proposes promoting economic growth by reducing unnecessary taxes and regulations, supporting law enforcement efforts to reduce gang violence and other crimes, and getting our fair share of transportation funding from Richmond. On education, he proposes reductions in administrative bureaucracy and ensuring that our schools spend their money in the classroom. However, given the sorry state of our education system, it is unlikely these efforts would be successful.
Perhaps cognizant of how narrowly the eighty-seventh district voted for his Republican predecessor, who won in 2011 by less than two-hundred votes, Nguyen seems hesitant to discuss the more controversial issues that are before us. He takes no public positions on the key human rights issues of the day. We do not know his opinions on free speech or the freedom of religion, or the right to bear arms, or property rights. And we don’t know his position on the most fundamental and essential right of all—the right of every human being to live.
Given his party affiliation, it is probably safe to assume that Nguyen will take a pro-liberty position on most of these issues. The Republican Party in recent years has been a much more consistent defender of human rights than the Democratic opposition. It is, however, unfortunate that we must infer Nguyen’s likely policy positions from those of his party. We do not know for certain if Nguyen will defend the right to life, the right to bear arms, property rights, religious freedom, and free speech. We also do not know for certain if Nguyen supports keeping the reasonable safety regulations that currently apply to abortion clinics.
It is also unfortunate that Nguyen has not clearly described a path forward for reducing or eliminating the abusive tolls on the Dulles Greenway. Ramadan, the incumbent, has been a tireless advocate for forcing the owners of the Greenway to comply with state law and reduce the tolls to a reasonable level, and has been pursuing every possible legal option to make it happen (sadly, so far, unsuccessfully).
I would prefer to see Virginia or Loudoun County actually purchase the Greenway and eliminate the tolls altogether, but almost anything would be preferable to the status-quo . . . and almost anything would be preferable to Nguyen’s silence on this and so many other topics.
October 4, 2015 – Correction: This section originally stated that Chuong Nguyen was currently serving as an assistant commonwealth’s attorney in Loudoun County. Although Nguyen did serve in this role, he has left the commonwealth’s attorney’s office and is now working in private law practice. I apologize for the error. Thank you ‘blue_persuasion’ for calling this to my attention.
Brian Suojanen (L)
(L) stands as the Libertarian Party candidate to represent the eighty-seventh district in the Virginia House of Delegates. Suojanen is an information technology professional, focusing specifically on education technology. He has been involved with Libertarian Party politics since 2002.
Suojanen supports property rights, and opposes both eminent domain abuse and civil forfeiture laws. He wants to eliminate unnecessary taxes and red-tape that discourage small businesses, and also intends to push the House of Delegates to balance the state budget, abolish unnecessary taxes like the duplicative car tax, and implement a fairer flat tax system.
Suojanen also supports proposals to reform our schools and expand school choice options. These are among the most rational education proposals across our [expansive] ballot this year. He supports reforming our health care system as well, though it is unclear what authorities (if any) have been left to the states in this area. He supports allowing energy businesses to have reasonable access to our natural resources. And he would support legislation to better protect religious freedom.
With regard to transportation and the Dulles Greenway, Suojanen proposes expansion of free-market mass transit options and reducing the number of vehicles on the road, and establishing a distance-based pricing structure for the privately-owned Dulles Greenway. These are curious positions, as Libertarians tend to oppose government intervention in any of these areas. He does not appear to support a state purchase of the Greenway and elimination of the tolls.
Suojanen, like many Libertarians, has reasonably strong positions on many of the civil rights issues of the day. He supports free speech, the freedom of religion, the right to bear arms, and property rights. Indeed, he is among the strongest candidates on the ballot this year in these areas. He is also a fervent supporter of the Fourth Amendment, and would work to end illegal searches.
And yet, also like many Libertarians, Suojanen falls woefully short when it comes to the most fundamental civil right of all—the right of every human being to live. Without the right to life, all other rights crumble, and yet the Libertarian Party tends to be a strong supporter of so-called ‘abortion rights.’
If I may oversimplify their platform a bit, Libertarians believe that the proper role of government should be to protect life and property from encroachment from all others . . . and otherwise stay out of everybody’s business. Protecting innocent life is, even under the most radical of Libertarian positions, a proper role for government. Suojanen says that, “Abortion is a deeply personal and private decision to be made by a woman and her medical provider.” Nonsense. Government has a just and essential role in preventing human beings from killing each other.
The voters of the eighty-seventh district have three flawed candidates to choose from.
Bell, the Democratic nominee, has been a dutiful public servant in the United States Air Force, and has the strongest position of the candidates on the Dulles Greenway. And yet, he supports counterproductive energy and environmental policies, takes dangerously tepid positions on fundamental human rights, and is fighting to undermine women’s health and safety for transparently political reasons.
Nguyen, the Republican nominee, in an attempt to bolster support in a relatively centrist district and earn a wider victory than his predecessor, has simply steered completely clear of many of the most important issues before us today. He has reasonable economic proposals, but is silent about the Dulles Greenway and the thorny human rights issues that are likely to come before the House of Delegates. We can only hope and assume that he will be in-line with his party on these matters.
Suojanen, the Libertarian nominee, takes much stronger positions on free speech, religious freedom, the right to bear arms, and property rights than any of his opponents, but is woefully misguided on the right to life. He also takes a vague position on the Dulles Greenway; he advocates distance pricing, but doesn’t explain how the legislature might encourage the highway’s private owners to actually implement it.
Bell can be dismissed outright, but the choice between Nguyen and Suojanen is much more difficult. Suojanen is probably the better candidate, but, in a narrowly divided district, it is difficult to justify voting for a third party and risking a Bell victory. It is also difficult to justify a vote for somebody who does not acknowledge the fundamental right of every human being to live.
And so I endorse the election of Chuong Nguyen to represent the eighty-seventh district in the Virginia House of Delegates . . . but I do so on little more than an assumption that he will adhere to the pro-liberty positions of his party, and the fact that a third-party vote would be dangerous in such a narrowly divided district.