BY AMY POULTER
COURTHOUSE — Two candidates from Virginia Beach are running to claim the Eighth District seat now held by state Sen. Jeff McWaters, a Republican who is retiring.
Democrat Dave Belote, a retired Air Force officer, and Republican Bill DeSteph, a state delegate who served on the city council, face off in the general election on Tuesday, Nov. 3.
Belote grew up in the Kempsville, and attended schools there from kindergarten to high school. After college, he served in the U.S. Air Force, where he spent 24 years as a fighter pilot. Belote served as base commander at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, and, after his retirement from the military, as vice president for a solar and wind developer.
DeSteph is vacating his seat in the 82nd District of the state House of Delegates, where has served since 2013. Before he was elected to the House of Delegates, DeSteph served seven years on the city council. DeSteph also served more than 20 years in the Navy, and he served both as a chief petty officer and, later, an intelligence officer. He co-owned and served as an executive of a defense technology firm, as well.
Instead of funding extension of the Tide, DeSteph said local roadways and the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel should receive the bulk of transportation funding.
“According to recent studies, at best in 20 years, 2,500 people will ride the light rail in a day,” DeSteph said. “That’s less than one percent of our population. I think we really need to put our transportation priorities into what most people are using – and that’s roads.”
Belote encourages the expansion of light rail. He said it has to be part of the long-term solution in bettering roadway infrastructure in Virginia Beach.
He supports the presence of light rail here because he said doing so will keep businesses and young people in the area.
“When the light rail is going to work, it has got to go from the naval base to the Oceanfront and go by the airport because those are the three spots that absolutely need to be linked,” Belote said.
Belote said he aims to take a stand against climate change, and he suggests investing in offshore wind power and inshore solar power to generate clean energy and climate security as a start to protect Virginia’s coastal areas.
“In Hampton Roads, we have the capacity to dominate a renewable energy industry on the East Coast, and we ought to do it,” Belote said.
Not only will the renewable energy boost the environmental health of Virginia, but it will also create long-lasting area jobs, he said.
Belote would also like to invest more into Virginia public schools to ensure that each child in Virginia has the ability to attend a school that meets their needs, both educationally and physically.
He said he wants to take funds diverted by the General Assembly from education and school capital improvement plans and reinvest them in area schools, citing that many of the city’s older schools are not suited for implementing newer technologies.
DeSteph said he supports reducing state income tax on corporations and individuals to foster economic health and potential job growth that will create a better environment for families and businesses to thrive.
In specific situations, DeSteph would like to stop taxes he considers unreasonable to small businesses.
“Restaurants who get health inspections, under the governor’s last year’s budget, went from paying $40 to $400,” he said. “To have inspections quarterly went from costing $160 per year to $1,600 per year.”
DeSteph said he is running so that he can better attend to the needs of his constituents. From serving a population of roughly 82,500 people in the House of Delegates, DeSteph is eager to extend that service to an estimated 174,000 citizens in the senate district.
“When somebody needs help with something, and I can help them, I really enjoy doing that,” DeSteph said.