Ed. — The following are responses to questions posed by The Independent News to candidates for 21st District of the Virginia House of Delegates in the election on Tuesday, Nov. 5. Answers to our questions in this series generally are not edited, aside from obvious punctuation issues, spacing and formatting, or for clarity. Our full voter guide is now on stands. Fowler is the incumbent.
KELLY FOWLER (D)
Residence: Hillcrest Farms
Education Completed: Master’s degree in education from Old Dominion University
Endorsements: EMILY’s List, Virginia Education Association, League of Conservation Voters
Campaign website: delegatefowler.com
Phone: (757) 364-8428
Social media: @DelegateFowler on Facebook and Twitter
What are your specific qualifications for this office? First, I’m a lifelong resident of Virginia Beach. I was raised here, educated here, started a small business here, and began a family here. I was not politically engaged until Donald Trump’s election in 2016 when I realized that if my interests and the interests of my two young daughters were to be represented by my government, I would have to take action myself. So I marched, I ran, and I won.
What, to you, is the most important issue facing your district and how will you address it in office? Currently I am distressed by the lack of equality for women in our country. The United States has made progress in recent decades but there is still plenty of work to do before we achieve true equality. I was shocked when Virginia failed to pass the Equal Rights Amendment in my first term, and once we take the majority this November we will finally become the 38th state to ratify the ERA.
What are your three main legislative priorities?
► Virginia must finally take steps to curb gun violence. I am a gun owner and my husband is a law enforcement officer. We support the 2nd Amendment. But 1,000 Virginians die every year from gun violence and we can take steps to minimize this damage by implementing red flag laws, universal background checks, and banning silencers and extended magazines.
► We need to continue improving our education system. I was proud to help pass the largest teacher pay raise in a decade but we need to continue to recruit the best teachers across the country, find ways to reduce class size, and improve our high school graduation and college admissions rates.
► Flooding is a huge issue in my district. Being so close to the water and continued inaction at the federal level in the fight against climate change has left Virginia with a coastline resiliency problem. Every time we experience heavy rains stagnant water is left scattered around my district. I’m proud to share I’ve been endorsed by Stop The Flooding Now, a local advocacy group, for my work on coastal resiliency and flooding issues.
What priorities do you have that will help support the agriculture community? While urbanization and suburbanization continues to grow across the United States and Virginia, we need to take steps to ensure a thriving agricultural backbone in our regional economy. Virginia must implement balanced policies to preserve working farms and forestlands and protect agricultural property rights from unnecessary eminent domain, while ensuring clean air and water from polluters.
How will you support local efforts to address sea level rise and recurrent flooding? One of the first bills I co-patroned in the General Assembly was to mandate disclosures of flood zones for families buying homes in Virginia. As a real estate agent, I see far too often firsthand families buying their dream home only to find out later they’re in the middle of a flood zone, potentially destroying their lives when something like a hurricane hits our region, as is the case with Hurricane Matthew just a few years ago.
How will you support Virginia Beach in its long term recovery from the May 31 mass shooting, including the needs of survivors? Immediately after the shooting, my team and immediately began offering services and assistance to the victims and their families. We were on the scene with survivors and their families late into the night and began working with the Governor’s office and state agencies to make sure they were provided the aide and assistance they needed to endure their hardship and loss. The state of Virginia must continue to provide aide and counseling services to the victims and their families into the future.
Do you support efforts to ensure nonpartisan redistricting? Why or why not? Absolutely. Partisan gerrymandering is wrong whether it’s Democrats or Republicans drawing the lines. Voters should be able to pick their representatives, not the other way around.
Do you support access to sexual and reproductive health care, including birth control and abortion access? Give an example of legislation you might support or oppose on this issue. Yes. I believe that women should be able to make the choice for themselves when and under what circumstances they start a family. I recently made a choice with my husband to expand our family, and we expect a third daughter to arrive early in 2020. While the timing was right for us, it is simply wrong for elected officials to force women to start a family when they are not ready.
SHANNON KANE (R)
Residence: Dewberry Farms
Occupation: Entrepreneur, Small Business Owner
Military Service/Education Completed: BS in Communications from James Madison University
Endorsements: Police Benevolent Association, Chamber of Commerce, Mayor Bobby Dyer
Campaign website: shannonfordelegate.com
Campaign phone: (757)802-3236
Campaign email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Social media: @ShannonforVA on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter
What are your specific qualifications for this office? The number one qualification is to get things done, and that’s my record when I served on City Council. I helped create jobs, improve education and support public safety. My opponent in contrast has failed to pass any legislation she patroned at all, despite press conferences and speeches, she has no results. I think getting things done for your constituents is job #1 of an elected official, and failure to do so means it’s time for a change.
What, to you, is the most important issue facing your district and how will you address it in office? My district was the most impacted by the flooding caused by Hurricane Matthew. As a City Councilwoman, I met with the neighborhood and rallied help for them from the city, the business community, charities and others. I fought for priority funding to get the flooding improvements fully funded in subsequent budgets, and we got that funding. But success will require State funding as well, so now I am running to help make sure Virginia Beach gets the funding it needs to take the next steps in combatting flooding.
What are your three main legislative priorities? My focus in Richmond will include support for small businesses to help them expand and create more jobs. As a small business owner myself, I know the challenges businesses face and government rarely makes those challenges easier. We can help at the State level to make small businesses more competitive. I’ve also committed to a plan to raise teacher salaries to at least the national average and to fight for increased funding to combat our flooding challenges.
What priorities do you have that will help support the agriculture community? How have you worked (or how will you work) on issues impacting this industry? Agribusiness and agritourism is a big industry in Virginia Beach, and I’ve protected it on City Council by supporting the ARP and the green line. Agriculture provides well over 300,000 jobs and adds $70 billion to the State economy. In Virginia Beach, it is our third largest industry with an economic impact of over $120 million. I’ll protect Virginia’s Right to Farm Act and the property rights of Virginians. I also support the Port which provides opportunities for exports to our agribusinesses.
How will you support local efforts to address sea level rise and recurrent flooding? Flooding is my motivating issue and since 2014 when I joined Virginia Beach City Council, I have supported over $400,000 in local funding to address and mitigate flooding. I also voted to fund and support the Dewberry Study which is setting a path to implement solutions. But Virginia Beach residents cannot be the only ones paying the cost. I will help lead the effort in State government for funding to stop flooding. Too little has been done and that must change, and I am running to lead that change.
How will you support Virginia Beach in its long term recovery from the May 31 mass shooting, including the needs of survivors? First, I will vote for Del. Barry Knight’s legislation for financial relief and protection for the families of the victims and for the rehabilitation of Building 2, which my opponent voted to block from consideration this summer during the Special Session of the legislature. I will await the final recommendations of the independent review to see what role the State can play and work with the City Council to implement those recommendations.
Do you support efforts to ensure nonpartisan redistricting? Why or why not? I support nonpartisan redistricting, and I hope I will see it, because the court-ordered nonpartisan redistricting plan looked awfully partisan to me. I believe districts should be compact, contiguous and maintain communities of interest intact. Those can be accomplished hopefully in either process, but I believe in keeping partisan politics out of redistricting no matter who is in the majority of a legislature.
Do you support access to sexual and reproductive health care, including birth control and abortion access? Give an example of legislation you might support or oppose on this issue. Yes, and also access to affordable health insurance, which has been often promised and yet health insurance is more expensive than ever before. In fact, the more affordable government has promised to make health insurance, the more expensive it has become. I would support more flexibility on the private sector side and support more choices and competition for consumers rather than the opposition’s plan to force everyone into government insurance and government health care.
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