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Gubernatorial Candidate Tom Perriello Campaigns in Fredericksburg

By Susan Larson

Virginia gubernatorial candidate Tom Perriello (D) held a town hall meeting at the University of Mary Washington on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017.

Perriello, who served as U.S. Representative for Virginia’s 5th district from 2009 until 2011, spent an hour answering questions from about 100 community members and students gathered in The University Center. The event was hosted by UMW’s Young Democrats.

Questions ran the gamut, covering the Affordable Care Act, education affordability, gun control, the minimum wage, fracking, criminal justice reform, the opioid epidemic, clean energy, redistricting reform, LGBT rights, restoration of voting rights, and President Trump’s travel ban.

“My goal in this race is to make people understand that state races matter,” Perriello said.

“I want Virginia to be the first 100 percent voter participation state. We should not accept in a democracy that so few people show up. And yes, we know that one of the parties right now has made it their job to make it harder and harder for Americans to vote, particularly communities of color and seniors. But we should be making it easier for everybody.”

Busy people are wondering why they have to go to a particular place on a particular day to vote, he said.

He believes in addition to using technology to make it easier to vote, redistricting reform is vital. “It should not be that politicians pick the voters, but that voters pick the politicians,” he said.

The Ivy, Virginia, native talked about energizing the Virginia economy.

“The two most underfunded things in Virginia are infrastructure and education,” he said “These are the things that made us the best place to do business and the best place to raise a family, under the Mark Warner administration.”

“We’ve had great democratic governors since Mark Warner who continue to manage that as best they can,” he said. “But as long as the legislature is choking off reforms and investments that we need, we’re going to see that standing fall.”

He referenced the legislature’s rejection of $8 billion in Medicaid expansion funding, “despite that fact that it would help the most vulnerable among us, but also help the middle class, where the premiums get passed on, and help our hospitals, particularly in rural areas.”

He said Virginia is behind West Virginia on the minimum wage, and 48th of 50 on renewable energy jobs. “Today there are more Americans employed in the clean energy sector than the fossil fuel energy sector, and here we are falling behind,” he said.

“My core concern is that the economy as it exists right now is not working for enough Virginians,” he said. “I think the status quo on the economy is not good enough for where people want to go. We’ve seen a disconnect between GDP or macro growth, and what the opportunities are for the working middle class. Minimum wage needs to be increased significantly, and we need to work with our employers on how to do that.”

He’s also taken the position that at least two years of community college or career and technical training should be free for every Virginian graduating from high school.

“What we’re seeing today is a lot of people coming out of these two-year degree or technical training programs with better paying jobs and less debt than some of the people coming out with a college degree,” he said. “Now there’s not one path for every student. We need to also make going to a four-year school affordable.”

The candidate was asked about his position on President Trump’s travel ban, targeting of immigrants and immigrant communities, and deportations.

“We have to be absolutely fearless about calling out hate and calling out bigotry wherever we see it,” he said. There was loud applause.

“Donald Trump ran the most viciously racist campaign of my lifetime, and I think we have to be honest about that,” Perriello said. “That doesn’t mean we assume every Trump voter supports that.” He said its important to understand the variety of motives that make someone want to support Donald Trump.

Several people voiced support for the Affordable Care Act, and asked Perriello his position.

“My hope is that the Affordable Care Act remains in place,” he said. “It’s not a perfect solution, but it has already produced many benefits for Virginians.”

About 400,000 Virginians buy their insurance on the exchange — he’s one of them — and more than 3 million Virginias who have private insurance benefit from the ACA because they no longer have annual or lifetime caps, he said.

“Let’s face it, the whole point of insurance is to be insured. There’s noting more broken in the system than people who bought their insurance, then got sick, and were then told it doesn’t cover that or you have reached your limit,” he said. “Ultimately what we want is for people to have affordable access to quality health care, and we need to figure out the best way to get there.”

On the issue of gun control, Perriello said there has to be room for common sense gun reform. “What I will try to focus on as governor is what will have a chance of succeeding and can make a difference,” he said.

He said he’d make the case stronger for universal background checks, closing the gun show loop hole, and addressing the smart gun technology that has led to accidental deaths, particularly with children. “I do believe that people have a second amendment right to own guns, but I do not believe that it’s inconsistent with the ability to have common sense gun control.”

The Virginia gubernatorial election of 2017 will take place on November 7.

Primaries will be held on June 13, 2017. Virginia utilizes an open primary, which means registered voters are allowed to vote in only one party’s primary election.

Virginia Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam is also running for the democratic nomination.

Four Republican candidates have declared. They are former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie, Prince William Board of Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart, state Sen. Frank Wagner, (7th District), and businessman Denver Riggleman.

U.S. Congressman Rob Wittman also declared his candidacy, but withdrew from the race in December 2016, saying he felt he could do the most good by staying in Congress.

The state Republican Party traditionally selected party nominees for statewide offices at a convention, but in August 2016 voted to hold primary elections in 2017.

Incumbent Governor Terry McAuliffe (D) is not eligible to run for reelection because of the Virginia Constitution prohibits the governor from serving consecutive terms. Virginia is the only state with this gubernatorial term limit.
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