Forty-three people crammed into the upstairs dining room of the Beyond Restaurant and Lounge on Wednesday night to meet and talk with Lt. Gov.-hopeful Aneesh Chopra.
Chopra held a meet-and-greet to campaign with Harrisonburg residents. About half were JMU and local high school students while the other half were local residents and city officials.
Chopra served as Gov. Tim Kaine’s secretary of technology from 2006-2009 and President Barack Obama’s chief technology officer from 2009 to 2012.
During the talk, he said he plans to rehabilitate Virginia’s national image. He believes the state image has suffered several devastating blows over the past two years, including actions taken by the Bob McDonald legislation that Chopra believes are direct affronts on women’s rights.
“Once again, Virginia is a laughing stock,” Chopra said. “We like to think that we’re awesome, the best state for business. It should not be late-night comedy show material.”
Chopra has high hopes for the future of Virginia and hopes to advance its education and business programs.
“We need to focus on a government that is faster, better, smarter and fairer,” Chopra said. “We need to grow Virginia — that is the key.
We’re going to have over 100 thousand college graduates by 2020.”
Chopra believes he could help Virginia college students have brighter futures. One focus in his educational plan is allowing students to make their jobs rather than finding them. As part of the national initiative Startup America, Chopra hopes to improve on the Virginia version, Startup Virginia and help college-aged students to pursue opportunities to become entrepreneurs.
“People sometimes don’t understand what a lieutenant governor does,” Chopra said. “I aim to make the position have a voice again. We will be the place that takes full advantage of what the Commonwealth has to offer.”
The duties of the lieutenant governor of Virginia include serving as the president of the state senate, succeed the governor and serve on several prominent councils and boards throughout the state.
Startup America and Startup Virginia are initiatives started by the White House in 2011 to encourage people to start their own businesses.
Chopra believes that three important things must be done to achieve success by 2020: more education, a flourishing economic system with new businesses and encouraging minorities to “have a shot at the American dream.”
“We need to celebrate what makes Virginia a great state, what makes us diverse,” Chopra said. “Over the past several years we have sent out a different message from supporting diversity.”
Junior political science and public policy major Sawyer Hackett attended the event and was very pleased with Chopra’s presentation.
“Aneesh understands technology and the field of important technological jobs that are coming to Virginia,” Hackett said. “He is easier to relate to than most politicians.
City Council member Richard Baugh asked Chopra about the details of Virginia’s budget and how he plans to make it easier for taxpayers to identify where their money is going.
Chopra cited a website he helped launch known as “Virginia Performs,” which allows government spending to be viewed by anyone. This website helped Virginia win the “Best Managed State Award” in 2006, and its idea will contribute to his budget planning.
“Honesty and transparency is critical to stopping this balanced budget Virginia when we just shifted the responsibility,” Chopra said. “Coming clean is better, and I think the budget needs to be transparent.”
Former mayor of Harrisonburg Larry Rogers believes that Chopra’s education plans will be beneficial to the youth of Virginia.
“While Aneesh was working with Gov. Kaine, we received high national marks in education,” Rogers said. “Our kids have great opportunities and great education here. That’s why I’m supporting Aneesh, because he hasn’t just been promising this, he’s been doing it for the past 15 years.”
Contact Eric Graves at firstname.lastname@example.org.