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JMU's College of Democrats hosted the event and members posed with both candidates afterward. 

Brent Finnegan and April Moore, Democratic candidates for the Virginia General Assembly, spoke to the JMU College Democrats Wednesday evening about the political state of Rockingham County and their ongoing campaigns. 

Finnegan is running for state delegate alongside Moore running for state senator, both for the 26th House District. The candidates said they’re passionate about resolving a multitude of issues, including air and water quality, national security, justice reform and consumer rights and protections.

April Moore spoke first, expressing her gratitude toward the students who’ve helped her secure the Democratic nomination back in June and for helping her run her campaign. 

“I want to say thank you for being involved in our political process,” Moore said. “Unfortunately,you all have lived through a period where our politics have been terrible. Many people your age want to throw up your hands and not be involved at all; that’s the last thing we need, we need real engagement to make things better.”

After that, Moore dove into the main points of her platform, immediately addressing the work that’s been done in support of the environment. For over a decade, climate change has been the centerpiece of her political agenda. With efforts being made around the world, Moore said she expects an attitude shift among the older generation soon. Moore herself jumps into the Potomac River every January to help raise money for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

Many students in attendance said they agreed with both candidates in that certain issues such as climate change are problems that need to be addressed. One student, senior political science major Sammy Abed, gave his impression of what the candidates had to say.

“I thought it was really interesting to hear a lot about climate change and their emphasis on that,” Abed said. “I think it has definitely opened my eyes toward these types of issues that I hadn’t been aware of.”

After discussing more of the challenges Virginia faces,  such as healthcare, opioids and education – Brent Finnegan took the floor and detailed why he’s running for the House of Delegates. Finnegan attended the University of Texas at Austin in 2003 during the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and after seeing how the campus responded, he felt the need to become more politically involved.

“Organizers on campus shut it down – it is a very politically active campus,” Finnegan said. “I saw professors of mine handcuffing themselves to students inside PVC pipe and blocking roads. That was the beginning of a political journey that ended with me standing here right now.”

Finnegan began his political career questioning government action and spending, and he hasn’t stopped to this day. He has questioned decisions made by local government in regards to many things such as housing, asking why people are sleeping on the streets in Harrisonburg every night when there are vacant homes all over the city. Another area where Finnegan disagrees with local spending is JMU’s recent construction projects on campus – for example, the parking decks.

“Each one of those parking spaces at the new parking decks around campus cost about $50,000,” Finnegan said. “That’s a lot of building material that could have gone to build housing for people if we lived in a society that valued housing for people over housing for cars.”

Based off his energy at the event, attendees said they could tell Finnegan is passionate about keeping Virginia “on track” with the rest of the U.S., wanting Democratic control of politics both on the national level and in Rockingham County. Making it easier to afford college in Virginia is another project Finnegan and Moore plan to tackle.

“When Tennessee or Kentucky or Maryland say that they’re going to provide tuition-free community college, and in Virginia, the cost of tuition goes up and up and up, everything we do at the state level, we have to make sure we’re not falling behind as a state,” Finnegan said.

Contact Christian Lovallo at lovallca@dukes.jmu.edu. For more coverage of JMU and Harrisonburg news, follow the news desk on Twitter @BreezeNewsJMU.