Election Day is around the corner, and in the age of COVID-19, many Harrisonburg residents are choosing to participate in early or mail-in voting. Here’s a rundown of candidates and constitutional amendments that individuals registered to vote in Harrisonburg can expect to see on their ballots.
DONALD TRUMP (R)
Running on a campaign slogan of “Keep America Great,” the incumbent’s platform largely mirrors his 2016 agenda. His ‘America First’ policies prioritize lowering taxes, ending “stifling” regulations, securing the U.S borders and retaining jobs in the country, among other issues. Trump maintains his promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
Trump’s running mate, Vice President Mike Pence (R), is Trump’s evangelical counterpart. Pence served as a representative of Indiana in Congress for 12 years before assuming the role of Governor of Indiana in 2012.
JOE BIDEN (D)
Biden served as a U.S. Senator from 1973 to 2009 and as Vice President under President Barack Obama (D) from 2009 to 2017.
A hot-button issue on Biden’s agenda is imposing tax increases for corporations and the “wealthiest Americans.” Biden said, Americans who make less than $400,000 a year won’t “pay a penny more in taxes.” Additionally, Biden said he’ll levy over a dozen middle class tax cuts.
Biden’s platform also prioritizes “building back better” in the wake of the pandemic, establishing racial and social equity, instituting a clean energy future, modernizing America’s immigration system and ending gun violence by ceasing the online sale of firearms and requiring background checks for all gun sales.
Biden’s running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris (D), is the first Black and South Asian woman to be a major party’s vice presidential nominee. After serving as the California Attorney General for six years, Harris became the junior senator for California in 2017. She then ran for president, ending her bid in December 2019.
JO JORGENSEN (L)
Jorgensen,the only third party presidential candidate, is on the ballot. She’s running as a Libertarian and served as the Libertarian Party’s candidate for South Carolina’s 4th Congressional District in 1992.
Jorgensen wrote on her website that the U.S. should reduce red tape and regulation of medicines, treatment and testing so patient access increases. She also said she prioritizes returning control of education to the hands of students, parents and teachers. Jorgensen vows on her website to slash federal spending and reduce taxes.
She said as president she’d work to remove government barriers to replace coal and oil burning power plants with “safe, non-polluting, high-tech” nuclear power plants and off-grid solar power.
Jorgensen said her goal is to “turn America into one giant Switzerland, armed and neutral.” She’s in favor of a military “laser-focused on defending America,” but without involvement in foreign wars. She’s a proponent of returning the over 200,000 American military personnel stationed overseas, ceasing military aid to foreign governments and ending blockades and embargoes on non-military trade.
Spike Cohen is Jorgensen’s running mate. Cohen is a political activist, entrepreneur and podcaster.
MARK WARNER (D)
For the last 11 years, Warner has represented Virginia in the U.S. Senate. As senator, Warner has guided 55 bills signed into law. Warner lists lowering the costs of prescription drugs, protecting “natural treasures” like the Chesapeake Bay and creating jobs in Virginia as his biggest successes during his tenure. He said his priorities for his next term are correcting the “out-of-control cost” of health care, procuring solutions to climate change and aiding the future of our economy.
Warner also said he’s committed to ensuring that every Virginian has access to quality, affordable health care and emphasizes protecting benefits for Americans with pre-existing conditions.
Warner wrote on his website that climate change is one of the largest threats to American health, economy and national security. He supports legislation like the Clean Economy Act, which establishes a goal for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
DANIEL GADE (R)
Gade served in the U.S. military for over 20 years. After suffering an injury that resulted in the amputation of his right leg, Gade worked on veteran issues and military healthcare in former President George W. Bush’s administration.
The first bill Gade said he wants to see through Congress is aimed at stopping insider trading among members of Congress and levy felonies on public servants who use insider, nonpublic information to gain an advantage in their financial endeavors.
On the environment, Gade said both parties should be able to find common ground. He said he’s a proponent of clean water and renewable energy.
A proponent of term limits and bipartisan efforts, Gade said he will prioritize balancing the budget and prevent purposeful overspending by career politicians to buy elections.
For House of Representatives
BEN CLINE (R)
Cline is seeking reelection in the 6th district. He’s co-sponsored over 100 bipartisan bills during his 2-year tenure in Congress. From 2002 until 2018, Cline represented the 24th House District in the Virginia General Assembly.
Cline said the most important issue Congress must address this term is helping the country recover from the COVID-19 pandemic — starting with the development and deployment of a safe and effective vaccine.
Cline supports funding to law enforcement agencies to provide body cameras, de-escalation training and a national database to prevent the re-hiring of officers fired for violating their agency’s protocols.
Cline said because the sixth congressional district is one of the largest agriculture producing districts in the country, protecting natural resources is a top priority. He said he supports an “all-of-the-above energy policy” which creates a competitive market between traditional energy sources — like coal, oil, and natural gas — and alternative energy sources.
Another item on Cline’s agenda is pushing back against the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Cline said the mandates placed on insurance policies by the ACA have raised premiums for many Americans.
NICHOLAS BETTS (D)
Betts has worked in various jobs, including landscaper and substitute teacher, and lives in Lexington, Virginia.
The first item listed on Betts’ platform is providing a public healthcare option for all citizens while maintaining an option for private health insurance.
Betts calls for universal background checks at the federal level and a 1% federal sales tax on ammunition to fund violence prevention programs.
In terms of police reform, Betts advocates for a federal government developed police training program and increased transparency through federally mandated body camera usage and a national database of police misconduct.
Betts also lists reforming education through funding, reducing student debt through loan forgiveness, offering tax credits for clean energy, expanding internet access, upholding Roe v. Wade, protecting the rights of the LGBTQ+ community and decriminalizing marijuana use as top priorities.
For City Council
In the race for City Council, five candidates — two of whom are incumbents — are vying for three available seats.
DEANNA READ (D)
Four years ago, Reed became the first Black female mayor of Harrisonburg. Born and raised in the northeast neighborhood, she’s served two consecutive terms working to “represent a voice that was missing at the table and make sure our community was one where people feel included.” Reed is the program director for On the Road Collaborative, which helps over 300 students prepare for success in high school, college and their future careers. Reed lists education as a priority issue on her website. In a community where 61% of the population lives below the Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed (ALICE) threshold according to the United Way, Reed wrote that she “will not walk away” without ensuring that every Harrisonburg resident has affordable housing.
GEORGE HIRSCHMANN (I)
Hirschmann has perched on the council bench for four years. As the only independent candidate on the ballot, Hirschmann writes on his website that his goal is to bar partisan politics from local government. He cataloged returning Harrisonburg residents to work “as safely and as quickly as possible” in the wake of the pandemic at the apex of his issues. He also noted that his role in doling out CARES act funded grants to local businesses was integral to this goal. Hirschmann’s website details that tax rates in the city have “grown to the point that residents and businesses are fleeing the city,” and lists that he’s a fiscally responsible candidate who can tackle the issue.
LAURA DENT (D)
Dent is a pragmatic progressive — which means she aligns herself with progressive goals like environmental and social justice while also retaining emphasis on the process to reach those goals. Dent was an adjunct technical writing professor at JMU until the pandemic, when she decided she’d take a few years off. As a founding team member of the Friendly City Food Co-op, Dent said she knows how to support the recovery of small businesses in the aftermath of this public health crisis. She also supports the 50 by 25 plan to move to 50% renewable energy in Harrisonburg’s electric grid by 2025, and affordable housing efforts through “fair standards” for zoning and taxes to encourage home ownership and protect tenants’ rights.
CHARLES HENDRICKS (D)
Having lived in the Valley for 12 years, Hendricks said his focus on the Council would be on sustainability, business and community. Hendricks wrote that the community has an “ethical duty” to address climate change immediately by “focusing on clean energy, air, and water.” He said he’ll work to create affordable clean energy sources that are available for all residents by establishing a weatherization program — which reduces energy bills of low-income families by making their homes more energy efficient. He also prioritizes uncovering a solution to aiding Harrisonburg’s homeless population. Hendricks said his background in design and construction qualify him to establishing housing that’s affordable based on all local incomes and experiences.
KATHLEEN KELLEY (R)
Kelley is the first Republican candidate to run for city council since 2014. Kelley is an integrative medicine physician with Sentara, who has lived in Harrisonburg since 1997. She said she hopes to be a voice for Harrisonburg’s workers and small business owners. Kelley said she wants to build a “strong, resilient, ‘crisis proof’” city by expanding the manufacturing base, promoting trade skills through education and removing “burdensome” taxes and regulations that she said suffocates small businesses. Kelley has faced criticism for her Facebook posts promoting QAnon and far-right political memes, but her political messaging remains targeted at advocating for families and local businesses.
For Harrisonburg City Public School Board
Seigle grew up in Harrisonburg, attending Harrisonburg High School and EMU. She previously served on the HCPS School Board, and is aiming for reelection. Seigle wrote on her website that residents should vote for her because she believes she can “bring a new perspective to the board and awaits the chance to improve our schools.”
Peckham has been a teacher for 45 years — spending 13 years as a high school English teacher, six as a graduate student teaching assistant, and 28 as professor and writing program director at the University of Nebraska Omaha. Having published two books and over 30 articles on writing assessment, writing program administration and social class influences on writing instruction, Peckham’s platform focuses on assessment reform.
Fitzgerald has served as the vice chair and chair of the HCPS School Board, and is seeking reelection to the board. She’s lived in Harrisonburg since 1985, and said watching the city undergo “dramatic changes to become a diverse and dynamic place to live and work” has prepared her for the duty of serving on the board. Fitzgerald is currently teaching remotely and face-to-face at EMU, and said she understands what families and other teachers are going through and is ready to work to get students back in the classroom.
Formerly serving as chair of the HCPS School Board, Swayne is seeking a fourth term on the board. Swayne is the founder of JMU X-Labs, which he said he created to help develop the campus’ innovation ecosystem. He’s also the executive director of 4-Virginia — a collaboration of eight Virginia public institutions to leverage their combined strengths to improve higher education’s efficiency and economic impact.
Also on the ballot:
VIRGINIA CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT NO.1, REDISTRICTING COMMISSION
Gerrymandering is a political tool used by both parties — depending on who’s in power. It can deeply affect minority communities by diluting the power of their vote.
The Virginia General Assembly and Governor Ralph Northam (D) will draw a new district map next year based on 2020 Census results. The proposed amendment aims to stop gerrymandering from dictating that process by shifting the responsibility of drawing these election districts to a bipartisan commission, who would then submit the maps for approval from the General Assembly. If commissioners — appointed by legislators — don’t agree on maps or if the General Assembly doesn’t approve the submitted maps by a certain date, the Supreme Court of Virginia is responsible for drawing the election districts.
According to the Virginia Mercury, the Democratic Party of Virginia is urging voters to oppose the proposed constitutional amendment because the bipartisan process will be inherently political and will quench any hope of a third party rising to influence. Conversely, the Republican Party of Virginia said that Democrats hold this view because they control the General Assembly and are unwilling to relinquish the power to redraw the maps themselves.
VIRGINIA CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT NO.2, DISABLED VETERANS VEHICLE
The second proposed constitutional amendment would exclude disabled veterans from paying personal property taxes on cars and pickup trucks. The measure is a state and local tax break for veterans of the United States armed forces or the Virginia National Guard who have a 100% service-connected, permanent and total disability. Under the amendment, a vehicle that’s owned by the spouse of a disabled veteran could also be free from taxation.
According to Vote411, proponents of the measure say that veterans who are totally disabled from a military-related experience have sacrificed enough for their country, so eliminating the burden of taxes on their primary vehicle is deserved. Critics of the amendment say the exemption is too broad and should’ve included limitations on eligibility based on income or value of the exempted vehicle.
Contact Brice Estes at email@example.com. For more coverage of JMU and Harrisonburg news, follow the news desk on Twitter @BreezeNewsJMU.