WINCHESTER — State elected officials from the area and the people who want their jobs pitched themselves and their platforms at the 20th annual Hob Nob in the Valley at Handley High School on Friday night.
Hundreds of people came out to Handley High School for the event, which is sponsored by the Top of Virginia Regional Chamber.
The five-minute speeches by candidates combined folksy witticisms and auto-biographical accounts with policy positions and political philosophies. There were no criticisms of one another by name, but Democrat Ronnie Ross, a candidate for the 27th state Senate District, took an indirect shot at incumbent state Sen. Jill Vogel, R-Upperville. He said it’s a conflict of interest for lawmakers to be taking campaign contributions from Dominion Energy, the approximately $13 billion coal and natural gas corporation that is Virginia’s largest utility.
“We certainly shouldn’t be taking contributions from Dominion when we’re supposed to be regulating them,” he said.
The energy sector is Vogel’s top contributor giving her $1.5 million, according to the VoteSmart website. And her top individual contributor is her father William B. Holtzman, the head of Holtzman Oil Corp., who has given her $1.3 million since she’s been in office and was voted “Oilman of the Year” in 2017 by the Virginia Petroleum and Convenience and Grocery Association.
Nonetheless, Vogel described herself as “independent” and “innovative” during her speech. She listed clean air and water as among her top priorities.
In an interview, Vogel said she’s cast votes against Dominion.
“I have often cast votes against people who’ve contributed to me and we agree to disagree and we carry on,” she said. “I am a pro-business candidate and Dominion is an important business in the commonwealth of Virginia.”
Vogel, who took office in 2008, also said she has a “great conservation record” and opposes the Trump administration’s rollback of stricter auto and power plant emissions and efforts to weaken the Clear Air Act and Clean Water Act.
“I’m not a fan of rolling back our environmental standards,” she said. “I think the right answer is somewhere in between.”
While Vogel was touting her environmental record, Del. Dave LaRock, R-Hamilton, cited his efforts to make it harder for women to get abortions and to protect fertilized eggs and fetuses, which he referred to as “the unborn.”
LaRock, who took office in 2014, also cited protecting gun rights and “religious liberty.” While the U.S. does not have an official religion, LaRock pledged to “protect the Judeo-Christian principles that are the basis for the morality of our nation.”
Democratic opponent Mavis Taintor, a former Citi Bank executive, touted her business acumen. She also cited her personal life recalling her mentally ill son who died of a heroin overdose.
“I want to get to Richmond because I want to make sure every Virginia family has access to affordable healthcare and mental healthcare,” she said. “Because our family was not able to find it here.”
Del. Chris Collins, R-Frederick County, said one of his proudest achievements since taking office in 2016 was expanding health insurance coverage for children with autism. He also said he’ll push to get a “hands-free” law passed that would make it illegal to drive while holding a phone to reduce distracted driving crashes.
Democratic opponent Irina Khanin spoke of growing up under political repression in the former Soviet Union and said one of the reasons she is running is her concern about repression in the U.S. Without naming him, she cited President Trump’s frequent labeling of reporters as “enemies of the people” a remark once used by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.
Del. Wendy Gooditis, D-Clarke County, who took office in 2018 said she was proud to have voted for Medicaid expansion and a 5% raise for teachers. Her opponent, Republican Randy Minchew, who Gooditis defeated, is running against her again. He cited his legislative record including supporting efforts to reduce pressure on teachers to spend time on high-stakes student testing.
In a computerized straw poll, all the Republican House of Delegates and State Senate candidates won. John Fox, vice chair of the Top of Virginia Regional Chamber, said that because most chamber members are from traditionally Republican Frederick County, Republicans usually win.
“The only way to make this fair is one-ticket, one-vote,” he said of the computerized vote. “If more Republicans show up, then you would expect a Republican to win. If more Democrats show up, you would expect a Democrat to win.”
For results of the straw poll, see the Chamber’s Facebook page.