WINCHESTER — Eight Republican candidates seeking the GOP nomination in Virginia’s Senate District 1 race sounded off on a variety of issues during a Frederick County Republican Committee forum Tuesday night.
Heavily discussed was a galvanizing subject for Republicans in the commonwealth: education.
Candidates vying for the Republican nod are Lance Allen, James Bergida, Blaine Dunn, Timmy French, Dave LaRock, John Massoud, Brandon Monk and Brad Pollack.
The two-hour forum, held at Millwood Station Banquet Hall, gave each candidate two minutes for an opening statement, then a minute to answer questions.
Early voting is already underway in the June 20 Republican primary. The newly redrawn Senate District 1 encompasses Frederick, Clarke, Shenandoah and Warren counties and the city of Winchester.
A moderator asked the candidates what they would do to preserve conservative culture as state lawmakers. Each mentioned that education issues would be key.
“I’ve been knocking a lot of doors and what I keep hearing from folks is that their number one issue is education reform, and that folks are ready for new blood in Richmond,” said James Bergida, a professor at the private Christendom College in Front Royal.
“Two of our great cultural institutions are our public schools and our public universities. Both have been taken over by woke ideology. We do need to pass school choice, and it may be hard: I have advocated that we pass it so that localities can decide if they want it,” Bergida said. “And if Frederick County says they’ll give $3,000 to residents of Frederick County, the state will back that up and give $3,000 as well. So that’s a way we can actually get it done,”
School choice refers to programs and policies that let families use public money to access educational choices beyond their local public school, often through a voucher system or an education savings account that parents control.
“We need to go look at our public universities and see their hiring practices. I can tell you: there are often hiring practices where you have to make a statement as a professor basically ascribing to woke ideology. We should say, ‘Listen: enough is enough. We are going to cut your funding unless you change that.’”
Massoud, a former Strasburg Town Council member and GOP chairman for Virginia’s Sixth Congressional District, has raised the most money — $202,000 — out of the eight candidates. He is followed by Allen at $171,000 and LaRock at $140,000. Massoud has called himself “the clear conservative choice” in posts on his Facebook campaign page.
“One of the very few good things that came out of COVID was parents actually saw the junk that our kids were being taught and parents woke up and said to their school boards, ‘No more.’ Yes, we need to have school choice. Yes, dollars must follow the child,” said Massoud.
Earlier, Massoud seemed to allege that Virginia’s schools have pornography in libraries. “I’ve knocked on thousands of doors in this district, and the one thing that pretty much every person has talked about is porn in our school libraries.”
Almost all the candidates indicated they support school choice-related policies. They also spoke about parental rights.
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) has pushed legislation that would expand school choice by allocating a portion of per-pupil state funding to a savings account for parents to spend on private school tuition or other approved education expenses, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported in January. Youngkin campaigned heavily on parental rights ahead of the 2021 gubernatorial election.
Pollack, a Shenandoah County supervisor and a Woodstock-based attorney, talked about “repealing the 1870 amendment to the Constitution of Virginia mandating public schools. We don’t need it anymore. We can replace it with giving every parent $10,000 per student and still save billions of dollars and have plenty of money left over for special needs.”
He also said, “We have to stop encouraging sex without commitment in our society. We do that all the time — it’s called sin. And the whole purpose of legislation throughout the history of man has been to control sin, and sex without commitment is one of the fundamental things we need to discourage.”
Dunn, vice chairman of the Frederick County Board of Supervisors, is a self-described Christian conservative who supports limited government, capitalism, Second Amendment rights and low taxes. He also supports school choice.
French, a farmer from Shenandoah County, took a different approach when asked about vouchers and school choice.
“I’m probably a little bit different than the rest (of the candidates). I do support home school and private school, but I think our public schools are the backbones of our community. We can’t leave some of these citizens behind and expect that they are going to get a great education. I think we have to be a part of it. That’s kind of where I’m at on that,” French said.
For the most part, the candidates appear to be united on most key issues being debated in the state legislature. The winner of the Republican primary will face Democrat Emily Scott in the general election on Nov. 7.
Allen, an Air Force veteran backed by Veterans for Trump, has legislative priorities that include repealing the state’s red flag law for firearms, introducing “constitutional carry” and nixing Virginia’s personal property tax on vehicles as well as the tax on retired veterans’ incomes.
“Make Virginia a constitutional carry state, make Virginia a universal school choice state,” Allen told the audience. “This is about limiting government so that we put the power back in the hands of the people. Let’s talk about eliminating the personal property tax because the size of government has just grown and grown and our bills continually grow and they never shrink.”
LaRock, who represents the 33rd District in the House of Delegates, is the lone candidate with experience as a state legislator in Richmond. Touting his 10-year voting record in the General Assembly, he previously described himself as having been ranked the most conservative member of the state legislature, citing a 2021 Roanoke Times editorial.
“What really differentiates me from these honorable gentlemen here is what they say they will do I have been doing faithfully without exception for the last ten years,” said LaRock.
He agrees that universal school choice should be available.
“We’ve passed incremental school choice because once people get a taste of it, they won’t let it go. They will want more of it. They will want the money to be dedicated to school choice,” LaRock said.
Monk, chairman of the Frederick County School Board, is running on a platform that includes parental rights, supporting farmers, restoring election integrity, defending constitutional rights, and protecting the “right to life,” according to his website.
“On the school board, it has been an interesting couple of years. We’ve faced issues with the pandemic, whether our students could be in-person learning, and I was on the forefront of making sure our parents had a say in that and making sure our students returned to schools. We’ve also seen issues with transgender challenges and gender ideology, and some of the gross things that are in our school books,” Monk said in his opening remarks. “It’s important that your next representative, just as I’ve done on the school board, is a fighter for you.”
Toward the end of the meeting, Pollack said he is representing a “whistle blower” named Tara Rodas.
“She works for the inspector general’s agency, and she volunteered to go help do case work for immigrant children, and what does she learn?” Pollack said. “The Biden administration is taking these immigrant children and handing them over to sex traffickers and paying them for that. That’s what our federal government is doing today.”
Other subjects discussed at the forum included Montana’s recent ban of the popular app TikTok, the need for more funding for improvements to Interstate 81 — a major transportation artery for the region — and illegal immigration.
These were some amazingly revealing comments by the disorganized Virginia Republican party. Everyone is on a different level from old-school moderate GOP to full-bore Trumpist. But all of them are spouting meaningless talking points that enrage the base, but will never see the light of day on an engrossed bill.
Very important issues discussed in this article. James Bergida is very knowledgeable on these topics and wants to get things done. He has my support all the way! We definitely need new blood in Richmond!
Any one of these candidates, if elected, will work to set education back a 100 years in Virginia. We suffered through a previous 'anti-woke' era with massive resistance. The public schools in Prince William County were closed for five (5) years - doing great harm. Massive Resistance is a dark chapter in Virginia history, a time when Virginia public schools closed rather than integrate. Now, the Governor Youngkin is putting his signature on a bill that will extend an existing education fund to help victims of Massive Resistance who were denied an education because of the racist policy. People who committed the crime of Massive Resistance used language much like the candidates did. Much like Ron DeSantis did. The GOP strategy, for years, is to eliminate public education and funnel all funds to private religiously affiliated schools that find the Constitution inconvenient and ignore it. We cannot risk retrograde politicians sending Virginia back to the intellectual dark ages.
[lol] Hoo boy! That's a good one, Tony! [alien][ninja][alien] Thanks for sharing! [thumbup]
Massive Resistance is a joke?
I wrote to each of the candidates that had contact information. One did an auto response claiming that my email was important to them, yet as of this date I have not head anything back. One candidate did contact me and answered my questions. I have not heard anything from any of the other candidates. If you can't take the time to answer my questions before an election I doubt you are actually interested in representing me after the election which would be your job.
Why stop at school choice?
Why not also give tax rebates/cuts/vouchers for:
• taxpayers to contract with private trash removal services if citizens are dissatisfied with local pick-ups or dump sites
• taxpayers to purchase private (and arguably safer) bottled water instead of using the water provided by their locality
• private gyms for taxpayers dissatisfied with county/city recreational facilities
• user-chosen private utility services instead of public utilities
• private protection services for citizens dissatisfied with local law enforcement
What? These things sound absurd? Then why doesn't subsidizing private education sound absurd, since, let's face it, it is mostly all about allowing a certain segment of our population to choose schools where their kids don't have to rub elbows with "the great unwashed" (i.e., "foreigners," minorities, non-Christians, gays, and those who don't have a conservative mindset) ?
Wow! What a great problem to have, i.e. each of the candidates sounds knowledgeable about the issues and willing to stand up to the Pr0g mob, but this - "Allen, an Air Force veteran backed by Veterans for Trump, has legislative priorities that include repealing the state’s red flag law for firearms, introducing “constitutional carry” and nixing Virginia’s personal property tax on vehicles as well as the tax on retired veterans’ incomes." - is great.
I say whichever one makes the Pr0gs react with their typical hysterical hyperbole is "the one". [beam]
Spot on Doc. [lol]
Thank you Winchester Star for joining us last night. We also passed the hat for CCAP and raised some money for a great organization.
Good for you Ben! But..NO ONE CARES! Your little Republican group does NOT represent the majority of republicans in this county! So keep passing the hat to make yourselves feel good because you’re doing nothing good for the community!
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