House Democratic Caucus Leader David Toscano with candidates.
Six Democratic House of Delegate candidate from around Virginia were introduced by House Democratic Caucus Leader David Toscano Thursday morning in front of Thelma’s Chicken & Waffles. A few sprinkles of rain turned into sunny skies as Toscano finished the candidate introductions. “That’s a good sign, he said as all looked to the parting clouds.
Democrats in Virginia’s House of Delegates hope to whittle down the stranglehold that the Republican controlled General Assembly gerrymandered into safe/safer Republican leaning districts. There are 37 Democrats running against the Republicans and 30 Democratic incumbents protecting their seats this year said Toscano. “These candidate represent mainstream views of the Commonwealth as opposed to some of the extreme views you get from some of the Republicans.”
Toscano said, “the Republicans in the House have spent the last two years making us the fodder of late-night TV shows and the laughing stock of much of the rest of the country – Virginians have had enough.”
Roanoke resident and graduate of Roanoke College is the Democratic candidate for the 17th district, Freeda Cathcart is challenging incumbent Republican Chris Head. Cathcart is advocating for a stronger focus by the General Assembly on education, infrastructure, job growth, protecting the environment and women’s affordable access to health care.
James O’Quinn, an Army veteran is challenging incumbent Republican James Morefield in the 3rd district that includes Buchanan and Bland County. He is a retired correctional officer and now works for a private security company. O’Quinn has a big issue is his district with royalties for mineral rights he said.
Michael Abraham a Blacksburg resident from Christiansburg is an author of books about Southwest Virginia. He is challenging incumbent Republican Nick Rush in the 7th district in South Montgomery, Floyd and Pulaski Counties. His district encompasses a wide diverse constituency. “There are not the employment opportunities that there needs to be” in his district he said. He said he is a strong proponent of local economies – bottom up economies – locally based, resilient and sustainable. He will focus on entrepreneurship education. “Let’s talk about innovation education,” he said. “Make kids innovators and creators of their own jobs. Trickle down economics is the worst myth that’s been perpetrated on this country in the last 30 years. Jobs don’t trickle down, money doesn’t trickle down – we need to create it ourselves.”
Abrams said he didn’t believe in incentives to entice business in most cases. “I believe it creates unfair competition for those that don’t get it.”
Jonathan McGrady will try to fill the vacant seat of Republican Annie Crockett-Stark in the 6th district. He faces a three-way race. McGrady’s family has lived in Carroll County for 225 years and in Wythe County for 250 years. He works at a law firm in Hillsville. He has a leg up with name recognition which is always a challenge for new candidates. He is the former President of the Regional Chamber of Commerce. He said his campaign is more “down home” and his long family history gives him an understanding of the district’s issues. “I have empty plants all around the three counties that I’ll be representing,” he said. Filling closed storefronts and being a cheerleader to attract businesses and jobs will be his bipartisan message.
Katie Cyphert is taking on incumbent Republican Kathy Byron in the 22nd district in the Lynchburg area. Kathy Byron sponsored the bill that would require Virginia women seeking an abortion to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound. Cyphert taught at E.C. Glass High School for 6 years and now teaches earth science at a middle school. Cyphert, a mother of two also has business experience in the insurance field with Horace Mann.
Cyphert is placing a heavy emphasis on education which she says is a large part of the economic issues. “There’s a very real connection between your education system and the education level of your available workforce.” Education cuts in Richmond have affected the programs available she said. Pre-K is vital as is early intervention with special education students.
James Harder, 30 is a fifth generation resident of Blacksburg would represent part of Montgomery County, Radford City, Giles County and part of Pulaski County. His grandmother Joan Munford represented a House district that included Blacksburg from 1982 until 1993. He is working on his PHD at the Center for Public Administration at Virginia Tech . He is challenging Republican incumbent Joseph Yost in the 12th district. Harder will focus on education, the environment and growing the economy in the New River Valley. He worked for former congressman Rick Boucher in his Washington, DC office. Boucher is a supporter and will help Harder as he campaigns.