Local Politics On Labor Day

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For the 49th straight year, politicians gathered in Buena Vista on Labor Day last week to deliver their traditional stump speeches, thus kicking off the fall campaign season.

What was striking about this year’s kickoff to the fall campaign was that there weren’t any state-wide office holders or candidates in attendance. The 14 politicians who addressed the gathering at Glen Maury Park following the parade included our representative in Congress (who’s not up for election this year) and candidates for the Rockbridge County Board of Supervisors, Buena Vista City Council, our two area commonwealth’s attorney positions and two local seats in the General Assembly,

As we stated in our news coverage, paraphrasing the late Tip O’Neill, former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, all politics was local on Labor Day in Buena Vista this year. We find this to be a healthy development for our representative democracy – hearing from those who are closest to us in their representation. Speakers’ comments seemed more genuine – less contrived for sound bites.

We heard Buena Vista City Councilman Stan Coffey boast about the city’s refurbished railroad relic – the brightly painted red caboose at the park. Leslie Ayers, candidate for the Buffalo seat on the county Board of Supervisors, talked about the need for “a woman’s perspective in county government,” given that the Board hasn’t had a woman member in 15 years. The two candidates for Buena Vista commonwealth’s attorney – interim incumbent Josh Elrod and challenger Daniel Mowry – offered their competing visions for upholding law and order in the city.

We got an early preview of the battle for control of the General Assembly, but from a local perspective. The three candidates for the House of Delegates, 24th District, were on hand – Republican incumbent Ronnie Campbell, Democrat Christian Worth and independent Eli Fishpaw – as well as Democratic state Sen. Creigh Deeds of the 25th District. (Deeds’ opponent, independent Elliott Harding, was not present.)

We admit to being disappointed in the tenor of Campbell’s comments. We long regarded him as the voice of reason during his tenure on the Board of Supervisors, but he seemed to be taking his cue from state party leaders when he spoke on Labor Day. He launched into a broadside against the state’s top three elected officials (all Democrats), then pivoted to the wedge issue of abortion.

We assume this is going to be the tone of many campaigns and political commercials across the commonwealth this fall, with all 140 seats in the General Assembly up for grabs. We don’t look forward to it and hope that Campbell, moving forward, focuses on issues that are more relevant to his constituents back home.

We wish Campbell had focused his remarks on his solid record of responsiveness to the concerns of his constituents that he has built during his short time in Richmond. He could have talked about how his intervention appears to have resolved the issue of trains repeatedly blocking the Va. 56 crossing at Vesuvius. His allotted time may have been better served by alluding to his efforts to make improvements to Factory Street in Buena Vista so tractor-trailers can have a quicker route to Interstate 81.

We like what Worth had to say regarding her pledge to work for the interests of “hardworking people [of the 24th District] over party loyalty every single time.” We concur with her view that the state should fully fund the standards of quality in education and work to ensure that families can afford health care. We don’t agree with her characterization of the tax incentives offered to Amazon as “corporate welfare” to entice the billion-dollar company to locate a headquarters in Northern Virginia.

Although we see Fishpaw’s candidacy as having more potential as a spoiler than his actually being elected, we do applaud his recognition of the seriousness of climate change and the need for urgency in addressing the underlying causes. Not taking action could have catastrophic consequences for future generations.

It was refreshing to get the local perspective of candidates who are putting themselves up for election this year. Next year, on what promises to be a grand 50th annual Labor Day celebration in Buena Vista, we look forward to hearing from more local aspirants for public office.

The News-Gazette

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