Who am I?
I am the oldest of six children born to a middle class family with roots in New Hampshire, New York, California, and finally Virginia. From early years we were instilled with the importance of work, education and faith by our parents and the unspoken expectation was that we would earn scholarships to college.
Following the expected primary and secondary education tracks I entered the seminary at St. Charles in Catonsville MD. I continued my education at St. Mary's Seminary and University in Baltimore, MD earning a B.A. in Philosophy, Master of Divinity, and later a Doctor of Ministry degree. My college years were marked by work with the National Mobilization Committee, to stop the war, and organizational efforts on behalf of Caesar Chavez on behalf of farm workers. A noteworthy summer job was working on a Norwegian freighter as a decksgut.
In 1974 I was ordained a Catholic priest for the Diocese of Richmond in Virginia. My assignments included work in Richmond, Charlottesville, Virginia Beach and Norfolk. During my various assignments as pastor I also served as a judge on the Diocesan and Provincial Tribunals, numerous times as president of the Diocesan Council of Priests, and a term on the Catholic Bishops National Advisory Council.
My passion for community activism continued to propel me to become involved in the communities where I was stationed. While in Virginia Beach, in response to the issue of Homelessness, I was able to organize a coalition that founded a shelter program utilizing churches and synagogues that has grown and flourished for over 20 years. Following riots in 1989 I helped organize a group of chaplains to work with our police as a calming influence in the tourist corridor. At the same time I chaired a committee of fellow citizens whose efforts lead to the formation of the Virginia Beach Human Rights Commission.
In 1998 after having fallen in love with a delightful woman I resigned from the priesthood in order to get married. At the same time I began a career as a financial advisor and found that like my former vocation it demanded listening skills, empathy, and a willingness to work with people as they sorted out the challenges of facing the future, while maintaining hope and a sense of expectation. For the past fifteen years I have been happily married and enjoyed being a part of the business community. I have also continued my public service having served for the past 10 years on the Virginia Beach Personnel Board.
Who am I? I am a husband, citizen, civic activist, friend and neighbor. Shaped by family, teachers, mentors and life experiences, I continue to value new experiences and opportunities and this openness shapes who I will be.
Why am I running?
Today we are in a significantly different time and it is glaringly apparent that the people of the 85th deserve a choice in their representation. I believe strongly that a practical progressive position, articulated within a moderate framework, will best serve the spoken and unspoken needs and desires of my neighbors in the 85th. The alternative to this stance is an unyielding allegiance to a radical position that brooks no dialogue and views any openness to compromise as a failure to be faithful to party ideologue. I believe that Democrats are committed to governing and the task at hand is to reveal to people that Democrats are not to be feared.
I have lived, worked, and been active in the 85th District for almost 30 years. This experience has given me an appreciation for what is important for my community. Like other communities in our city and across the Commonwealth we are a living and changing organism that constantly presents new needs and concerns while trying to maintain a rich and treasured history.
We are a military community and this means we require a particular attention being given to single parent households while spouses are out to sea. We are a bedroom community but now with many families finding the children have grown and moved on, leaving older couples and singles who can easily be lost in the crowd. Education is a priority for us all whether we are parents, grandparents or students. The excellence of our educational system is reflected in high property values and houses on the market for short time spans. We are a safe community. We do not take this lightly and are immensely grateful for this fact. I am running to keep this reality alive and well and ensure that it receives the care and nurture it deserves.
The issues of principal importance to me are the following. First, the attempt to suppress the vote in the Commonwealth is scandalous. The long lines at the polls, requiring the elderly and mothers with children to stand in the cold for hours or requiring working men and women to give up a day's wages to exercise their right to vote cannot be tolerated. Early voting for any reason must be enacted and the voting process must be made more friendly. Second, we must develop a transportation plan for the entire Commonwealth. A quality transportation system invites new businesses and this is the only realistic catalyst for jobs in a state anticipating declining Federal dollars. Funding for education, medical needs and social requirements are all dependent on a growing business climate that is now hindered by a poor transportation system. Finally, the rights of women to make health issue decisions with their physicians should not be thwarted or infringed by legislators who are not invited into the decision making process.
I am running to serve, preserve and protect the people of the 85th.
I approach the office of Delegate with the expectation that my primary purpose is to serve the needs of the people of the 85th district. With this in mind, two goals that are of primary interest to me in this campaign are voting and transportation.
The issue of Voter suppression creating artificial barriers to the hinder the voting process has created a sharp divide between the Democratic and Republican parties. The most recent national election in Virginia was a scandalous affair. Elderly voters and mothers with young children had to endure waiting for hours in freezing weather in order to cast their ballot. Working people were forced to forgo wages in order to vote. Some precincts did not close until three hours past normal closing time due to long lines at the polls.
While voters clearly were motivated to exercise their right to vote, our General Assembly responded by enacting a voter ID bill in response to a non existent threat of voter fraud.
It is my intention to address this issue by calling for early voting with no preconditions. I will also insist that the voter ID legislation retain the provision that its enactment is directly dependent upon all eligible voters having the right to a free ID that is acceptable to voting officials. Finally, if it is apparent that certain voting precincts have a regular pattern of inordinately long lines efforts must be made to quickly respond to the issue.
Voting is a primary way in which a citizen actively participates in a democracy. It is a callow practice to hinder voter turnout for the sake of any party or position since the practice only serves to undermine our Democracy.
My second goal is to make the issue of Transportation a priority. While it is true that our legislature made a remarkable decision to fund transportation efforts in the past session, this was the first substantive effort in 27 years. My concern is that it without vigilance it will be another 27 years before it is addressed again.
A 21st century transportation system directly benefits the citizens of the Commonwealth and is a key to attracting business development and the corresponding new jobs. We have one of the greatest ports in the world but its functionality is dependent on accessibility. An excellent transportation system ultimately grows the resources that benefit education and critical social programs, core functions that should never be in competition.
The primary barrier to achieving this goal is more regional than political. The continuing tug of war is between Northern Virginia, Hampton Roads and Western Virginia. Each region has their own particular set of needs and concerns and for far too long there has been more competition for resources and far less coordination and cooperation. To achieve this goal my objective is to foster the establishment of a Transportation Council, comprised of members from every region of the Commonwealth, whose task would be to develop a comprehensive transportation plan for Virginia.
My DFA Values
My campaign for the 85th House seat will build upon my community activity and leadership for the past twenty nine years in this district. I am an accomplished builder of community. Much of this I learned and developed during my ministry as a Catholic priest. Successful campaigns require the formation of communities, that is, voluntary associations of people who come together for the sake of a common cause. This is accomplished by being able to articulate a vision that resonates with people. It is also essential to be perceived as trustworthy and capable of giving form to the vision. Words without substance are often hollow.
The focus of my campaign will attend to the needs and concerns of the poor and the voiceless in the same fashion as my earlier work to establish a winter shelter program for the homeless in our city. My campaign to expand the right to vote and expand voters rights to easy access to the polls will be pursued with the same passion shown in leading the effort to establish the Virginia Beach Human Rights Commission. My campaign will remain attentive to the business community and its concerns inasmuch as I am part of this community working as a wealth manager.
In the end, the success of the campaign will require the same focus and work in office. The district is comprised of many communities each with their own needs and wants as well as different and sometimes conflicting ideas of how to achieve them. Only by incorporating broad participation by listening and inviting will it be possible to effectively serve all.
My Campaign is People Powered!
In the early stages of my campaign, I began by meeting with individuals who supported my run for the Virginia Beach City Council last year. Because I was running as an Independent last year, I knew that many of my past supporters were Republican-leaning in partisan elections. I made it a point to reach out to each of these individuals with a consistent message: progressives can be practical. These meetings came with mostly favorable results as many friends committed to voting for me in November and also contributed money to my campaign. In other meetings, past supporters who were unwilling to come across the aisle shared their concerns with me. The conversations I had with these individuals were invaluable. I believe that listening to the views of all constituents, even those who do not proclaim their public support for my campaign, is the most sacred duty of a elected official. Being willing and able to talk to people across party lines is a crucial aspect of properly representing the 85th District, and is one that I believe I am suited to perform.
My campaign also seeks to be a grassroots-powered movement, based on a rigorous Get Out The Vote structure to turn a leaning-red district blue for the first time in over three decades. My campaign manager has been relentlessly meeting with supporters to build our volunteer networks, and has built a list of individuals who are willing to spread the word about my candidacy. These volunteers will be phone banking, canvassing, distributing literature, and spreading the word among their friends informally to help my campaign grow through the spring and summer. These volunteers will be trained to speak with the voters about the issues that the voters themselves bring up - I do not seek to serve a political ideology, but rather seek to serve the constituents of the 85th district. This is just as much about listening to the voters as it is about sharing my priorities as their Delegate, and the two should merge by the end of the campaign if I seek to truly serve the 85th.
I believe that if we make an effort to reach out to every potential Democratic voter multiple times and also have discussions with swing voters about common-sense solutions, then we can build a winning coalition in the 85th district.