Last night, the James Madison College Republicans hosted a debate for the 25th Legislative District. As most of you are aware, long time Delegate Steve Landes is retiring. The candidates vying for the GOP nomination are Augusta Supervisor Marshall Pattie, Richard Fox of Crozet (farmer) and Rockingham business owner Chris Runion. Last night’s forum was the final of the meetings between the 3 candidates before the firehouse primary on April 27.
Unlike most forums – there was no opening or closing statement. Below is a summary of the questions asked and their answers. The moderators asked questions of specific candidates which were not asked of the others – so the numbers/numbering of questions asked to each candidate may seem a bit off.
1st Question – To all the candidates: What is your motivation to run and what makes you different than your opponents?
Runion – Thank you to the CR’s for putting on this event. Runion is a product of the Valley and believes in free enterprise. We have a God given right to raise our families as we see fit without government interference. A natural leader with 40 years of practical business experience and community leadership.
Fox – Fox is a farmer not a politician who knows how to fight an over zealous government. Has been fighting for property rights for years and has beaten liberals many times. Did help to get the Albemarle County Government to kill the “rain tax”.
Pattie – Thanks to the CR’s for hosting this event. Does not have to promise to be a conservative, his voting record on the Augusta Board of Supervisors proves who he is. He took on the Augusta Board of Supervisors in helping to kill a $45 million new Government Center which was unneeded. He takes no salary as he believes public service should not be for profit.
2nd Question – to Chris Runion, in announcing your candidacy, you stated that you “had no record to speak of”. What did that mean exactly?
Runion – Has a great record of community service and also in running organizations such as the Rockingham Chamber of Commerce and Rotary Club. Has tremendous support inside the District.
3rd Question – to Richard Fox – When Corey Stewart ran for Senate you refused to endorse him – can you explain your reasons why you did not endorse him and left the party?
Fox – I am a firm believer in the Confederate statues and the need to preserve our history. We were winning this fight in Charlottesville in the courts, when Corey Stewart came in and used this as his theme for running for statewide office. We then started losing court battles. We asked him repeatedly to not help us as Stewart’s antics were hurting us. Now that Stewart is off the political scene, we are winning court battles again and the statues will likely remain.
4th Question – to Marshall Pattie – why did you run Barack Obama’s re-election campaign in 2012?
Pattie – That is not accurate. I ran the Augusta Democratic party in 2010, and am so very glad I changed my belief system. Same as Reagan, Trump, and Mike Pence have all done.
5th Question – What is your position on abortion?
Fox – The most pro-life candidate here. Will sponsor a constitutional amendment to make abortion illegal in Virginia.
Pattie – very personal issue to Pattie as his wife once miscarried a child. That changed him on abortion. Best thing that can be done for the life movement is to make adoption easier, so that more mothers who are thinking about abortion can have a better option.
Runion – 100% pro life. His son became very sick at the age of 3, and they nearly lost the child. That taught Runion the meaning of being pro life.
6th Question – to Richard Fox – Should the state pay for abortions?
Fox – NO!
7th Question to Runion – Given the fact that the Democrats may take the Assembly in 2019, how will you work with them?
Runion – I’ll vote my values but there is no guarantee that the Democrats will take the House of Delegates.
7th Question to Pattie – How would you work in the minority?
Pattie- I’m already in the minority being a conservative Republican. I took on the liberals on the Board who wanted to build a $45 million dollar Government Center. I took my case to the taxpayers and they voted it down. I was put in a time out but that is ok I work for the voters not for the special interests.
8th Question – 56% of the country wants stricter gun laws, how do you respond to this?
Pattie – I don’t make my decisions based on polls – I will do what is right and support a constitutional carry amendment.
Runion – Supports the 2nd amendment. Radical leftists don’t get that gun ownership is a right not a privilege. But we do need to address mental health issues and fully fund more institutions for people in need.
Fox – the 1st bill introduced should be a constitutional carry amendment. But we do have a mental health crisis, mental health is a stigma which is still in effect, and makes it difficult for some to admit they or a family member have a problem that needs help.
Question 9 – Do you support Medicaid expansion?
Runion – Medicaid is the fastest growing line item in the budget. It is robbing our ability to fully fund our schools. I will not support any expansion in Medicaid spending.
Fox – 100% against it. Free market guy. We got it here because of Obama Care. Establishment Republicans (aka John McCain and Lisa Murkowski) are the reason we still have Obama Care. Fan of free market health care
Pattie – 5 years ago told the voters that Medicaid expansion is a bad idea. 23% of our state budget goes to Medicaid. We need to reform the nursing industry, and free markets mean lower costs.
Question 10 – Is there any compromise on Medicaid expansion?
Runion – Does not know enough about the issue to say one way or another.
Fox – no compromise on Medicaid expansion.
Pattie – the best way to save money here is to go after waste and abuse and fraud. That will help efficiency.
Question 11 – In 1999, Pew Research showed that education was a top 5 priority to GOP voters. Now this is no longer the case. How do you feel about this?
Fox – Education must be a priority, but we need to reform our schools so they are education centers instead of indoctrination centers. His fiancée was nearly expelled from college for attending Trump’s inauguration.
Pattie – a diverse education system (mix of charter schools, home schools, public education) is the best thing. We need more home schools and need to pass the Tebow bill.
Runion – Supports a robust education of all types. Big believer in expanding technical education.
Fox Rebuttal – money should follow the kid. And these decisions should be made at home
Runion Rebuttal – Education works best when money is spent in the classroom and not on more bureaucrats. Parents need to be in the lead not bureaucrats. The SOL’s are a disaster and we need to focus on the jobs of today and tomorrow.
Pattie Rebuttal – The SOL’s have been a disaster. I’ve done research on education. We need to be teaching more creativity and not just memorization.
Question 12 – How do we reduce education costs?
Runion – Government is too involved. One thing we should talk about is having kids do some research on the Internet to see what salaries are, so they can see if the education they are getting can lead to a job. Talk to educators they’re smart people.
Pattie agrees and thanks Runion for the compliment.
Fox – we need tuition lockdown
Pattie – we need to be providing more options to our kids, and we need to focus on an upcoming crisis, that community colleges are going to see a large drop in enrollment in the years to come.
Question 13 – Agriculture is our largest job sector. What can the General Assembly do to help our farmers?
Pattie – I represent a large agricultural area. We are losing 2 dairy farms each year. Government needs to get out of the way.
Runion – Farming is in his blood. It takes a special person to farm the land. Too many regulations and need less government control.
Fox – we need to support our farmers. WE have only 1 Department of Agriculture agent for every 4 counties. This is a hindrance to our farmers.
Question 14 – to Pattie – is there a role for the Assembly in subsidizing farmers?
Pattie answer – No as government just screws things up.
Question 15 – According to the Bureau of Labor, Virginia had a 2.9% unemployment rate and rising growth in the economy. What will you do to further this growth?
Runion – Get the government the heck off of our back. Our economy is rocking. Thanks to Trump he has expanded his business and hired more employees.
Pattie – will continue to do what he has been doing – Augusta County has seen 1000 new jobs and has a 2.2 % unemployment rate. More job fairs would help, and we do need more infrastructure (aka roads)
Fox – I am the embodiment of the American dream. We own a bed and breakfast. We understand the future – and the need to fix infrastructure. The Governor is not helping regarding the Rt 81 improvements.
Question 16 – Virginia ranks 10th overall in the USA in the number of illegal immigrants. How do we deal with sanctuary cities?
Fox – I am against them. We have an issue in Charlottesville and this issue is expanding statewide. We need to force the locales to work with ICA
Pattie – Laws need to be followed. Corruption comes when you deviate from this. Helping ICE saves the Commonwealth money.
Runion – it amazes that several Sheriff’s Departments don’t follow federal and Virginia law. He supports legal immigration but not illegal. The concept of illegals should not be a question – Runion opposes all illegal immigration.
Question 17 – Regarding Rt 81, how do you feel about the 7 cent per gallon tax increase?
Pattie – we must invest in infrastructure. We paved a lot of roads in Augusta, and that includes part of 81. But the gas tax is a bad idea. There has to be a better way, and that is getting federal dollars working with Ben Cline.
Runion – glad that the problem was addressed. Disappointed with the funding mechanism. It was a Hail Mary from the Governor. But very unfair to the Valley.
Fox – Gas tax is an unfair tax on rural voters who drive more miles than others. Some issues were addressed. However agriculture is our economy and we got a tax increase. Federal funding is what is needed and tolls are a bad idea.
Question 18 – What personally would you have done to help fund improvements on 81?
Runion – tolls were the best idea but since the Valley commuters did not want tolls, we can not have tolls.
Fox – It is the government’s job to take care of roads. We need federal money.
Pattie – In Augusta we put our money towards road paving. Revenue growth is up by 2%. Why aren’t we taking that money and using it towards road construction?
Question 19 – If you do not win, what will you do to help the Republican Party in 2019?
Pattie – I’ll support the nominee – but let’s be honest, this is a Republican district and we need to help Tony Wilt get re-elected.
Runion – I’ll support the nominee – but we need to get Tony Wilt re-elected. And work with other tough districts as well.
Fox – Will support the nominee – we kept the House by a coin flip. But we must remember that constitutional conservative values are what will keep our majority.
Final thoughts – for those of us who like to score these things as wins or losses – there were no winners or losers last night. I and many of you will have different thoughts of what solutions are necessary to the issues of the day, but each candidate explained their positions well. No candidate made any major gaffe and each candidate got their message out. But I will list each candidate’s best moment of last night here:
Richard Fox – does his best when talking about free markets and how he helped kill the rain tax in Albemarle. Fox works a room very well and knows his audience – and when he talks about limited government, you can see everyone’s head in the room nod in agreement.
Marshall Pattie – At his best when talking about taking on big spenders in Augusta County. And when he talks about 1000 more jobs in Augusta he clearly wins.
Chris Runion – At his best when talking about more technical education. Unfortunately there wasn’t enough time for him to expand on his answer. This is something that clearly is his passion and if I were running Runion’s campaign, this would be a great campaign mailer.
There are only a few days left until the Firehouse Primary on April 27. Runion has raised a large sum of money, and Pattie has loaned his campaign in excess of $72,000 and has raised another $13,000. VPAP has not released Fox’s campaign finance report as of the writing of this article. Runion has a rather interesting group of donors – everyone from Bill Holtzman to 6th District Northern Regional Vice Chair Jonathan Comer to former Augusta GOP Chair Ken Elkins. This race promises to be close, and none of the 3 candidates should let up now. This race is impossible to handicap. Best guess is whoever wins will do so by less than 3%. Good luck to all 3.
And a special thanks to the JMU College Republicans for hosting this fun event. They did this to a packed house and with little time to organize. Also a special shout out to Rockingham GOP Chair Dan Cullers who assisted the CR’s.