The looming race between the two freshly minted gubernatorial nominees — Republican Ed Gillespie and Democrat Ralph Northam — is going to be viewed through a national prism, not one based solely on the Old Dominion.
Democrats will try to tie Gillespie to a still unpopular Trump administration. That may be difficult since Gillespie spent part of last year criticizing Trump and comes credentialed by the Republican establishment that Trump has tried to overthrow. Still, Trump didn’t carry Virginia, and may be a dead weight who could drag Gillespie down. Democrats may also talk about the balance of power, arguing that one party should not rule both houses of the General Assembly and the governor’s office (of course, that’s an idea neither party has a problem with when they’re the ones with that triumvirate of power.)
And then there’s the Republicans’ campaign. They will try to tie Northam to every problematic decision ever made by outgoing Gov. Terry McAuliffe. They may even talk about a different balance of power — how the commonwealth already has two Democrats in both U.S. Senate seats and the governor’s mansion, therefore, ought to go to a Republican. And don’t be surprised if they invoke the name of Hillary Clinton here and there. She still fires up the ire and outrage of conservatives like no one else can.
The tactics of both parties are a shame because both candidates have made proposals that deserve more thoughtful consideration than the heat of a political campaign is likely to allow.
For Gillespie, his proposal to cut taxes across the board is worthy of a deeper look. For Northam, his proposal to do away with the tax on groceries, and create a program that provides free community college for certain qualifying students, are worth exploring as well.
With that in mind, here’s the main question we’d like to see Northam and Gillespie address: What do they think they can do to encourage job growth in rural Virginia and even more specifically the Waynesboro, Augusta County and Staunton area, along with the rest of the Shenandoah Valley?
Both parties like to talk about training a skilled workforce — hence Democrats’ interest in free community college. That’s absolutely essential, of course, but that’s also an answer that applies statewide, not uniquely in rural Virginia.
Similarly, Republicans like to talk about how tax cuts will spur economic growth. Again, if they’re right, that’s an answer that applies statewide, but doesn’t specifically target rural Virginia. We’ve seen tax cuts and workforce training programs before — and still seen jobs leave rural areas. Those solutions simply aren’t enough.
So do the candidates have any ideas that will specifically target our region? If so, we’d like to hear them. More than that, though, we’d like to hear what ideas our readers have to spur growth in the Valley and beyond. How would you advise one or both candidates? What programs, initiatives or ideas do you think rural Virginia needs to keep young people in our towns, to grow our standard of living, to create good-paying, secure jobs for the region and overall, to help the WAS region and the Valley as a whole stay economically viable? We want to know what YOU think. Email your thoughts to managing editor Rob Longley at firstname.lastname@example.org or send a letter to him at 1300 North Main St., Waynesboro, VA 22980, and be sure to include a daytime phone number. Also let us know whether it’s OK to publish your message in the paper.