‘Virginia way’ has left areas like Valley behind


STAUNTON – In aiming for the governor’s office, Democrat Tom Perriello hopes to shake up the status quo in the commonwealth that he says has left behind rural areas like the Valley.

“We’ve had the same old tired ideas that have been slowly leaving regions like the Valley behind,” said Perriello, who served as the U.S. Representative for Virginia’s 5th District from 2008 to 2010, but has not held office in Virginia state government. “We need leaders that are willing to shake away this Virginia Way.”

A prime example of that, Perriello says, is investing resources in the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which he opposes, calling it “last generation” technology.

More: Va. primaries, voter registration deadlines: What you need to know

Instead, Perriello, a Charlottesville native, proposes prioritizing investment in a “new energy economy,” the “engine” of which could potentially lie in “forgotten regions,” like the Valley.

This starts with relocalizing energy production to break away from an energy system that he characterized as a monopoly.

His idea is a “distributed energy model” where a larger percentage of energy production happens locally and more emphasis is placed on energy efficiency at the household level, for instance by weatherizing your home. That would mean further diversification of energy sources for Virginia, with investment in solar, wind and methane gas capture.  

The value in this approach is that it will keep more wealth in the local economy, Perriello said, emphasizing his focus on rural economic development to revitalize small and medium-sized Virginia towns.

He also hopes to add to this economic localization with investment in broadband access for rural areas as well as continued localization of beer production.

Related to this plan is training for the workforce and Perriello is aiming to overhaul Virginia’s public education system to help get there. He proposes giving all students the opportunity to complete vocational training, apprenticeships or community college debt-free for a minimum of two years as well as reestablish the Virginia Student Loan Authority as part of his push to increase the affordability of post-secondary education.

“The old promise of the cycle of opportunity has been broken and transformed into a cycle of debt,” he said.

More: Wagner: Valley can expect economic growth if he’s elected governor

He also proposes implementing universal pre-K across the state to help get students off to the best start possible in their education careers.

It’s an approach that he hopes will draw voters from both sides of the political spectrum that may be feeling ready for a change in Richmond.

“There’s a huge amount of frustration with both political parties having outdated ideas,” he said. “We need to have an economic model that leaves no region or race behind.”

The primary election is June 13. Perriello faces off with Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam for the Democratic nomination in the general election.

As the June 13 primary approaches, we’re profiling each of the five candidates for governor and what they propose to bring to the Valley, if elected. Check out our story on Frank Wagner and stay tuned for profiles this week of the other two Republican gubernatorial candidates, Corey Stewart and Ed Gillespie, as well as Ralph Northam, who faces Tom Perriello in the Democratic primary.

Lieutenant governor candidates square off in Staunton

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