By Michael Campbell, News Editor
VIRGINIA – With the state’s general election now only five months away, voters will play a key role in deciding who is on the ballot come November during next week’s primary, which includes a 63rd District battle between incumbent Lashrecse Aird and challenger Gerry Rawlinson.
On June 13, the state will host Republican and Democratic primaries that will set the ballot for the November 7 election, including who will challenge for the governor’s mansion as current Governor Terry McAuliffe finishes his final term in office.
For Prince George residents, the primary will also decide who will represent the region in Richmond as the 63rd House of Delegates District as business owner and registered nurse Rawlinson challenges Aird for her district seat.
In a statement, Rawlinson said the decision to run in June’s primary was simple.
“I am striving to engage new voices and remove barriers to positive change,” she said. “I worked at the polls, registered voters, and canvassed for the Democratic Party. Although we lost the national election, it has inspired me to do more. We need to fight even harder for our children’s education, jobs, businesses, seniors, and veterans.”
Rawlinson said she is running on a platform that seeks the “inclusion of all people” while promoting growth within the 64rd District in an effort to tackle poverty and provide support to veterans and seniors, with poverty being a particular area of concern as portions of the 63rd District, such as the City of Petersburg, have poverty rates of over 20 percent, according to recent U.S. Census data.
If elected, Rawlinson explained that bill submitted by her would “proactively address jobs and the economy, support small businesses, [provide] educational resources for our children, support our veterans and seniors, [provide] job skills training for adults to promote a qualified workforce,” while “[reducing] poverty by raising the household income, improving access to health care, and [fostering] community-based treatment programs for individuals with drug addiction,” which is a problem gripping the district and the region.
“We need Democrats who will stand up against complacency and against the efforts to turn back the hands of time,” she said. “The status quo is killing our communities.”
Seeking to keep her seat, Aird said she believes she has been an advocate for the values the residents of the 63rd District have shared with her over her time in office, even as her challenger suggests the delegate has “carried only a handful of small bills,” asserting that the bills had “nothing dealing with education, economic development, vocational training, health care reform or services for seniors and veterans.”
“In my first two sessions in the House of Delegates, I set out to focus on the priorities of my district,” Aird remarked. “As a newly appointed member of the House Appropriations Committee, I was at the table to advocate for a budget that protects K-12 funding for our region’s school divisions from Dinwiddie to Hopewell and secured salary increases for our teachers, public safety officers, and other state workers,” adding that she “successfully passed the majority of bills that I introduced and supported many more that will benefit the Tri-Cities region and our Commonwealth.”
For Aird, her focus going into this election is about “rebuilding trust between citizens and leaders, and reminding people that they have a voice, a place, and a role in their government,” something she sought to reinforce during a series of town halls around the district leading into the most recent General Assembly session, letting citizens voice their concerns and thoughts directly to their representative.
“Consistently, citizens requested that I advocate for raises, increased education funding, more support for policies to strengthen Virginia’s workforce, support efforts to combat poverty and overall measures that improve the quality of life for all,” she said. “Those initial conversations guided me in my decisions each day and constantly reminded me of the work that remains to be done.”
Utilizing grassroots efforts, Aird said she hopes to continue to foster change in the district through collaborative efforts with residents if it is the voters’ will to send her back to Richmond for another term.
“Policy is only one mechanism to bring about change and the rest remains to be done at the grassroots level, through a shared commitment within the community,” she remarked. “I continue to believe that the best government at any level is one that is transparent, responsive, collaborative and works with citizens to achieve common goals. That is why I am committed to keeping an open mind and encouraging people from all walks of life throughout this region to participate in the process of moving our communities and our Commonwealth forward.”
According to the Virginia Department of Elections, there are no Republican challengers on the ballot in the 63rd House District race, with no candidates fielded for the June 13 Republican Primary.
Prince George voters heading to the polls are reminding to bring their photo ID with them to vote in this month’s dual primaries, with polls opening at 6 a.m. on Tuesday and closing at 7 p.m., and those in line at 7 p.m. will be allowed to cast their ballot.
Additionally, with both the Republican and Democratic primaries taking place on the same day, registrars also remind voters to let poll workers know which primary you would like to vote in, with only one vote being allowed to be cast that day, meaning a voter cannot vote in both the Democratic and Republican primary on the same day.
In terms of voter turnout, traffic is expected to be light during the upcoming primary, even though the ticket for the Republican and Democratic race for the governor’s office will be set during the upcoming primary.
According to Virginia voter data, during the 2015 Democratic Primary, a total of 282 votes were cast in Prince George for the 63rd District race, which featured a total of five challengers, including Rawlinson and Aird. Aird was victorious in the primary, while Rawlinson finished third among those vying for the seat.
As of June 1, 2015, approximately 21,470 people were registered to vote in Prince George, translating to a voter turnout of just over one percent.
Along with the local race, Prince George voters will be able to make their selection for which Republican and Democratic candidates will appear on the ballot for governor and lieutenant governor, with Ralph Northam and Tom Perriello facing off on the Democratic gubernatorial ticket and a three-way battle between Ed Gillespie, Corey Stewart, and Frank Wagner on the Republican side.
For lieutenant governor, Republican primary voters will have to select between Bryce Reeves, Glenn Davis, Jr. and Jill Vogel as their candidate of choice to round out the November ticket with Democratic voters having to choose between Justin Fairfax, Gene Rossi, and Susan Platt.
To find out where your polling place is or to learn more about the upcoming primary, visit the Department of Elections website at http://elections.virginia.gov