A pastor and community activist from Centreville is challenging one of the most senior Republicans in the Virginia House of Delegates, Del. Tim Hugo (R-Dist. 40).
Jerry Foltz, a United Church of Christ pastor who helped organize the Centreville Labor Resource Center, said he decided to run for delegate because he doesn’t believe that Hugo adequately represents the increasingly diverse district.
“I’ve become more and more dissatisfied with his representation and felt like he didn’t represent the needs and demographics and the diversity of the community,” said Foltz, who is running as the Democratic Party nominee.
Hugo said he has been successful in politics by being responsive to his constituents. What he hears from residents of his district, which includes portions of western Fairfax County and now a small piece of Prince William County, is “jobs, jobs and taxes,” Hugo said.
He said he focuses on helping constituents with neighborhood issues, such as traffic lights, turn lanes and frequent power outages, as well as issues that affect families.
“I don’t get wrapped up in ideological debates,” Hugo said, although his campaign website highlights his conservative stances on social issues.
Foltz criticizes Hugo for voting against this year’s transportation funding package. Foltz says, if he is successful, he will focus on making sure some of that money filters down to the district to help fix the neighborhood level traffic issues that people are concerned about.
Hugo says he voted against the transportation bill in the end, after carrying an original version of the proposal, because he felt the tax increase was too great. Now that it’s law, he is co-patroning a bill to repeal the registration fee on hybrid vehicles, but otherwise plans to leave it alone.
Foltz’s willingness to raise taxes is “out of touch,” Hugo said.
“I don’t think my district wants to see huge tax increases,” he said.
Foltz has said he is willing to consider tax increases to fund state services.
Despite the candidates’ stark ideological differences on taxes and social issues, the 40th District race is decidedly polite, with both men focusing more on what they would hope to achieve in the next General Assembly session.
One of Foltz’s top priorities is reforming state educational standards so that they are not over reliant on standardized tests.
“The tests themselves are not the only way to determine the quality of education,” he said. “They should be used to set the educational needs of the students.”
As a chaplain for the Centreville Volunteer Fire Department, he is also concerned about state funding issues, such as the removal of state funding to compensate families for line of duty deaths of public safety personnel.
“The state in many ways is getting rid of its responsibilities” by putting them on localities, Foltz said, and the line of duty deaths is one example.
Based on his background working on immigration issues in his community, Foltz said he also believes the state should pass its version of the “Dream Act” — allowing youths who were brought to the United States illegally by their parents but who grew up in Virginia to get in-state tuition.
Hugo said that, if re-elected, he will continue his work on some of the issues that he has focused on over the last few years: human trafficking, Lyme disease, support for children with autism, mental health services and increasing the number of slots for in-state students at Virginia colleges.
“I try and focus on the commonsense things that I think are quality of life issues,” he said.
Because of the work done over the last few years, Virginia has gone from having some of the weakest human trafficking laws in the country to some of the toughest, Hugo said. As gangs are turning to sex trafficking as a revenue source, he said he wants to continue to monitor the need for additional legislation on the issue.
The same goes for families who have a child with autism. Hugo was one of the backers of legislation to force insurance companies to pay for therapies for children with autism.
“We have to look at other ways we can help these kids and help these families,” he said, such as expanding the number of individuals served by the state’s Medicaid program for people with intellectual disabilities.
He also will be working with the nonprofit group the Angel Fund on legislation regarding mental health services for college students, something that has been important to local residents since the mass shooting at Virginia Tech.
Hugo has far more money to work with in the waning days of the campaign, according to campaign finance reports. Foltz had raised over $76,000, while Hugo had raised more than $367,000 and had spent more than $300,000 of that at the time of the last campaign finance reports, Aug, 31.
The election is Nov. 5.