In the race for state Senate District 10, which includes a northern section of the Dale District, incumbent Glen Sturtevant, R-Midlothian, labeled himself an “independent voice” while Democrat challenger Ghazala Hashmi, also of Midlothian, laid out a liberal agenda during a VPM forum Oct. 9.
Sturtevant is an attorney who is nearing the end of a four-year term after defeating Dan Gecker by 2.66 percentage points in a 2015 race to succeed longtime state Sen. John Watkins.
Sturtevant criticized Hashmi several times throughout the forum for calling on Gov. Ralph Northam to resign in lieu of his college blackface scandal but then taking $25,000 from Northam’s political action committee.
In response, Hashmi – a community college educator and Indian immigrant who would be the first Muslim woman in the state Senate – said Northam isn’t on the ballot.
Sturtevant said he voted in favor of a “red flag” gun control law, the Equal Rights Amendment and putting an end to gerrymandering. He voted against Medicaid expansion, however.
Sturtevant criticized Hashmi for not speaking out about a rezoning plan for Richmond public schools that are located within SD 10. “If he wants to be involved, he should have stayed on the school board,” Hashmi said.
In regard to gun control, Hashmi said she supports universal background checks, a red flag law and a ban on “military weapons.”
In addition to his support of a red flag law, which failed earlier this year on a 7-7 vote in a Senate committee despite his vote in favor, Sturtevant said he supports more funding for mental health, which he called a crisis. A red flag law would reduce shootings and suicides, the vast majority of which are gun-related, he said.
The candidates were asked if the state Legislature should give localities the authority to remove statues, such as Charlottesville has tried to do. Sturtevant said no. “I don’t think we should whitewash history,” he said.
“I teach history,” Hashmi said. “I don’t teach … through Confederate monuments.”
In response to a dual question about repealing Virginia’s right-to-work law and increasing the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, Hashmi didn’t answer the first one but criticized a minimum wage below $10 an hour. “We’re ranked last for workers,” she said, referring to a recent report by the anti-poverty group Oxfam America.
Sturtevant said he favors the right-to-work law – which says that an employee can’t be compelled to join a labor union – but added that a minimum wage of $15 an hour – which many Democrats have called for – is too high.
In regard to the environment, “I don’t believe in climate change; I believe in climate crisis,” Hashmi said, adding that Virginia needs to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels. Sturtevant said he believes in climate change, “but we shouldn’t destroy the economy in addressing [it].” He called for more renewable energy and said he wasn’t willing to take funds from corporate polluters.
In regard to a non-discrimination law for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendereds, “Virginia is for lovers,” Hashmi said. “Why don’t we actually live up to it?”
Sturtevant said he voted in favor of a non-discrimination bill in regard to housing and employment for LGBTs. Hashmi noted that he voted against a bill that would have added sexual orientation and gender identity to the state’s hate crimes law. The bill died 8-6 in January after it failed to get out of a Senate committee.
VPM moderator Craig Carper asked about “regulation of life.” Sturtevant – who together with his wife have adopted three children – said he’s pro-life. Hashmi was endorsed by the National Abortion Rights Action League.
In closing, Hashmi said she her top three concerns are education, healthcare access and protection from gun violence. She said she is running in celebration of her 50 years in the U.S.