On June 15, Republican candidate Roxann Robinson and Democratic candidate William “Bill” Brown will face each other in a special election for former state Del. Sam Nixon’s open seat in the 27th House of Delegates District.
The Village News recently caught up with Robinson, a self-employed optometrist, and Brown, a certified public accountant and retired college professor, to pick their brains in the days leading up to the contest.
VN: Why did you decide to seek the seat?
ROBINSON: Well, I’m not a politician and I actually received a phone call one evening and they said, “Roxann, we want you to think about it,” and I said, “Why me?” Every day, I talk to my patients. Day in and day out, we talk about everything. … There are four things that I found that were common … [concerns]: Jobs; where healthcare is going; education, everyone is worried about their kids; and then government overspending and the future of our kids. … I worried about the same things that our constituents are worried about. … I thought maybe I could represent the people of Chesterfield and make a difference.
BROWN: The seat came open … almost exactly at the same time that I was retiring from Longwood. More specifically, I really feel there’s a need for change in the House of Delegates. The Republicans that control the House now just aren’t willing to address the problems that are facing the commonwealth.
VN: What do you think sets the 27th District apart from other districts in the region and state?
ROBINSON: I think the 27th District is very diverse. It’s diverse in population. We don’t have any one big industry, our biggest industries are still relatively small businesses in the 27th, and I know small businesses and, being a small business owner, I feel I can really relate to that.
BROWN: Well, with interest to the county, the 27th is the only one that’s entirely within Chesterfield. The other parts of Chesterfield County are represented by a number of delegates, all of whom have larger constituencies outside the county. And, secondly, it’s a pretty good microcosm for the entire county.
VN: What lessons from your work would you find useful as a delegate?
ROBINSON: Being able to multitask. I think multitasking is going to be one of those things you have to be fairly good at. Again, I think I’ve learned to listen. … I work with a staff, so I have to deal with all my staff issues, and not just people issues. So, I think those are probably the biggest things.
BROWN: I’ve learned a lot; my greatest expertise is in taxation and I’ve gained a lot of knowledge in land use, planning. I understand, I think, pretty well the cost of regulation and taxes on economic development. … So I’m very well aware of the need to balance … taxation and regulation … with the benefits that they provide to society. If the net benefit to society isn’t there, then you’re making things worse, and my objective is to make thing better.
VN: The state currently faces a number of issues. Which do you think is the most pressing and what could be done to address it?
ROBINSON: I think the number one thing though unemployment is a little lower in Virginia than it is in other states … I still hear it day in and day out about jobs. I think what we need to do about it is we need to go back to the small business structure and create an environment such that small-businesses can create jobs and hire people and get back to work.
BROWN: The one that in the long run would challenge us the most is having a vibrant, growing economy, but that need goes directly back to two other issues – education and transportation. If you don’t have a good education system, it’s difficult to attract employers because they want a well-educated work force. It’s difficult to retain in the region highly-skilled workers or potential highly-skilled workers if they see themselves or their children not getting good educational opportunities. It kind of turns into a vicious circle.
VN to Robinson: On your website, you say you will work to limit government spending and control, and vote to reduce taxes on Virginia families and small businesses. In what areas do you think spending can be limited?
ROBINSON: I have to honestly say I don’t know. … I’m not privy to the information, I haven’t looked at the information, and it’s hard for me to say what I think could be cut without actually looking at the state budget and where it’s allocated. … I don’t have a preset agenda.
VN to Brown: On your website, you say education at all levels should be fully funded. Can you elaborate on that?
BROWN: The Standards of Quality that the state has – and even those probably are not high enough standards – at a minimum the commonwealth should be providing funding to local jurisdictions so they can get the Standards of Quality. Then, the local jurisdictions can make their own additional budget decisions on whether to try to exceed those standards. … The second is higher education. The reason tuition is going up at state-affiliated colleges and universities is that state funding has been cut again, and they never fully restore those cuts.
VN: What concerns have you been hearing from your constituents?
ROBINSON: Well, the things that I hear: The mother comes in and tells me that her daughter’s reading teacher has been cut out of the school system because of the funding and her daughter wouldn’t have made it to first grade without the reading teacher’s help. Older parents are telling me their children are moving home. … Those are big deals, and I get that as a small business owner.
BROWN: Well, the education and transportation, when I’m talking to people, I tend to bring those up and they agree those are important issues. What people have mentioned on their own before I got to it has been the environment. … When I mentioned the material that the attorney general, in particular, and the governor are providing comedy show hosts, they generally roll their eyes and are disgusted.
VN: How would you respond to the argument that there’s really no difference between the two major political parties?
ROBINSON: I think there are deep philosophical differences between the two parties, but it is hard to distinguish sometimes where they are. I think the current environment of what’s going on overall in government, I think we’re going to see that separation start to show up more, and maybe that overlap will be a little bit less.
BROWN: The differences are pretty basic world views. … I heard something the other day that was also an attempt to explain the difference: … The typical Republican is more fearful that big government will do something wrong than somebody in the private sector; the typical Democrat is more fearful that someone unregulated in the private sector will do something bad than the government.