ISLE OF WIGHT — State Sens. Jill Holtzman Vogel and Bryce Reeves, and Del. Glenn Davis — the three Republican candidates for lieutenant governor — discussed ethics, economic development strategies and transportation funding Saturday afternoon in Isle of Wight County.
The candidates answered questions posed by a media panel consisting of Travis Fain, reporter with the the Daily Press; Tony Clark, publisher of Tidewater News and Windsor Weekly and Diana McFarland, managing editor of The Smithfield Times. More than 40 people gathered on a lawn in the Isle of Wight Industrial Park Saturday afternoon to hear the debate.
The first participant asked the candidates to explain the role of ethics in politics and in the legal system.
Vogel and Davis both emphasized the importance of ethics in campaigns, particularly abstaining from using campaign funds for personal use.
Reeves said there are some political issues, "that I won't (let) compromise my values or where I come from."
One issue on which he strays from the Republican Party is the felony larceny threshold, he said later.
"We probably shouldn't be charging people for felonies for $200," Reeves said. He is in favor of raising the threshold, a change proposed opposed by House Republicans.
The candidates differed when asked how they would work to improve state roads and transportation.
While Davis suggested creating public-private partnerships to come up with revenue for transportation, Vogel emphasized her preference for not raising taxes, and instead finding unused funds and assets. One option for revenue for transportation, Reeves said, could be to use royalty funds from offshore leases.
Davis was asked why he favors expanding the coal industry and how he plans to do it, particularly when considering Virginia Dominion Power's push toward solar power.
Davis said he believes coal could have other uses besides energy, like replacing silicon in electronics.
"I would expand the coal industry and revitalize that area, but I think we can do that by making southwest Virginia the the 21st-century Silicon Valley, and its use for coal far beyond just creating energy for us," Davis said.
Reeves said there needs to be more opportunities for coal miners who lost their jobs due to the industry's diminishing presence. Vogel said, while there is a place for coal in southwest Virginia, "we also have to be realistic about what the current economy is like and what the reality is for coal."
The candidates also had different ideas when asked what they would bring to the table when serving on the board of directors for the Virginia Economic Development Partnership.
Vogel suggested regulatory reform, a theme she stressed throughout the debate: "It's something that I would love to take to the business community and help sort of leverage their experience and get their buy-in, and help us work together to push forward to do that in Virginia," she said. "It would have an enormous impact."
Davis said he's been working with VEDP on a campaign to try and bring a company based in Estonia — which is a market leader in ultracapacitor energy storage, he said — back to Virginia.
Reeves said business owners need to have a clear pathway when they are halted by local zoning, Department of Environmental Quality and Virginia Department of Transportation regulations.
The primary is June 13.
Smith can be reached by phone at 757-510-1663.