Big decisions to be made on Election Day

The Virginia Gazette

On Tuesday voters will get the final say in a variety of state and local races after a long campaign season.

Voters in the James City County and the Williamsburg area will cast their ballots for candidates for the Board of Supervisors, the General Assembly, Sheriff and the School Board, among other races.

Here's an overview of the races voters will have on their ballots:

James City County Board of Supervisors

Berkeley District

Republican incumbent Mary Jones was the lone vote against the real estate tax increase passed by the Board of Supervisors this year. She faces a challenge from independent Ruth Larson, who sits on the School Board.

Jones has pledged if elected she will vote to repeal the tax increase, which raised the real estate tax by 7 cents per $100 of assessed value.

Larson has expressed support for the tax increase and the five initiatives it funds outlined by County Administrator Bryan Hill, including stormwater management, cleaning the county, education, economic development and replenishing county reserves.

Roberts District

Incumbent Democrat John McGlennon, who has served on the Board of Supervisors since 1998, is seeking another term against Republican challenger Heather Cordasco, the vice chairwoman of the School Board. McGlennon voted for the tax increase passed by the Board of Supervisors. Cordasco also pledged to repeal the tax hike although she voted in favor of the school district budget that relied on those funds.

McGlennon has been an ardent supporter of using county funds to preserve historic properties by purchasing development rights.

Cordasco said she will work to install a process management system at the county level, and is pushing for a public facilities master plan.

Stonehouse District

Self described independent Republican Jim Kennedy is running for another term against Republican nominee Sue Sadler.

In the race Sadler has joined the two other Republican nominees opposing the tax increase and has also called for a public facilities master plan.

At debates and in town hall forums, Sadler has called for increased civility and respect between members of the board and commenters at public meetings. Kennedy has stressed protecting quality of life issues in the county including bike trails and parks and recreation centers.

School Board

Three seats on Williamsburg-James City County's School Board are open, with six candidates vying for positions on the body which sets policy for the school district of more than 11,300 students.

Berkeley

In Berkeley, newcomers John Riofrio and Sandra Young are competing for the seat vacated by Ruth Larson, who is running for the area's seat on the Board of Supervisors. Riofrio is an assistant professor of Hispanic Studies at The College of William and Mary. Sandra Young is a retired school teacher from the Department of Defense Dependent Schools and mother of seven.

Riofrio is running because of his experience as an educator and his interest in the district as the father of four children who attend WJCC schools. "I think we have a very good school district, but it can always be better," Riofrio said.

Young is running on a reform platform with two other candidates who oppose Standards of Learning tests, the fourth middle school plan and who say the district's spending needs to be re-prioritized. "That's one of the things I'd like to work on, having more reading required (for students)," Young said.

Roberts

In the Roberts district, another set of people new to local politics is running for the seat Heather Cordasco left for her run for county's Board of Supervisors: William and Mary professor James Beers and Petra Nadal, who has held a number of jobs over the years, including housewife, secretary, Avon lady as well as school volunteer.

Beers would like school policy to be an "all-inclusive" conversation, with stakeholders such as parents, students, teachers, administrators as well as school board members talking about issues involving schools. "There shouldn't be anybody who feels left out of this most important conversation," he said.

Nadal said she'd also like to work on reform in the school district, including not having teachers spend so much of their instruction time on SOL-test preparation and get students back to learning the basics – reading, writing and math. "We need to talk to the students and teachers on where they say the gap (in learning) is, and try to fix it," Nadal said.

Stonehouse

Holly Taylor has been a teacher for five years and is the mother of one. She's running against incumbent James Nickols for the Stonehouse district seat.

Nickols, who's been on the board for eight years, is running again because he enjoys the work and would like to see closure on projects he's worked on for the district. Nickols said the school board made the best plan it could for a new middle school with the district and James City County's financial constraints. He also said the board has worked hard to make students feel safe at school. "The school board takes student safety very seriously. We've done everything humanly possible to protect the children, and recently received a grant to implement more safety upgrades.

Taylor, like the other reform candidates, has voiced opposition to the fourth middle school plan for the James Blair site which currently houses the district's central office. She would like to see more support for teachers and secure schools. "I think one of our top priorities must be school safety. We need more school resource officers in schools."

The winners in the three races will join current board chairman, Jim Kelly, from the Jamestown district, two members appointed to the board by the City of Williamsburg, Kyra Cook and Elise Emanuel, and Powhatan district representative Joe Fuentes.

Sheriff

Incumbent Sheriff Robert "Bob" Deeds believes he still has work to do as head of a combined department for Williamsburg and James City County. In previous elections, Deeds has run unopposed for the office that he's held for more than a decade. This year, he's running against former New Kent County Sheriff's Deputy Timothy "Coach" Davis.

During his tenure, Deeds had brought new technology to the sheriff's office, adding additional surveillance cameras to the Williamsburg-James City County Courthouse and the surrounding buildings. He's served as president of the Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail's Board of Directors, and maintains that he's held costs for the office down during difficult financial times for both localities who fund it.

"The courthouse is a public building, so we have to balance it being open as well as being secure for all who visit it," Deeds said.

Davis has worked at several police departments in the region, including Williamsburg Police Department and York County's Sheriff's Office, before it combined with Poquoson. He said he has fresh ideas for the office, and would like to see its deputies have more flexibility in their work life, with the ability to help police agencies with their investigations. He'd also like to find grant funding to help make the courthouse's entrance more secure. "I think I have innovative ideas on doing things that can be a real benefit to the citizens of Williamsburg and James City County."

General Assembly

In the local General Assembly races, there is one race that's attracting attention statewide and three others that feature incumbents against financially challenged opponents.

The area's "hot" race is the 93rd District House of Delegates race, in which incumbent Del. Monty Mason, D-Williamsburg, faces off against Republican challenger Lara Overy in a district that has changed hands in each of the last three election cycles.

As one of the few competitive House districts left after redistricting in 2011, the race is seeing in influx of statewide money.

The race likely comes down to turnout. The district has a Democratic majority, but Democrats have not been able to turn out their vote in off-off year elections like 2015.

The most surprising thing about the race in the 96th House District is that there is a race. This is the first time Del. Brenda Pogge, R-James City, has fast opposition since she was first elected in 2007. She faces independent candidate Brandon Waltrip in the heavily-Republican 96th.

Sen. Tommy Norment, R-James City, is spending as much or more time on trying to maintain Republican control of the State Senate as he is his own race. He has 100 times as much money on hand as his Democratic challenger Hugo Reyes.

In Upper York County, District 1 supervisor Walt Zaremba is running unopposed for his sixth term on the board, after easily brushing off a primary challenge in the spring.

York County-Poquoson Sheriff Danny Diggs is running unopposed. After winning office in 1999, this is Diggs' fourth unopposed re-election bid.

Most of York County's incumbent constitutional officers are unopposed, including Commonwealth's Attorney Ben Hahn, Commissioner of Revenue Ann Thomas and Treasurer Deborah Robinson.

Circuit Court Clerk Kristen Nelson, a Republican, faces a challenger from Independent Stacy White and incumbent Soil and Water Conservation Director for the Colonial District Timothy Beale is being challenged by William Karaktin.

Uncontested races

Voters will also cast ballots in uncontested races including the James City County Clerk of Court, Treasurer, Commonwealth Attorney, Commissioner of Revenue and members of the Soil & Water Conservation District.

Voting Day

When: Polls open at 6 a.m. Tuesday and close at 7 p.m.

What to bring: Voters need to have photo identification, visit elections.virginia.gov/casting-a-ballot/in-person-voting/index.html for acceptable forms.

Absentee votes: The last day to vote absentee in person is Saturday, Oct. 31, from 9 am. to 5 p.m. at the Voter Registration and Elections Office, 101-E Mounts Bay Road.

Copyright © 2017, The Virginia Gazette
37°