New year, same issues in play in 93rd District Delegates race

Jimmy LaRoue
Contact Reporterjlarouejr@vagazette.com

The issues haven’t changed and neither have the candidates.

What has changed: It’s a year later and Democrat Mike Mullin is the incumbent in the 93rd District House of Delegates, and Republican Heather Cordasco is challenging him again for the seat.

Mullin defeated Cordasco last November in a special election for the seat, which was vacated when Monty Mason resigned to run for the state Senate seat previously held by John Miller, who died last April.

Mullin, 35, is a prosecutor in the Suffolk Commonwealth’s Attorney office. He took a leave of absence from his job about three weeks ago.

Cordasco, 54, who previously served on the Williamsburg-James City County School Board, is a fitness instructor and personal trainer.

Education

Cordasco continues to focus on education issues and wants to improve the working relationship between the General Assembly and local school divisions.

“I think I can represent a very valuable interpretation as to how those two organizations could work to accomplish the goals that are important to both of them while reducing that friction,” Cordasco said.

Cordasco also said her experience in promoting career and technical education in the Williamsburg-James City County School Division, including an innovative project to connect with manufacturing firms, would be an asset. She also wants to get more resources into classrooms while giving parents of students in failing schools options to provide their children with the best possible education.

Mullin wants to increase K-12 spending, invest more in early childhood education and tackle the school-to-prison pipeline, having authored a bill — which was killed in subcommittee — to give principals the ability to impose alternative discipline in cases of student assault and battery incidents in which no one was injured, before referring students to a local law enforcement agency.

He said he would pay for increases in education spending by reducing costs in the criminal justice system, saying it costs $144,000 per year to jail juveniles and the state spends less than $10,000 to educate them.

“If I were to put one-tenth of 1 percent of the money that we’re putting into incarcerating that child into making sure that there are programs in place so that they are well-developing, we would be able to see massive savings through the juvenile criminal justice system,” Mullin said.

Helping Colonial Williamsburg

On Colonial Williamsburg, Mullin said that no locality has asked for assistance in regard to taxing authority over it.

Though county administrators in both James City and York counties have said they would need permission from the General Assembly to grant tax abatement to CW, Mullin said lawyers he has consulted have said permission wouldn’t be necessary.

Cordasco said if James City County asked her to introduce or support legislation to freeze or eliminate taxes for Colonial Williamsburg, she would consider it.

Interstate 64 expansion

On businesses, Cordasco said she would support reducing regulations and taxes . She said once the Interstate 64 expansion is complete, it will make the Peninsula more welcoming for small businesses.

Both candidates have made I-64 a priority and want to see the Peninsula get its fair share of transportation money. Each wants to see the highway’s expansion to Richmond. Current plans have I-64 going from two to three lanes in each direction from Newport News to just west of Newman Road in York County.

Medicaid

Mullin said he is focusing on equal pay for equal work for men and women and expanding Medicaid, something he said he voted for in the General Assembly. Cordasco, meanwhile, said she would like to eliminate Medicaid waste — Medicaid, according to the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission, takes up 22 percent of the state’s budget — and make the program more efficient. She said people should have access to affordable, quality health care.

“I want Medicaid to be there for people that truly need it, and will also look to find ways to provide additional funding to our local free clinics that do such a wonderful job serving the community,” Cordasco said.

Confederate monuments

With Confederate monuments continuing to be a hot topic after the death of a protester in Charlottesville, Cordasco did not directly answer whether she would support having area statues removed. Rather, she said she liked a point made recently by former Gov. Douglas Wilder that, before money is spent removing monuments, it should first be used for school divisions so they have every dollar necessary to pay teachers properly and classrooms have the resources they need.

Mullin said localities should decide for themselves what to do on Confederate monuments, adding the Williamsburg region has been successful in being able to contextualize and educate people about them.

Fundraising

In fundraising, Cordasco trails Mullin in cash on hand, but she said she has more than enough to win.

Mullin raised $102,015 in August, according to his latest campaign finance report, while Cordasco raised $64,418. Her total includes $2,115 from 33 small donors, and Mullin’s includes $11,486 from 591 small donors.

Among large donations, Mullin received $5,000 each from Rita Mullin and the Win Virginia political action committee, while Cordasco received $11,500 from the House Republican Campaign Committee, and $5,000 each from the Colonial Leadership Trust PAC, Cox for Delegate and the Middle Resolution PAC.

“I’m very proud of my grassroots support across the district, and I really don’t have any doubt that we will have the resources to win in November,” Cordasco said.

Through Aug. 31, Cordasco had $14,741 cash-on-hand to Mullin’s $150,936.

“I’m honored by the hundreds of people (working) in the district to support the race,” Mullin said. “We’re working hard to have enough money to fund a good campaign, with so many people who’ve been willing to donate even small amounts. I’m really honored by that.”

Why elect them?

Mullin, who has taken a leave of absence from his job to focus on the campaign, is ready for the final sprint. He said his legislative accomplishments and his plans for the future prove he should continue to serve in Richmond.

Mullin touts the four bills he shepherded through the 2017 General Assembly in his reelection campaign — a record for a freshman delegate, he said.

One bill closed a loophole that allowed previously convicted violent felons to qualify for first-offender status if accused of domestic abuse, and another that required the Criminal Justice Service Board be immediately notified if a law enforcement or jail officer is convicted of a crime that results in decertification.

Another bill Mullin introduced amended Williamsburg’s city charter to increase the membership of the Williamsburg Redevelopment and Housing Authority from five to seven commissioners.

Mullin also carried a bill that puts Virginia in the National Crime Prevention and Privacy Compact, which allows the state to exchange criminal history records for noncriminal justice purposes, according to the laws of the requesting state.

“What was important to me is working across (party) lines on issues we care about,” Mullin said.

Cordasco, meanwhile, says she hopes to bring common-sense solutions to Richmond.

“I tend to be imminently practical: take small steps that result in big changes,” Cordasco said.

About the candidates

Michael Mullin (Mike)

Age: 35

Family: Wife, Laura, three children Daniel (6), Henry (4) and William (2).

College: Christopher Newport University — major in English literature and history; Catholic University Law School — law school degree.

Work: Criminal prosecutor specializing in gang cases for City of Suffolk, member of General Assembly.

Website: mullinforvirginia.com

Heather Cordasco

Age: 54

Family: Husband, Carlo, three adult children — Corinne, Andrew and Christopher — who graduated James City County schools.

College: Nyack College (New York) — English

Work: Group fitness instructor and personal trainer with multiple certifications and specializing in older adult fitness. Teaches adult fitness classes in James City County.

Website: electheathercordasco.com

LaRoue can be reached by phone at 757-345-2342, by email at jlarouejr@vagazette.com or on Twitter @jlaroue.

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