U.S. Rep Rob Wittman has roamed the U.S. Capitol for more than decade representing Virginia's 1st Congressional District. It's a role he's surely become accustomed to through his five full terms, and he has rightly earned several seats on committees of utmost importance to our country.
Last year, Wittman flirted with a 2017 gubernatorial run, eventually bowing out of the race in early December to retain his congressional seat.
It was the right move, and he has proven to be an effective leader for Virginia in Congress. Tidewater will be better for it.
At the time of his decision, Wittman wrote to supporters: "My intentions haven't changed, but the circumstances around me have."
Those circumstances are dramatic.
This year, the commander in chief has changed, the pace has hastened and the balance of political power is rapidly shifting.
The GOP holds majorities in the House and Senate; it will be well presented in the White House, and soon the Supreme Court. Tidewater needs Wittman to continue to be a leader, even as the circumstances around him change.
During this 115th Congress, Wittman will hold influential roles on the House Armed Services Committee; Committee on Natural Resources; and Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee.
During this time of expected Republican momentum, we ask that Wittman carefully consider the proposed legislation and appointments put before him this year and how they will impact Virginia's 1st Congressional District, especially any bills impacting the Chesapeake Bay, jobs growth and transportation infrastructure.
Wittman needs to prioritize the Chesapeake Bay's health over the GOP's new push to reign in the Environmental Protection Agency. The bay's health, and the aquaculture that grows in it, is paramount to employment and tourism in Tidewater.
The GOP's denial of climate change directly clashes with the federal government's need to continue reforming and revamping the national flood insurance program. Refusing to acknowledge the increased threats from tidal and storm surge flooding places Congress in a costly bind if reforms to the program are not made. The National Flood Insurance Program is expected to pay out $80 million to policyholders because of the damage caused by Hurricane Mathew. Living on the water is becoming more dangerous, more often, and it makes little sense to allow people to increasingly live in harm's way.
The national and state unemployment rates have steadily ticked downward in the past five years, to 4.7 and 4.8 percent, respectively. Wittman's district, however, has lagged in that area, reporting a 6.7 percent unemployment rate. Job creation should be paramount of the 115th Congress begins its policy deliberations. President Donald Trump campaigned on a platform of economic reform. The president has certainly been busy in his first two weeks in office. Hopefully those economic reforms rise above the myriad other issues he is tackling.
Lastly, Tidewater is home to several large employers such as WestRock, Nestle and several military installations. Wittman needs to make sure improving the region's transportation infrastructure is a priority during his term. The district's companies need to ensure the products they make and sell can be transported to customers, whether it be by roadway, rail or ship.