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A new face has joined the legislators representing the Bedford area. Terry Austin, a member of the Botetourt County Board of Supervisors was successful in his bid to succeed Delegate Lacey Putney representing the 19th House of Delegates District.
“I’m very proud of it,” Austin said of his election. “It’s quite a step going from supervisor to delegate. It’s challenging — it’s such a big district.”
Austin joins Republicans Kathy Byron and Scott Garrett in the House of Delegates from the county—both who were reelected last Tuesday in their respective districts.
Austin believes the fact that he was the only candidate in the race with public office experience was important, pointing to his 16 years as a county supervisor preceded by four years on the Botetourt County Planning Commission.
“I’d like to thank all the voters in the 19th District for their support and confidence in me,” Austin said.
He knows that, while he will fill Delegate Putney’s seat, he won’t fill Delegate Putney’s shoes. Austin calculated when Lacey Putney was first elected to the House of Delegates.
“I would have been 6 years old,” Austin said.
Austin pledged to work to bring industry to the area.
“We’ve gotta get some jobs here,” he said.
Austin said his travels during the campaign — he put 17,000 miles on his vehicle — convinced him that people need help, and that means they need job opportunities.
“I’ve learned a lot of things,” he said.
He’s concerned about the results of the gubernatorial election.
“I don’t know what the outcome will be,” Austin said. “I’m very concerned that we are going down the liberal path.”
Austin pointed to underfunding of the Virginia Retirement System (VRS) as one area of concern. He believes that it’s possible that a liberal governor will push spending initiatives that will make it harder for the General Assembly to catch up on VRS because the VRS will be competing with other spending initiatives for money.
in 23rd District
Scott Garrett, who returns to the House of Delegates for a third term, said he took nothing for granted in his campaign.
“You do it at your own risk,” he said.
Garrett said that, even when he ran unopposed in 2011, he still went out and knocked on doors. He believes meeting constituents face-to-face enables a delegate to be a better representative.
He is concerned about the election for attorney general, in which Mark Herring holds a razor-thin lead over Mark Obenshain. Garrett said the problem is that both are state senators and, the longer it takes to certify the election, the more compressed the time will be to elect a replacement for the winner. He said each of these men represent 200,000 people, who will need somebody to represent them in the Senate when the General Assembly convenes on Jan. 8.
“Terry McAuliffe has prevailed,” Garrett commented, concerning the gubernatorial election.
“I think McAuliffe will have a lot of work to get up to speed,” he predicted.
Garrett said that McAuliffe will be in a better position, when he takes office, than current Governor Bob McDonnell was. McAuliffe is inheriting a stable budgetary situation, while former Governor Tim Kaine left McDonnell with a $4 billion deficit.
“We’ve been able to right that ship,” Garrett said.
Garrett believes that McAuliffe will need to work to gain public trust. He noted that McAuliffe has no public office track record and that creates uncertainty among voters. He also said that McAuliffe should be cautious about claiming a mandate because 67 percent of voters in the Commonwealth voted for conservatives to represent them in the House of Delegates. He also said that the House of Delegates is the legislative body in the General Assembly that is the closest to the people.
Garrett expects health care, education, creating meaningful jobs and reforming the state Standards of Learning (SOL) to dominate the legislative session.
“I think there are some tremendous opportunities going forward,” he said.
in 22nd District
Delegate Kathy Byron was reelected to to her ninth term representing the 22nd District in the House of Delegates. She will rank 14th in seniority in that legislative body when the General Assembly convenes in January.
She attributed her victory to sharing her record of legislative accomplishments with voters. Byron said voters in the district have respect for traditional values and told her they like what she is doing.
Byron said her biggest concern is ObamCare and its impact on working Virginians. She said this came up as one of the driving issues of the election and the newly established healthcare reform commission, which serves as a watchdog, will meet before the General Assembly convenes. Byron said it will be important for the General Assembly to look at what the Commonwealth can do to mitigate ObamaCare’s impact and protect Virginia’s citizens.
She also noted that this coming General Assembly session will be the one that will develop Virginia’s next two-year budget. Expanding Medicaid, in accord with ObamaCare, will impact the budget and Byron said that Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe plans to expand Medicaid.
“It is what it is,” Byron commented concerning McAuliffe’s election.
Byron said that she hopes to work with him to find common ground. She also expects a challenging year as a new governor with no experience in elected office takes over from a governor who “did a lot for Virginia.”
She said that Virginia ranks number one for business in the United States and has one of the country’s lowest unemployment rates. It will be important for the Commonwealth to maintain that status and she expects that she and McAuliffe have a very different vision as to how to do that.