House race heating up

Published 8:45 am Wednesday, October 7, 2009

ISLE OF WIGHT—In a three-way race for the 64th District House of Delegates seat, only two candidates are campaigning for votes on Nov 3.

As incumbent Delegate William “Bill” Barlow (D-Smithfield) and Republican challenger Stan Clark duel for the seat, Green Party candidate Albert Burckard, who qualified as an independent, is working to push his proposal for passenger rail to connect the Peninsula and the Southside of Hampton Roads, not to get votes.

“I’m not running to win at all,” Burckard said Tuesday. “The point is to get political support for my light-rail proposal.” Burckard, 64, is proposing a monorail line from the Amtrak station in Newport News to Windsor. He said that it would cut traffic on already heavily traveled thoroughfares and could connect to a possible high-speed rail line along the Route 460 corridor.

Barlow, 73, who has represented the district since 1992, said Tuesday that he is “very pleased” with the reception he is receiving from voters, but he doesn’t want to become overconfident.

“We feel very confident at this point, but of course the election isn’t until Nov. 3,” he said. “We feel like they’re going to give us a victory.”

Clark, 54, an attorney who has represented the Newport District on the Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors for 10 years, said that he is also confident.

“This race is all about the issues and I think the voters know Mr. Barlow is wrong on the issues,” he said. He said that Barlow has supported numerous tax increases, which Clark says doesn’t create jobs.

“The absolute biggest issue for us right now is job creation,” Clark said. “I don’t dislike Mr. Barlow, I just think he is wrong on just about every issue.”

The candidates agree that transportation improvements are vitally important to the region’s economic recovery and growth.

“(Transportation) has been an ongoing issue for more than a decade,” Barlow said. “And it’s not getting any better, it’s getting worse.” He said that transportation is directly linked to the economic well being of the region as well as the quality of life.

Barlow said it will likely “be a difficult time” trying to solve the state’s transportation issues, but he said that one positive effect of the recession is that bids for transportation projects will likely be much lower than in the past.

Clark said that transportation is an issue that hasn’t been fully addressed. However, a down economy “is never a good time to start looking for another revenue stream,” but if policies are enacted that lead to job creation and a re-energized economy, then there could be more money for roads, he said.

Barlow and Clark also have other issues on their radars.

“Education is certainly key,” Barlow said, emphasizing improvements in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade education, and making sure that college costs are manageable. He also said that health care and public safety issues rank high.

Clark said that he is committed to enacting policies that eliminate illegal immigration; protect the Second Amendment right to bear arms; and keep Virginia a right-to-work state. He said that he has received the endorsement of the National Rifle Association.

During the last General Assembly session, Barlow championed a bill that provided Smithfield police Lt. Kurt Beach with compensation from the state to pay for expenses related to a liver transplant. Beach was exposed to Hepatitis C while on duty trying to save a baby’s life. Beach didn’t qualify for worker’s compensation because he didn’t find out about his illness until years later, after the statute of limitations had run out.

“Despite all the odds and a lot of opposition, we were able to get that passed,” Barlow said. Beach received a liver transplant and is once again working with the Smithfield Police Department.

However, Clark said that Barlow is focusing too much on Beach and saving the Jamestown-Scotland Ferry from service cuts that were planned earlier this year.

“His actions with Beach were laudable, but any delegate would have done the same. That is the job of a delegate,” Clark said. “With the ferry, Bill Barlow did not save the ferry; he just received a letter from the governor stating it was no longer on the chopping block.”

Both candidates said that they are the right person to represent the 64th District.

“I have enjoyed serving the people in the House of Delegates, and I hope they give me another two-year term,” Barlow said.

“I’m very aggressive in the economic revival of our area,” Clark said. “I don’t mind being out in front of issues that mean low taxes and job creation for Virginians.”

The 64th District includes all of Surry County and Williamsburg and the majority of Isle of Wight County. The district also includes portions of Franklin and Southampton and James City counties.