Michele Joyce challenges Brewer for 64th

Published 7:51 pm Tuesday, August 13, 2019


Michele E. Joyce, a computer scientist from Smithfield, has secured the Democratic nomination to challenge Republican Emily Brewer for the 64th District seat in Virginia’s House of Delegates this November.

Michele E. Joyce

Among her priorities for the 64th District — which includes all of Isle of Wight County, all of Surry County, most of Prince George County and part of the city of Suffolk — are improving affordable access to health care in Virginia’s rural communities, eliminating food and internet deserts and securing the future of the family farm.

“Advocating for farmers, and small-business owners, will be a top priority for Michelle,” said Joyce’s campaign communications director, Jacob Palalay. “By starting with tax breaks, we can create greater opportunities for farmers within Virginia agribusiness and even position some to become part of the corporate supply chains. Additionally, we should be identifying ways for Virginia farmers to keep up with environmental trends without costing them a fortune or making them obsolete.”

Affordable health care, in particular, is personal for Joyce.

“In 2009, my neighbor across the street developed a brain tumor,” Joyce explained. “A recent widow, she no longer had health insurance through her husband’s employer. Making matters worse, she was a breast cancer survivor, meaning she had a pre-existing condition that made healthcare options wildly unaffordable and inaccessible.

“She chose to eat and feed her son over chemotherapy. As a homeowner, she could not access Medicaid or disability insurance. Bankruptcy became her only hope for assistance — my own neighbor, here in Smithfield, Virginia. That’s when I first decided I wanted an active role in helping folks in my community, starting with finding access to affordable, quality health care.”

When Congress enacted the Affordable Care Act, often referred to as “Obamacare,” in 2010, Joyce became a certified health care navigator. This, according to HealthCare.gov, is an individual or organization that’s trained and able to help consumers, small businesses and their employees as they look for health insurance coverage options through the ACA marketplace, including helping consumers complete eligibility and enrollment forms. HealthCare.gov states that health care navigators are required to be unbiased and offer their services free to consumers.

Joyce added that since becoming a navigator, she has helped “hundreds of residents in Isle of Wight County, from both [political] parties, find affordable access to health care.”

In addition to being a navigator, Joyce works at Jefferson Lab in Newport News, writing software for the lab’s particle accelerator. She has been with Jefferson Lab for 20 years, and feels her background in physics and her experience as a computer scientist can bring a “much-needed” scientific perspective to the General Assembly.

“There are not enough elected scientists,” Joyce said. “When we are discussing critical legislation around climate change, or any issue for that matter, it is only logical for real scientists to be a part of the conversation — those who make evidence-based decisions.”

As for internet deserts, Palalay said, “Fighting for rural communities to have access to broadband internet is also a central priority to Michele’s campaign,” adding that this would continue to be a priority if and when she is elected.

“Access to broadband is not a luxury, but a necessity — a lack of access puts rural communities at a disadvantage,” he said. “Michele will seek out innovative programs to bring reliable broadband to every resident in the 64th District.”

Joyce has lived in Smithfield since 1998, where she reared two daughters with her husband, Pete. More information on Joyce can be found on her campaign website, www.joyce4va.com.

The Tidewater News had reported in early May that Brewer was, at that time, running unopposed. According to Palalay, Joyce launched her campaign later that month. Joyce was the only candidate running against Brewer, and so there was no Democratic primary election. The Isle of Wight County Voter Registrar’s Office confirmed that Joyce had started accepting campaign donations on May 31 and had qualified with the state on June 11 to appear on the ballot in November.

[Editor’s note: This version corrects the listing of counties and cities within the 64th district.]