Clark makes his case for House District 84 seat

Published 5:19 pm Thursday, November 2, 2023

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Virginia House of Delegates District 84 candidate Nadarius Clark shared his background, his knowledge of area issues, and his legislative priorities during the Candidates’ Forum held by the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. Lambda Psi Omega Chapter on Oct. 18 at Franklin High School.

Forum organizers indicated that Clark’s opponent, Republican Mike Dillender, was invited to the event but did not hear back from him.

Clark introduced himself to those at the forum by noting that he was born and raised in Hampton Roads. He graduated from Virginia Union University, where he became involved in activism and started a social justice organization on campus.

“I got to learn so much through that experience by meeting with the 1968 sanitation workers that went on strike back in the day with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” he said. “And I got to learn firsthand how to lobby and how to rally and how to lead protests. And I got the opportunity to go to D.C. and lobby for Medicaid and Medicare expansion, which we did end up getting here in Virginia.”

He noted that once he graduated, he started working on campaigns for candidates in Virginia.

“I started working for Sen. Tim Kaine and Congressman Bobby Scott and Donald McEachin and been working up and down the ballots to get great people elected,” he said.

Then he said he decided to look at who his representative was and, more importantly, how he voted.

“And to my surprise, my representative did not vote on behalf of his community,” Clark said. “So I challenged him, and I was able to make history in 2021 as the youngest person ever to serve in the General Assembly in the house of delegates and the first person of color to represent my district.”

Clark challenged Virginia House District 79 incumbent Stephen Edward Heretick in a 2021 Democratic Primary and defeated him with 45.8% of the vote — 2,053 to 1,899. Then Clark earned 56.1% of the vote in the General Election to defeat Republican Lawrence Joseph Mason for the seat.

“Since I’ve been elected, I got straight to work,” Clark said. “In the last two years, I filed about 22 to 23 pieces of legislation.”

In his introduction at the forum, he briefly outlined some of the things he is focused on, like making sure public schools are fully funded, addressing the escalating price for rent, and providing medical debt relief.

Clark held the House District 79 seat until he resigned in March to run for the District 84 seat following redistricting.

The first question from the audience that Clark received at the forum was as follows: “Can you describe District 84 and your awareness of the issues of importance of the city of Franklin that you plan to address if elected?”

Clark noted that the 84th District is fairly large, including parts of Suffolk, all of Franklin, parts of Isle of Wight County and part of Chesapeake.

“It takes about an hour to drive through completely, and in each area, there’s different issues and similar issues,” he said. “So when we talk about flood administration and stormwater drains and infrastructure investment, that’s something that we hear all across the district.”

He said he also hears about funding for public schools and about making sure police officers are fully funded, having the training and equipment that they need to do their jobs.

In Isle of Wight, he said he hears people talking about a property tax increase, and in Franklin, he hears about some infrastructure investment with economic development and also gun violence.

The next question posed to Clark acknowledged that he previously served in the General Assembly and moved to District 84 after redistricting. “What did you accomplish the length of time you were previously in office?”

“In the two years that I did serve in the General Assembly, I was able to serve on the Public Safety Committee and on the committee for Communications, Technology and Innovation and also on the Gun Law Committee, so I got to be there on the forefront for a lot of that legislation,” he said. 

He mentioned that he personally put forth 23 pieces of legislation that touched on issues like teacher pay and the medical debt concern.

“State-funded hospitals have no statute of limitations, so my bill was to capture all of that medical debt in a three-year limit, so that way you don’t have to worry about those liens and garnishments,” he said. 

“Also when we talk about student loan forgiveness, we see we have a mental health problem going on as well,” he continued. “So I put forth legislation for mental health professionals to make sure if they’re working in Virginia for five years, then their student Virginia loans will be forgiven, and we moved the needle there.

“Also, around rent stabilization, we’re still working with so many partners in so many localities to see how we can control rent stabilization,” he added.

The final question posed to Clark asked him what some of the most chronic workforce shortages are in the district and what can be done to build talent pathways for these in-demand jobs.

“When we look at what’s going on right now with teacher shortages and even in our public safety sector, there’s a lot of shortages in a lot of places, and there’s a multitude of ways that we can try to combat it, but first is to make sure we put the funds where they need to go,” he said. “We need to make sure that our public schools are fully funded so we can have the support staff, have all those things that it takes to run our schools and make sure that we even have school infrastructure and school construction, because sometimes we know that our schools are literally falling apart.

“And we need to also look at our public safety (personnel) as well to make sure that they’re being fully funded, that they have the resources as well to train, to meet today’s difficulties when it comes to mental health and people with disabilities,” he continued. “When you’re dealing with people in that workforce, you come along a multitude of issues.”

He emphasized the importance of making sure funding is placed where it needs to go so the district can try to attract and retain the best teachers and public safety officials.

In his closing remarks, Clark said, “I just want to make sure that we all understand what’s at stake this election, and so much is on the line. 

“When we talk about voting rights, that’s on the line this year,” he said. “We know that the other side has been trying to repeal the absentee dropboxes, shorten the window of time that you can vote early and other methods of making it harder for you to vote.”

He said that when it comes to education funding, “we have to follow the money.”

“The house of delegates has been controlled by the other side 21 out of the last 23 years, and their job is to make sure our schools are fully funded, and (they haven’t) been in the last two decades, so we have to hold people accountable,” he said. 

He again highlighted the importance of addressing medical debt, equipping police officers, and he also talked about the importance of attracting great medical professionals to the area “so that way we can curb some of these issues with rural hospitals.”

Clark ended his closing by addressing gun violence and mental health.

“The first thing when we lost the house of delegates that the other side did was defund gun violence prevention by 60%,” he said. “As we see, there is an uptick in gun violence. When I sat on the Gun Law Committee, sadly Democrats weren’t even allowed to debate. We weren’t even allowed to put forth the legislation to have the conversation, and that’s not how our democracy should work. Whether we agree or not, we should be able to have the conversation to find a solution to move our communities forward together.

“When we talk about mental health and so much that’s going on, when I go to these high schools and middle schools and I talk to the students about these active shooter drills, they don’t tell me that this makes them feel safer,” he continued. “They tell me that it makes them more aware that they’re not safe, that at any time someone can walk into a school and sadly cause harm to them.

“So we need to do our job by getting out to vote, because so much is on the line, and I can’t do it without you,” he said.