Statewide Candidates Speak in Fluvanna

By Heather Michon

Four candidates for the General Assembly whose districts include Fluvanna County met at the school administration building in Palmyra on Monday night (Oct 21).

In attendance were incumbents Sen. Mark Peake (R-22nd) and Del. Rob Bell (R-58th) and challengers Elizabeth Alcorn, Democratic candidate for Bell’s 58th District seat, and Mike Asip, Democratic candidate for the 65th District.

Asip’s opponent, incumbent Del. R. Lee Ware and Peake’s challenger, Dakota Claytor, did not attend.

The event, hosted by the Fluvanna Chamber of Commerce, was structured as a forum, rather than a debate. This format limited the interaction between candidates and kept answers focused on the issues. 

But as each candidate stated their position on hot-button issues like health care, reproductive rights, legalization of marijuana, and gun control, some deep ideological divisions became clear.  

The audience of about 60 people seemed to split fairly evenly between Republican and Democratic lines, with each side occasionally breaking out in loud cheers—and occasional boos—as their preferred candidates made their points. 

Health care

The sharpest exchange of the evening was between Dr. Alcorn and Sen. Peake over the Affordable Care Act.

Bell said he did not support the Affordable Care Act because of the way it forced people into the system and the lack of focus on cost reduction. He believes more focus should be put on lowering costs, tort reform, and strengthening the state’s insurance monopolies

Alcorn said she and her husband, who both run small businesses, lost their insurance last year when one of those monopolies wanted to charge them $6,000 per month for coverage. She argued that the State Corporation Commission (SCC) simply rubber-stamped insurance companies’ requests to increase rates and believes it’s necessary to start reining in monopolies and putting in guardrails to keep costs down for consumers.

Peake said the spiraling costs were “because of the ACA.”

“Liar,” Alcorn interjected.

“They weren’t charging anyone $6,000 a month before the ACA passed. It didn’t happen until the ACA passed. It didn’t happen until two or three years ago, after the ACA passed, and that’s the damn truth. Somebody called me a liar—”

“That was me,” said Alcorn.

“You’re wrong, because that didn’t happen until the ACA passed, and you know that,” he concluded.

“It happened because Trump undermined the system,” she said.

Peake remained firm. “The federal government,” he later said, “does not do much efficiently.”      

Candidates also followed party lines on reproductive rights, which Bell and especially Peake believing in pro-life restrictions, and Alcorn and Asip supporting a woman’s right to choose. 

Similarly, on the legalization of marijuana, the Democratic candidates were open to the idea of decriminalization “provided Virginia really took a hard look at the impacts,” said Asip. The Republican candidates were less open, with Peake saying he didn’t support legalization, and Bell saying might support the medical use of marijauna. 


Advocacy groups have been working for years to overhaul the process by which Virginia draws its political lines. Called gerrymandering, the process tends to consolidate power in the hands of whatever party was in control of the General Assembly during the census year. 

A resolution calling for an amendment to the state constitution which would take the process out of the hands of the statehouse and establish an independent redistricting commission passed in the Assembly in 2019; if it passes again in 2020, it could go to the voters for approval just in time for the decennial redrawing of the electoral map in 2021. 

Bell said he had voted for the resolution and would do so again in 2020. “If it doesn’t pass this (coming) year,” he said, “that’s the end of the constitutional amendment.”

Peake said he didn’t believe the Democrats would support the amendment if they win the majority in November. If that happens, they would be in control of the redistricting for the first time in years and “they will gerrymander the heck out of it to ensure that they have a Democratic majority for the next 10 years and they’ve been whining about it for eight.”

Asip and Alcorn both said they supported the amendment

Unfunded mandates

Candidates were quizzed about their positions on unfunded mandates—regulations or rules requiring localities to perform actions without providing money to pay for them.

Asip said he was “concerned about unfunded mandates” but added, “I will not rule out looking at each bill individually” to see if the action was absolutely necessary.

Alcorn gave the example of a recent bill requiring school districts to hire more counselors. “It’s a good idea,” she said, it ended up creating a real burden for the school budgets. “If we’re going to make these decisions on the state level that this is important for our students and our communities, we need to stand behind these laws and give the funding to the counties.” 

“I have voted on all sides of those,” said Bell, who explained that sometimes the state feels a bill has to be passed even though there may not be money to give to the localities for implementation until later. “Not every good idea has to be passed as a law, especially if we don’t have the money to pay for it,” he added.   


Higher education

The candidates generally agreed that more needed to be done to give students access to technical and career training and community colleges, and to lower the overall burden of paying for higher education.

Peake, who currently has five children in college, quipped “I don’t think there’s anybody that has any better understanding of how expensive that is.” 

However, while supporting trade and community college programs, he said he was against the idea of the government paying for someone’s college education. He was also concerned about the impact of for-profit colleges on the overall cost of tuition and student loans.

Alcorn wants to see lower costs at the community college level and added “we need to put a little pressure” on public colleges and universities to reduce costs for middle- and lower-class students.

Asip, who spent nearly four decades working in special education, said he would also want to see more job training programs for people with developmental challenges.

The election will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 5 and the polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Note: A video of the forum is available on the Fluvanna Chamber of Commerce Facebook page.

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