- By MARK ROBINSON Richmond Times-Dispatch, October 17, 2017
An incumbent Richmond Democrat representing a swath of the city and part of Chesterfield County is seeking to fend off two third-party challengers in the 69th District House of Delegates race.
Challenging Del. Betsy B. Carr in the Nov. 7 contest are Libertarian Jake Crocker and Green Party nominee Montigue Magruder.
The district covers most of South Richmond and a portion of the city north of the James River that includes Carytown, Oregon Hill and part of the Fan District, as well as a sliver of Chesterfield. It is a Democratic stronghold: In each state and national contest since 2012, more than four out of five voters in the district have cast their ballots for a Democrat.
Carr, 71, who served on the Richmond School Board from 2006 to 2009, has not faced a Republican challenger since winning the House seat in 2009. She said she is seeking a fourth term in the legislature to continue working for the district’s constituents.
Asked what she offered voters that her opponents do not, Carr touted her experience working in the Republican-dominated House and the relationships she has built outside of her party to advance bills she has proposed.
As an example, Carr pointed to a measure she carried in 2015 to combat the state’s opioid epidemic, which sought to extend amnesty from prosecution to individuals who report a drug or alcohol overdose. Termed the “Good Samaritan” bill, it cleared a Republican-controlled committee before receiving approval from the full House and Senate and becoming law.
“You don’t get anything done without relationships,” Carr said. “There’s a number of things (Democrats and Republicans) can work together on, so we work on those and we work little by little to make headway into the things that are more difficult.”
If re-elected, she said her priorities in the district include creating well-paying jobs, improving public schools and restoring voting rights for people convicted of felonies.
Crocker, 43, is a marketing consultant who co-owns three restaurants in the city: F.W. Sullivan’s Fan Bar and Grille, Lady N’awlins Cajun Cafe and Uptown Market and Deli.
The Libertarian candidate has never held or run for public office, but has served in leadership roles on the Fan Area Business Alliance and the Uptown Civic Association.
Frustration he feels as a restaurant owner in the city propelled him to pursue the office, he said.
“The bureaucratic barriers continuously are shoved down the throats of these small-business owners while the state and the city are then taking the tax money. ... That’s pretty much why I’m running,” Crocker said.
If elected, he said he would advocate for reforming the state’s alcoholic beverage control guidelines and lowering the city’s meals tax. The latter falls under the city’s purview, but he believes state lawmakers should step in and address it, he said. In general, he thinks local and state government should make it easier for entrepreneurs to do business.
Magruder, 30, is a part-time scooter mechanic and part-time fry cook at the Grab-N-Go Convenience Store on Jefferson Davis Highway. The Charlottesville native is an Armstrong High School alumnus and resident of the Swansboro neighborhood of South Richmond.
For two years, Magruder served on the Greater Richmond Transit Company and Transit Study Task Force, which in 2013 rendered 11 recommendations to the Richmond City Council on how the region could improve its public transit system.
Magruder has never held public office, but last year ran for City Council in the 5th District, finishing third with 13 percent of the vote. The council run led him to this race, he said.
“A lot of people felt the issues I wanted to address while running for City Council actually required state intervention because of what I was trying to do and (they) felt I should have run for an office there,” Magruder said.
Those issues include decriminalizing marijuana, rejiggering the state’s funding formula for public education, banning fracking and increasing the state’s minimum wage to $26.80 per hour, a wage he said would more fairly compensate workers given the rise in cost of living and employee productivity since the late ’60s.
Carr raised about $90,500 through September, according to campaign finance reports due Monday and made available through the Virginia Public Access Project. Her largest donor is Carole Weinstein. The local philanthropist and wife of real estate magnate Marcus Weinstein has donated $10,000 to Carr’s current re-election campaign and $140,000 to the delegate’s campaigns since 2009, campaign finance records show.
Magruder has reported raising about $1,600, $500 of which came from his largest donor, the Green Party of the United States. Crocker said he has raised about $550 online in small donations, but does not have a campaign committee registered with the State Board of Elections.