Craig Warren is the Independent candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates District 76. His name will appear on the ballot on Nov. 2.
Candidate: Craig Warren
Race: Virginia House of Delegates District 76
Biography: Craig Warren was born in Suffolk, where he lived until he was 14 years old. His father worked at Planter’s Peanuts for more than 40 years. He attended a private Christian school until he was a sophomore. He graduated from Suffolk Public Schools in 1988. He joined the construction industry after high school and specializes in sheet metal. He started his own small business in 2010 after working for 25 years with his first construction company.
Why should Virginians elect you to the Virginia House of Delegates?
The voters of the 76th District should elect me so we can have a true representative. As an independent, I have no outside party controlling my actions. The two national parties require their members to vote with their party, regardless of the needs of our district. At best, those in our district who vote for the winning party may be represented on a few issues, but only if our needs don’t interfere with the needs of the party. On the other hand, those who vote for the losing party get zero representation. I believe when we stop fighting and calling each other names based on party lines, we can find a long list of common needs and issues that we all agree need to be addressed. I’m ready to go to Richmond with an agenda that addresses the needs of the 76th District, instead of the standard “party playbooks.”
What do you hope to accomplish, if elected?
First, to truly represent all the citizens of the 76th District regardless of party, race, age, etc., including those who are not yet old enough to vote. Second, and almost as important, I would like to bring Richmond home to our district through daily and weekly video messages. My campaign has been centered around weekly video messages posted on my website and sent directly by email and text message. I would like to continue this from Richmond with daily videos while in session, and weekly videos throughout the year. For those of us who are busy working and raising our families, the convenience of a direct daily message concerning the activities in Richmond would allow more citizens to be informed and active in the process. For a number of reasons, usually only the most controversial bills receive news coverage, but there is a significant amount of legislation that citizens need to know about. The technology is available, and I would like to be the first to make use of it.
What is the most important issue facing your district, and what is your position on it?
With the recent release of our SOL scores, I now believe education is the most important issue in our district. Because both political parties have the same playbook (increased teacher salaries, more spending on after-school programs and early education, etc.) we should have made great progress over the last 40 years, regardless of which party was in power. Unfortunately, we see decreasing performance. Rather than spend more money on the same failing ideas, we need to explore what the real problems are so we can refocus our efforts. Whether it is whole districts or individual schools, it is time to start experimenting in small control groups to find new ways to engage our students and parents. For many, our education system has no value because it is free; but, spending more money on education isn’t adding value, it is just spending more of our money.
What is your position on Virginia’s overall response to the coronavirus pandemic, and what might you have done differently?
It would not be fair to second-guess the overall response now with the benefit of hindsight; but, because I believe government always functions best closest to the problem, I know I would have chosen to delegate the decision making process down to the local levels. The immediate establishment of regional task forces, with support from the governor’s office, would have allowed each district to assess their risk level and response. This would have prevented areas of the state with less risk to remain open longer. In April 2020, there was no reason why a small-town restaurant in the western part of the state that serves 10 (local) customers per day needed to abide by the same rules as a restaurant in Virginia Beach that serves 300 customers (tourists) a day. I understand much of the response was driven by a lack of information and a desire to err on the side of safety, but I believe if the right decision was to lock down all 8.5 million Virginians, local governments would have likely reached the same conclusion.
What are the top three issues created by the coronavirus pandemic in your district, and how would you plan to address them?
Only a few months away from entering our third year of this crisis, I believe the top three issues to be fear and distrust, the backlogs in our supply chains, and the struggle for retail businesses to stay afloat.
As delegate, I will really only have the ability to address the last of these. Most of our restaurants, entertainment venues, retail stores, etc. that are still open have taken on large amounts of debt to remain open, and, as a business owner, I understand the faith it takes to hold on down to your last dollar and sometimes beyond. Much of this debt will take years to repay.
While I don’t agree with using taxpayer money to bail out businesses, there are a number of fees and taxes that could be suspended on the state and local level to help businesses in the short term such as property taxes on their hard assets (equipment, tables, etc.), state fees and licenses, etc.
Since the state had a $2.6 billion surplus this year that will be added to an already healthy “rainy day fund” — and this is a rainy day — it should have no issues suspending such fees for a period of a few years. Likewise, with real estate prices skyrocketing most local governments should be experiencing increased tax revenues soon. I believe this type of action will be the difference in us as consumers having places to spend our money in the years to come, as well as generating sales tax and employment.