Hahns Copeland is the Republican candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates District 89. His name will appear on the ballot on Nov. 2.

Candidate: Hahns Copeland

Race: Virginia House of Delegates District 89

Party: Republican

Website: hahnscopeland.com

Biography: Hahns Lewis Copeland grew up in Southeastern Virginia among a family of hard-working entrepreneurs, inventors, and producers, some of whom were shipbuilders. Copeland is a respected, successful business owner, an inventive entrepreneur, and an author. He is an accomplished engineer and devoted family man.

Copeland is a third-generation native of Hampton Roads with enduring friendships and family ties within and surrounding the city of Norfolk. Married for 19 years to his amazing wife Tracey, Copeland is a dedicated father of two wonderful children. Their family journey is, and continues to be, guided by their faith.

From his life experiences, Copeland has developed the skills and character to lead Norfolk with grace, humility and courage. He has the know-how to move Norfolk forward and build it into the best place to live, work, and raise a family in America.

Copeland has learned to love a diverse group of cultures and sensibilities. He has extensive travel for work throughout 18 countries in Europe, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and the Caribbean — all the while maintaining his roots in Virginia.

Copeland received his bachelor of science in civil engineering in 1987 and a master of engineering management in 2014 — both from Old Dominion University. Copeland is a member of the national honor society for engineering management, Epsilon Mu Eta. He is a is a registered professional engineer in Virginia.

Why should Virginians elect you to the Virginia House of Delegates?

I ask the citizens of the 89th District for their vote because Norfolk is ready for change. For the past 40-plus years, the 89th District has experienced one-party rule that neglected some of the rights of our most vulnerable citizens. I am a Christian, devoted husband and father, Hampton Roads native, successful businessman, and community supporter who is ready to put our citizens first.

I have 36 years employment, entrepreneurial, and public service experience since college. The quality of public education in Norfolk has continually deteriorated; the Constitution of Virginia guarantees our children an “educational program of high quality.” This is not happening and has not happened for decades.

The city of Norfolk has the second highest murder rate in Virginia, and 155 vacancies in our police force; our citizens deserve to be safe. Threatening to defund our law enforcement officers and eliminate qualified immunity of our first responders does not create a path for public safety and good governance.

I will fight for the rights of all Virginians and all citizens of the 89th District. As your elected servant, I will push for educational system reforms and funding; as well as eliminating Critical Race Theory in public schools in Virginia. As your elected servant, I will push for needed technological and financial resources to mitigate Norfolk’s flood hazard. As your elected servant, I will uphold our Right to Work laws that many businesses, new and old, cherish.

What do you hope to accomplish, if elected?

If elected, I hope to get to work creating and passing legislation that improves our public education, public safety, crumbling infrastructure, and provides assistance to small businesses. Norfolk’s 89th District was the central hub of business decades ago, but over time we have lost business to our neighbors, primarily due to crime and poor schools.

Our children deserve an educational system that meets their intellectual challenges and motivates them to excel. Learning differences must be diagnosed early, addressed, and accommodated. The measuring stick to determine academic success should not be altered to meet low performance, rather the system should be adjusted to meet high expectations.

Our Commonwealth has morphed into a “criminal first-victims last” mentality. The entire law enforcement profession should not be considered the enemy because of a few bad situations. Law and order require collaboration between law enforcement and our citizens; both sides need to feel supported and appreciated. I will fight for law and order in our district by improving compensation and training of our police officers.

Improvements in our infrastructure need to be accomplished to address our transportation needs and tidal flooding. As a civil engineer, I have spent my career addressing such issues.

Finally, I will support legislation that simplifies starting and maintaining business in Virginia. Entrepreneurs of all colors and creeds should have access to resources such as capital, financing, resources, training, and mentorship that will encourage businesses to startup and survive.  

What is the most important issue facing your district, and what is your position on it?

Education, education, education. It is the foundation for everything. Our public school system should be top notch. There are 17 public schools in the 89th District and 12 are below accreditation standards. Fewer than 30% of our all children can read at grade level. Fewer than 20% of our black and brown children can read at grade level. Our city will not prosper with this type of educational results. 

A child’s zip code should not determine his or her success as an adult. Parents should be able to have more choice in where and how their children are educated. Further, the failing schools need reform; we need to fix what’s wrong and sustain what works. Improving the educational system will have lasting and far-reaching benefits for all citizens. Better education system performance means improvement across society including, but not limited to, lower crime rates, increased property values, and improved tax base for the local tax collection. 

What is your position on Virginia’s overall response to the coronavirus pandemic, and what might you have done differently?

Gov. Ralph Northam was far too restrictive in his response to COVID-19. While some restrictions may have been temporarily necessary, the Commonwealth should never have been locked down completely from March 18, 2020 until May 12, 2020, with partial restrictions still in place today. The mandatory mask mandate that lasted more than a year was also extreme. The slow roll out of vaccines was embarrassing, with Virginia often ranking at the bottom of the list of vaccinations administered.

The fact that our houses of worship were closed while massage parlors, tattoo parlors, and liquor stores remained open says a lot about the administration’s civic priorities. Shutdowns should have been limited so that they were more effective in protecting our citizens’ physical health while minimizing the damage to both the economy and mental health.

Our children should have stayed in school. If they could not stay in school, our schools should have had standards to follow so that our children would not fall behind educationally and emotionally. Preventing disease and sustaining businesses are not incongruent ideas. Somehow this past administration lost sight of these principles. Further, “those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety,” to quote Benjamin Franklin.

What are the top three issues created by the coronavirus pandemic in your district, and how would you plan to address them?

Education: Many of our school children fell woefully behind due to virtual schooling during the pandemic. I would introduce legislation and funding that would plan and achieve catch up. We also need to plan for retention of our experienced teachers. As of result of the chaos of the pandemic, many chose to retire. Parents deserve school choice and an improved education system that performs as expected.

Business: Too many businesses could not stay open due to the financial devastation of the mandatory closures. Further, the employment shortage during recovery is caused by excessive and over-extended unemployment benefits that encourage people not to work. I will protect the Right to Work status of our Commonwealth to keep business operational costs down. Our Commonwealth, and specifically Norfolk, cannot afford to lose businesses, large or small. Reduction in tax income, jobs and opportunities would be untenable. The failing Virginia Employment Commission was simply not there for our employers or employees, adding to the disastrous outcome for those without a financial cushion.

Cost of living: The cost of living in Virginia has skyrocketed as financial benefits have been passed to supplement lost income. Rent will increase to address the months and months of legislated rent forgiveness. Home ownership costs have increased as well as the cost of utilities, food, and other living costs. Our House of Delegates needs to get to work to make Virginia affordable.