James “Jay” Leftwich is the Republican candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates District 78. His name will appear on the ballot on Nov. 2.

Candidate: James “Jay” Leftwich

Race: Virginia House of Delegates District 78

Party: Republican

Website: jayleftwich.com

Biography: James A. “Jay” Leftwich is a graduate of Chesapeake Public Schools. He graduated from James Madison University in 1985 and graduated from the University of Richmond School of Law in 1988. He is a partner of Basnight, Kinser, Lefwich and Nuckolls, P.C. He served as a Chesapeake Public School Board Member from 2002 to 2013, including holding the position of chairman from 2012 until 2013. Leftwich was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 2014. He is also a former elder of Great Bridge Presbyterian Church. He believes in community service and supports numerous civic and charitable organizations.

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

I am energized and excited to continue representing and working for residents of the 78th District. Although I believe one’s work is never finished, I hope my commitment to produce future results is demonstrated by my past accomplishments, such as legislation to: Combat human trafficking, address big pharma’s irresponsible marketing of opioids, transition Virginia from an antiquated 911 system where seconds can be the difference between life or death, implement 21st Century protocols to protect and manage digital assets (online data, pictures, emails, etc.), promote work force development, enhance school safety, improve our transportation system, and full restoration of lottery money to public schools.

Information regarding these efforts and other legislation may be found on my website: www.jayleftwich.com

What do you hope to accomplish, if elected?

I intend to:

  1. Restore state support and funding of our public safety sector to reverse the escalating violent crime rate and to ensure the safety of Virginians.
  2. Focus our educational system on student learning with curriculum that allows every student to reach his or her full potential, address staffing shortages in our K-12 system, and ensure curriculum is delivered to students despite the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  3. Protect our economy by providing a pro-business environment — particularly for small businesses, which account for 99.5% of our economy.

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

The most important issue facing the 78th District is to protect quality of life by: Ensuring our educational system is equipped to deliver a rigorous curriculum to all children despite the challenges of COVID-19 and that it inspires and encourages each student to reach his or her full potential; Keeping our schools, neighborhoods, and communities safe by restoring support for law enforcement; Ensuring economic growth, particularly for small business, by reducing “red tape” and eliminating cumbersome laws and regulations that stifle their economic viability.

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

I am disappointed in Virginia’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. With a Republican majority and better leadership from the executive branch, the state’s response would have been different in a least four ways:

  1. Vaccines: The vaccine rollout would have been much faster. From the start, the vaccine should have been available to not only health-care workers and long term-care residents, but also front-line employees, anyone age 65 and up, adults with underlying health risks and school workers. In addition, from the very beginning, vaccine supplies should have been distributed and administered by hospitals, public health systems, pharmacies and other healthcare providers.
  2. Virus containment: In the spring of 2020, the Hampton Roads Sanitation District (HRSD) reported its ability to test wastewater, which would enable it to predict where an outbreak of COVID-19 may occur seven to 14 days prior to those impacted becoming symptomatic. With support and funding, HRSD could narrow the location of an outbreak to a particular street, yet Virginia elected to remain reactive rather than proactive.
  3. Education. During the 2020 Special Session, Del. Kirk Cox introduced a budget amendment to use federal stimulus money sent to Virginia for education modules (teaching pods, tutors, etc.); however, the Virginia House of Delegates majority declined to give Cox’s amendment even 10 minutes of time during committee. Del. Carrie Coyner then raised the matter as a floor amendment which also failed; Del. Coyner’s amendment was “passed by” (i.e., “killed”) without debate by the majority party. Her floor speech may be viewed here. Because of the majority’s refusal to give this topic even 10 minutes of debate test scores have plummeted and our children’s educational experience has been negatively and irrevocably altered.
  4. Virginia Unemployment Commission. With different leadership, the VEC would have been given
    the support and resources necessary to more effectively and efficiently process claims.

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

The pandemic created tremendous upheaval in the lives of residents of the 78th District. Every aspect of life changed, from educating our children to simply getting an appointment with DMV. With so many facets of normal life being impacted, it’s difficult to name only a few issues; however, education is at the top of the list. With money provided to the state from the federal government, resources should be distributed to local school divisions to mitigate the interruption of instruction and prevent students from falling behind. This would necessarily include getting students to school on time and returning home in a timely manner.

The issue generating the most calls and emails to my office during the pandemic are related to Virginia unemployment claims. The VEC has been overwhelmed by claims throughout the state, including the 78th District and has been a source of frustration for constituents. The commission needs to be evaluated to determine where efficiencies can be improved and likely needs additional resources and staffing, which may be accomplished by using federal “COVID-19” funding.

Third, our government must work for constituents rather than against them. At a time when lives have been altered and impacted by a pandemic, Virginia’s one-party control has resulted in law after law that complicates the ability to conduct business and educate our children, rather than focusing on the readiness of its agencies, such as DMV, the Virginia Department of Education, and regulatory bodies to address and solve challenges exacerbated by COVID -19.