Phil M. Hernandez is a Democratic candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates District 94. His name will appear on the ballot on November 7, 2023.
He is running against Republican candidate Andy Pittman.
10 On Your Side reached out to all of the candidates running in this race with specific questions. The responses below came directly from the candidate and are unedited. If you do not see the candidate listed with a profile, we did not receive one.
Name: Phil Hernandez
Race: Virginia House of Delegates District 94.
Biography: I was born and raised in Hampton Roads, attended local public schools, and received a Gates Millennium Scholarship, which made it possible for me to attend William & Mary and become the first in my family to graduate from college. From there, I served in President Obama’s White House, where I worked to protect the environment and create clean energy jobs. Later, I became a civil rights attorney and I currently lead a nonprofit organization that supports public education and teachers. All together, I have about 15 years of policy experience and will be able to hit the ground running as Delegate.
I live on Willoughby Spit with my wife, Sara, and our two daughters, Isa and Maia. We’re proud to be raising our family here and we love bringing our community together. I’ve organized clothing drives at Pretlow Library, Sign Language classes at Mudita Cafe in Ocean View, and helped Norfolk families find baby formula when severe shortages struck last year.
Why are you running for this office?
At a time when there’s so much extremism in our politics, I’m offering something different. I’m running to be a problem solver who can bring people together and get things done. I’ll stay laser focused on the issues that matter most to families in Norfolk, including protecting reproductive rights, delivering a world-class education to students and lifting teacher pay, reducing gun violence, and helping families access affordable childcare, life-saving prescription drugs, and housing.
What is the most important issue facing Virginia, and what is your position on it?
In many ways, safeguarding reproductive rights is the most important issue. Virginia is the last place in the South where these rights are protected, but extreme Republicans like my opponent want to take away reproductive rights and ban abortion in Virginia.
I’m the only pro-choice candidate in this race and I believe women (not politicians) should be in charge of their own reproductive healthcare. Going forward, I would support a constitutional amendment to enshrine the protections of Roe v. Wade in Virginia.
What is the top challenge facing your district, and how would you address it?
Since the beginning of this campaign, I’ve had conversations with thousands of voters and several issues consistently rise to the top. First, we need to fully fund public education and lift teacher pay. Virginia is a top-10 state by per capita income, but teacher pay is below the national average. We need to fix that. Second, we need to help Norfolk families make ends meet. As Delegate, I’d support a Child Tax Credit to help families afford childcare, a Virginia Prescription Drug Affordability Board to help lower prices for life-saving drugs, and new investments in affordable housing. Finally, we can make our local community safer by adopting common sense gun safety reforms, funding gun violence prevention programs at the local level, and prioritizing mental healthcare.
What is your view on Governor Glen Youngkin’s proposal for a 15-week abortion ban with restrictions?
My starting point is that we need to protect current law, which follows Roe. Wade, and keep women in charge of their own reproductive healthcare.
It’s also important to understand that the Governor’s 15-week back is his fallback option, which means he wants an even stricter ban. Just look to states south of Virginia. North Carolina has a 12 week ban. South Carolina has a 6 week ban. Alabama has a total ban. We cannot let that happen here. Virginia must always be a safe haven for reproductive rights.
How do you feel about the politicization of public education?
It’s vital that we have representatives in the General Assembly who are committed to supporting teachers, students, and parents. I’m a proud product of local public schools, which opened up the world to me. That’s why I work at a non-profit organization that fights to increase funding for public schools and lift teacher pay. I’m proud to be endorsed by the Norfolk Federation of Teachers and the Virginia Education Association.
On the other hand, my opponent has called for allowing teachers to carry guns in the classroom and liked tweets that refer to public schools places of “poisonous indoctrination.”
What legislation would you plan to sponsor in your first year?
As Delegate, I plan to support legislation that’s responsive to the concerns that voters have shared with me. That will include bills to increase funding for public schools, reduce gun violence and support mental health, lower the cost of living for families, including through a Child Tax Credit, and I will support legislation to protect reproductive rights. In addition, I hope to carry environmental legislation that helps our region address flooding, as that’s a major challenge for the 757 given sea level rise from climate change.
What is your view on unlimited campaign contributions? Should that change?
Absolutely. We need comprehensive campaign finance reform in Virginia.
How will you still value constituents with whom you disagree with?
I’ve always believed that you can learn something from everybody, sometimes that’s even more true when you think you disagree with them. Growing up, people in my family had all sorts of political persuasions, but we could still come together for a meal or gathering and enjoy one another’s company. I hope to bring that life experience into the General Assembly.
Last session, legislation to help develop an arena in Norfolk was killed with blame behind placed on the untransparent nature of Norfolk Government. How will you interact with Norfolk City Government to make sure more opportunities aren’t lost?
One of the reasons I’ll be able to hit the ground running as Delegate is because of the strong relationships I’ve built with Norfolk local leaders. For example, Councilman Tommy Smigiel, Councilwoman Courtney Doyle, and Councilwoman Andria McClellan are all supporting my candidacy. We’ll have a strong, collaborative working relationship in service of the best possible future for the City of Norfolk.