Russ Harper is the Republican candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates District 94. His name will appear on the ballot on Nov. 2.
Candidate: Russ Harper
Race: Virginia House of Delegates District 94
Biography: Russ Harper served in the U.S. Army for 13 years, moving to Newport News in 2004 when he was stationed in Virginia. He graduated from Regent University with both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees. He is a local pastor, small business owner, husband, and father.
Why should Virginians elect you to the Virginia House of Delegates?
We have a slogan: Russ is for us. I am for the people of the 94th District because I am one of them. As a father, I have raised my five daughters here. As a pastor, I have planted a church here. As an entrepreneur, I have built a small business here. I live, work, and play in Newport News. It is my home. I am now, and have always been, deeply invested in my city. I should be elected because I am not a politician. I am a regular guy who loves his city and wants to see its continued success and to see all in the 94th District be given the opportunity at life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
What do you hope to accomplish, if elected?
I will enact real school choice legislation. It is clear that our school system in Newport News has failed our children. It’s time for school choice to become a reality rather than a political talking point.
While there are many other things I will propose once elected, perhaps most importantly I want to bring back unity and civil discourse in the Virginia House of Delegates. We must stop dividing ourselves simply because of party. We must be able to reach across the aisles and come together with legislation that benefits all Virginians, not just one party or the other. We must put aside partisan politics and think about the people we represent and not our re-election.
What is the most important issue facing your district, and what is your position on it?
One of our most important issues in the 94th District is our schools. They are failing, especially in the areas of math, science, and reading. Newport News had the lowest scores on the Peninsula. The coronavirus pandemic played a role in this, but our children went back in February and 87% took the SOLs, so these failing scores are not completely due to virtual learning. We must do better and not ignore what the pandemic has taught us about the state of our schools. Our children deserve better than this.
What is your position on Virginia’s overall response to the coronavirus pandemic, and what might you have done differently?
With any crisis you are going to have triumphs and failures. I believe we did the right thing by shutting down because we didn’t really know much about the virus and its effects. Once more information was available we should have relied on the science and the information we had to open up schools and businesses. We kept open big box stores, but shuttered small businesses and churches. Much of what was mandated did not pass the common sense rule. So, I believe we failed in keeping our schools and businesses closed too long, and our children and businesses have suffered greatly because of it.
The top three issues created from the pandemic are
Education: We need to take a long, hard look at how we have been educating our children. Clearly our method is not working. So, I want a real, bipartisan investigation into how we can improve our schools that will benefit all children. To ensure we educate and not indoctrinate. I believe real school choice legislation and adding/creating more charter schools would go a long way in restoring the faith of our community in our state government and our school systems.
Economy: The virus shuttered businesses, especially small businesses. People’s livelihoods were ruined, and life savings used up. This should not have happened and we could have done more to ensure businesses stayed afloat. I would like to see a fully-funded restart program, which would be paid for by our state surplus and Newport News’ $66 million in COVID-19 relief, for all those small businesses who went under during the pandemic through no fault of their own. I think we owe that to the people of the 94th District and Virginians as a whole.
Recovery: We have a long road to recovery in the 94th District from the pandemic. Inflation, supply and personnel shortages, higher gas prices, utility bills increasing, increase in our real-estate tax, and the list goes on. When you are trying to recover and fight these issues it makes it difficult for employers and employees. Many are still struggling to make ends meet. Others have yet to come back to work so employers are backlogged, losing business, closing one or more days a week, etc. I believe we can do some things right now to ease the burden of recovery. We can remove grocery tax, reduce gas tax, state tax breaks for struggling families, rescind the real-estate tax that Newport News enacted in the middle of the pandemic, and a host of other things. In terms of economic impact it would cost the state, district, and city very little, but would tremendously help in the recovery effort for the people of the 94th District.