Name: Ryan Benton
Race: House of Delegates, 80th District
Biography: Ryan, 35, is a fourth generation Portsmouth native. He grew up in Merrimac Point and as an adult, chose to keep Portsmouth as his home. After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication from George Mason University, Ryan went on to serve as a contractor in Operation Iraqi Freedom working with the U.S. Army Intelligence & Security Command.
In 2011, in furthering his education, he went on to study business at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Since then, he has served as a top-producing local Realtor helping families find quality homes in Portsmouth and throughout Hampton Roads.
Displaying a wide range of interests, Ryan is deeply involved in public service, as well as political and community organizations, where he serves in a variety of leadership roles. In college, Ryan served as a White House Intern in the Office of Presidential Correspondence. He is a 2006 graduate of the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership, a 2012 graduate of the Vann H. Lefcoe Leadership Program, and a 2017 graduate of LEAD Hampton Roads. In 2018, he was named by Inside Business’ Top 40 Under 40 List.
He has been a member of the Swimming Point Civic League for 12 years and currently serves as its vice president. Ryan has also been active in the Boys and Girls Club of Southeast Virginia, serving as the Co-Chairman of the Portsmouth Unit Board that oversees three local Portsmouth clubs. The vast, influential relationships he has built over the years strengthened his solid reputation among his colleagues, friends, and neighbors.
Why should residents elect you to the Virginia House of Delegates?
I’m the candidate who can most relate to the residents of Portsmouth. This city has been my family’s home for generations. My mother, my aunt, and my grandmother were all career educators in Portsmouth’s public schools. After college, I chose to purchase my home and to live here because I truly love our community. As a Realtor, I sell Portsmouth every day. Unfortunately, I understand all too well the challenges facing our schools, the hindrance residents face with tolls, and the insecurities we all feel because of the crime and division in our city.
What we need in Richmond are solutions, not more politics. We all know that neither party has all the answers. And as an Independent, I will work with both sides of the aisle to take the very best ideas from both sides and bring them home to Portsmouth. I look forward to working with the mayor, city council, school board, and other local officials here in Portsmouth, to address the challenges that we face every day.
I understand true leadership lies in the genuine commitment to work for everyone. Portsmouth deserves leadership in the General Assembly that truly represents ALL of us — not one side against another and not one special interest against another. So many good things could happen if we would work together! As a truly INDEPENDENT voice, I will work to bring unity, equity, and fairness to every corner of our diverse community.
What is the biggest issue facing your district, and how do you plan to address it?
The biggest issue facing my district are the crippling tolls on the Downtown and Midtown Tunnels. The 2018 Kock Report from the Dragas Center for Economic Analysis and Policy at Old Dominion University study showed that economic impact in Portsmouth far greater than any of the other cities in our region – losing over $8.8 million in taxable sales annually. In fact, the tolls at the tunnel impact Portsmouth 31% more than Suffolk, 459% more than Norfolk and 616% more than Virginia Beach.
The deal with Elizabeth River Crossing was one of the worst in history of Virginia and should never have been made. Former Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne has said the state could have done it for less money without having to bring in a private corporation to finance it. As the next Delegate from the 80th district, I will fight for refundable tax credits equal to at least 50% of what Portsmouth residents spend on tolls every year. I will also look for ways to ease the rising costs of the tolls such as a fixed rate monthly pass and military or senior discounts.
What was the most important vote taken in the Virginia General Assembly in 2019, and why?
When Virginia failed to get the votes needed to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment to the State’s Constitution was a HUGE missed opportunity in the most important vote of the 2019 General Assembly session. The ERA will create a permanent, uniform, and national standard for eliminating sex discrimination by government at all levels.
Today, most Americans believe that equality of the sexes belongs in the Constitution. The American Bar Association supports ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. According to a 2018 poll by the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University, over 80% of Virginia voters believe the General Assembly should ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.
This issue achieved greater support than any other issue polled for the 2019 General Assembly session, including tax cuts (75% support). The ERA vote carries a huge national impact as well; Virginia’s ratification will impact the entire country. Becoming the 38th state to ratify will satisfy the 3/4 of the states requirement of Article V of the Constitution. We can’t miss this opportunity again in 2020!