Dave Norris, former Charlottesville mayor and city council member, has declared his candidacy for the 54th district seat in the Virginia House of Delegates. Norris is running as a Democrat with a campaign primarily focused on reproductive freedom, affordable housing and mental health and education reform.
Norris served as mayor of Charlottesville for four years from 2008 until the end of his time on City Council in 2012. Norris said he decided to run for a House seat for the same reason he ran for City Council — to bring positive change to the Charlottesville community.
“I see this as an opportunity to bring more resources and tools to bear so that Charlottesville and Albemarle County can do a better job of meeting those challenges,” Norris said. “I think the state can and should be doing more to support our communities and to make this a better place to live, and I'm eager to be part of that process.”
The 54th Virginia House district encompasses all of Charlottesville and parts of Albemarle County. Virginia districts were redrawn and approved by the Virginia Supreme Court in 2021 — in the previous years, the majority of Charlottesville was represented by the 57th District.
Norris said women’s reproductive health, housing security and teacher pay are his campaign priorities. He wants to codify Roe v. Wade in Virginia and and attract and retain bright teachers for the public school system.
This past summer, the Supreme Court voted to overturn Roe v. Wade — the 1973 Supreme Court decision which legalized abortion across the nation — in a landmark decision which turned the regulation of abortion and reproductive healthcare laws over to state governments. Currently, Governor Glenn Youngkin said he is in favor of a bill banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy but has not done so yet.
“We're seeing an assault on reproductive freedom all over the country and here in Virginia, and we have to push back against that,” Norris said. “And so I'm going to advocate strongly to enshrine Roe v Wade into Virginia law. It's something that should have been done a long time ago.”
Norris also said he is thinking about how to improve mental health resources in the state. He plans to create a Virginia Community Mental Health Corps to provide Virginians with increased mental health support.
“[The Corps] would be a legion of trained mental health support workers placed in schools, community service boards … all across the state,” Norris said. “It would work on a proactive and preventative basis to get people access to the mental health resources they need.”
Norris said the Nov. 13 shooting on Grounds that resulted in three fatalities — second-year College student Devin Chandler, fourth-year College student D’Sean Perry and third-year College student Lavel Davis Jr. — is an example of how proactive intervention in mental health cases could have prevented tragedy.
The shooter, identified as Christopher Darnell Jones, had been previously reported to the University’s threat assessment team for alleged possession of a firearm. Virginia State Police also found ammunition and a semi-automatic rifle in Jones’ dorm room following the shooting, both of which are prohibited on Grounds.
“If we have more mental health support workers in our schools and our communities, identifying people who may have mental health challenges, getting them the support and resources they need early on, from a prevention angle we can prevent a lot of these tragedies later on,” Norris said.
Before his time on City Council, Norris served as the Associate Director of Madison House, an independent volunteer center for University students. Norris served as a liaison between student volunteers and the community organizations for which they volunteered.
Norris said his work at Madison House gave him a clear sense of the strong relationship that exists between the University and Charlottesville communities — and the potential for an even stronger relationship.
“Every day, I was thoroughly impressed by the dedication of the Madison House student volunteers and the great work they were doing in the community,” Norris said. “[But also] I came away with a clear sense that… the University can and should be more engaged in the Charlottesville-Albemarle community.”
Members of the Virginia House of Delegates do not have term limits and each term lasts two years. Currently, Norris faces three other challengers — Democrats David Brown, Katrina Callsen and Dashad Cooper. General elections take place Nov. 7.