Creigh Deeds, Virginia state senator for the 25th district, and Sally Hudson, Virginia delegate for the 57th district, participated in a candidate forum on-Grounds Monday evening. Hudson and Deeds covered their positions and beliefs on a number of issues, including gun violence and public school curriculum. Hudson is currently challenging incumbent Deeds in the state senate race. Deeds has been representing Virginia District 25 since 2001.
This event — hosted by the UVA Center for Politics and Charlottesville Tomorrow — was organized to provide Charlottesville community members more information about the candidates’ platforms. Eleanor Jenkins, Center for Politics intern and second-year College student, and Eileen Goode, democracy reporter for Charlottesville Tomorrow, moderated the discussion.
Gun safety has been a recent topic of discussion in local politics, following a marked increase in gun violence in the Charlottesville community — including more homicides this year than in the past six years. Charlottesville Police Chief Michael Kochis recently hosted a safety forum to address community concerns about gun violence. Both senate candidates talked about their experience passing gun control legislation at the state level.
Hudson has passed legislation banning those who committed hate crimes or acts of domestic violence from owning a firearm and closing the Charleston loophole — which allows for a gun sales to proceed after three days, whether or not there is a completed background check. Hudson also mentioned that the failure of the state legislature to pass an assault weapons ban thus far was a shortcoming for public safety.
In addition to serving as a state delegate, Hudson is a labor economist and an applied econometrician, working as a professor in the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy. Hudson was first elected in 2019 and reelected in 2021.
“Some of [this work] requires proactive investment in community institutions that will prevent violence and aggression before it starts,” Hudson said. “I think we really have to reckon with the fact that youth today have seen so much of their expectations about safety and stability shattered in a pandemic.”
Hudson said there is work that needs to be done in the state legislature regarding public safety, but she thinks that opportunities must be created to strengthen community bonds before long term solutions to the violence can be identified and implemented — an example includes instating publically funded summer job opportunities as a way to invest in the community and provide stronger futures for children.
Deeds recalled seeing the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007 — which left 32 dead and 23 injured — on television and said this was the moment that changed his relationship to guns and drew him to implementing change regarding firearm regulations.
Ultimately, Deeds sponsored — along with Timothy Longo, associate vice president for safety and security and University chief of police — an assault rifle ban with components of other successful legislation, but the bill was not passed by the House of Delegates. The bill — proposed in the wake of the Nov. 13 shooting which left three students dead and two injured — would have outlawed carrying a firearm at state owned colleges.
“Whatever [legislation] we pass, we have to think about whether it's going to be held up in court,” Deeds said. “The last thing I want to do is tell people we are passing something or doing something and not really doing it.”
When not working in the senate, Deeds is a practicing lawyer. In 2019, his senate seat was challenged by independent candidate Elliott Harding. From 1991 to 2001, Deeds served in the house of delegates.
“My job is to make the government work for the people I represent and make the government relevant to people's lives,” Deeds said, “I think the government in general exists to serve people.”
Both candidates also discussed critical race theory, transgender rights and public school history curricula. Specifically, Deeds mentioned Governor Glenn Youngkin’s model policies on transgender children — guidelines for public schools to ban transgender students from using school bathrooms and competing on team sports that do not follow their assigned gender.
Deeds said that the policies were very detrimental and serious for school children, and that some policies were harmful enough to “drive some kids to suicide.”
When discussing the Standards of Learning for history, Deeds said he has attended various meetings to rebuke Youngkin on his efforts to educate students by excluding certain aspects of history while emphasizing others. SOLs are standardized exams public schools in Virginia administered to students at the end of the year.
Deeds said in order for educational change to fully take place, Democrats will need to have support from the State Senate, State House and the Governor. Currently, there is a Democratic majority in the State Senate and a Republican majority in the State House.
Hudson said that the reason that Youngkin was successful with the model policies was because he was able to appoint three members, who would support his decisions, to the Board of Education. Hudson also said that people have an obligation to stand up and speak out for the greater benefit of students in Virginia.
“I want to be very clear that everybody who has raised [their] voice to rally support is doing something that matters,” Hudson said.
Other topics the candidates discussed include the allocation of tax dollars for school renovations, funding for the Virginia Housing Trust Fund, rank choice voting for state elections, urban renewal and mental health services.
While both Hudson and Deeds have similar stances on issues like gun legislation and education, moments of tension between the two occurred as they worked to differentiate themselves from each other.
“I don't think you did much more for the affordable energy act but sign your name,” Hudson said at one point after Deeds’ highlighted the bill.
“You weren’t involved in negotiations,” Deeds said in response.
Voting for the Virginia state primary will begin on May 5.