Lucas: Focused on flipping House

Published 9:52 pm Wednesday, October 30, 2019

It’s not about her campaign this year.

For Democrat Louise Lucas, who is running unopposed for the Senate District 18 seat, it’s about flipping the legislature from Republican to Democrat.

That is why she has been spending a lot of time in Suffolk campaigning for Democrat Clinton Jenkins in his bid to unseat Republican Chris Jones for the House District 76 seat.

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“My legislative issues haven’t changed, but what I’ve done is I’ve devoted my time on the campaign trail helping my down-ballot Democrats, especially the ones who share the same legislative priorities that I have,” Lucas said.

Gaining a Democratic majority in the state Senate, while also flipping the House of Delegates, would allow her to move forward on issues important to her.

Those issues include redistricting, increasing affordable access to health care and reducing prescription drug costs, fighting for what she calls common-sense gun laws — Lucas introduced a background check bill that did not pass during the 2019 General Assembly — and increasing funding for education.

As the chairwoman of the Education and Health Committee, Lucas also wants to find money to repair and replace dilapidated schools.

“There’s no question that we’re going to be pushing for more funding for education,” Lucas said. “Along with that is going to be (money for) bricks and mortar, because we have some really, really, really old and outdated schools in Virginia. And so, we need to come up with a sustainable source of funding for construction of new schools.”

That, she said, would provide for a healthy workforce and healthy children.

Lucas said she had a conversation Wednesday with Virginia First Lady Pam Northam on early childhood education and is interested to see what comes out of the work of the Gov. Ralph Northam-appointed Virginia Commission on African-American History Education in the Commonwealth.

She said she wants to see the post-election education summit tackle rural access to broadband, because in those rural areas of Lucas’ district, she said there are still major pockets that aren’t able to get high-speed online access. She cited a recent visit to a Brunswick County library in which she was unable to get online.

Though about 35 percent of her district is made up of Portsmouth residents, and more than 26 percent come from Suffolk, her district also extends into Southampton, Isle of Wight, Sussex, Greensville, Surry and Brunswick counties, as well as Chesapeake, Emporia and Franklin.

On health care: “We’ve got a ways to go, because when we extended Medicaid, we had embraced about 400,000 people, but … we still have a long way to go to get all Virginians included in some form of health insurance.”

She credited the Democratic “wave of legislators that got elected in 2017” with getting Medicaid expansion passed “because it scared the bejesus out of the Republicans” that caused them to vote with Democrats on the issue.

However, she called the work requirement that came with it punitive and unconstitutional, and she vowed to repeal it. “I’m hopeful that we can,” she said.

Lucas said another focus in her work on the Courts of Justice committee would be to replace aging judges. She also plans to fight for criminal justice reform and said marijuana should be decriminalized.

She called criminal justice reform “a complicated and convoluted issue,” and said she has had conversations with Valerie Boykin, director of the Department of Juvenile Justice, as well as Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran about it.

“We’re going to be working on some things to see how we can improve on our criminal justice system,” Lucas said, “because, as you know, there’s still black and brown people getting harsher punishments than the majority of Virginians, for their misdeeds. … There needs to be some equity there, which is why we need to be working on decriminalizing marijuana, so that black and brown people don’t end up pretty much having their lives ruined over recreational marijuana. It’s crazy.”

There are a lot of issues on her plate, she said, but she believes her work in campaigning for other Democrats around the state, and in particular for Jenkins, will give her the momentum to work for issues important to her.

“I’m getting very strong vibes from the community that they are ready for a change,” Lucas said, “that they are tired of the wrangling back-and-forth of not getting anything done that affects the people who put us there in the first place,” Lucas said. “And so, my sense is that voters are sick and tired of us going to the legislature, introducing bills that impact their lives on a daily basis, and not being able to get those bills passed.”