Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Another Congressional Race On The Board-- VA-05


Virginia is one of the richest states, but much of that wealth is concentrated in the DC surbubs. The state's median income is $67,620, third highest nationally. The three districts that include parts of Fairfax County have median incomes in the $100,000 range. But in the southern part of the state, incomes dip precipitously. The 21 counties and 2 cities that make up the mostly rural New Jersey-sized 5th district have a median income of $47,972 and the poverty rate is 15.1%, significantly above the commonwealth's 9.2%. The economy of much of Southside is still in recession and still suffering from job losses caused in large part by unfair trade deals that didn't hurt the DC suburbs or exurbs at all, although efforts are being made to turn Danville into a tech hub. Obama lost the 5th both times he ran with 48% against McCain and with 46% against Romney.

2016, however, looks like it could be a good year for Democrats. The Republican candidate is state Senator Tom Garrett, a far right extremist who backed Cruz during the primary has already pledged his allegiance to Trump, which isn't likely to go over all that well among many independent voters in the district. The Democratic candidate, Jane Dittmar is a big fan of both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. She's the immediate past Chair of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors and former representative of the Scottsville District. Through her supervisorial position, she was appointed to the Governor’s Broadband Advisory Council. Much of experience, though, is in the private sector as a principal in Positive Solutions Group, a firm specializing in mediation, arbitration, and training services, and a business consultant specializing in strategic planning. A university of Virginia economics graduate, she served as President of the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce for nearly a decade. Most recently, Jane became the first recipient of the Charlottesville-Albemarle Bar Association Liberty Bell Award. So far the DCCC hasn't gotten involved with the race in VA-05.

When I asked Jane why she decided to run for the congressional seat-- and she decided even before incumbent Robert Hurt announced his retirement-- she talked to me about a topic no other candidate had mentioned, rural internet access. It reminded me of the old battle over rural electrification that was such a major part of the New Deal and was so bitterly opposed by Republicans who screamed "socialism," even though only 10% of rural homes had electricity when President Roosevelt forced the issue with an Executive Order.

Rural Broadband
Guest Post by Jane Dittmar

An estimated 283,860 people in Virginia’s 5th congressional district are without broadband. In 9 of our 23 areas, more than 50% of the population is living without broadband access in their homes.

The fact that areas of our district do not have Internet or cell service is something that many of us find hard to believe. Those who have reliable access often assume that everyone in the Commonwealth shares in the same opportunities. The reality is, while some areas in our district are connected with advanced fiber optic technology, many rural localities only have the option of purchasing cost-prohibitive, unreliable Internet-- if that is even available.

Our neighbors are without access to basic information, telemedicine, emergency services, online job postings, telecommuting opportunities, and much, much more. Children, whose homework increasingly relies on Internet resources, fall behind. The Pew Research Center estimates that low-income homes with children are 4-times more likely to be without broadband. With all of the obstacles our education system already faces, creating yet another roadblock to success will be crippling to the futures of our children. I know that resources already exist in Washington-- grants, programs, and funds from the USDA, the FCC, and many others-- to enable everyone to have affordable, reliable Internet access, and I will work relentlessly to ensure that those resources are brought home to the 5th district so that we all may share in America’s promise of equal opportunity.

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