The Northern Virginia Daily's Political Depot

A service for our readers outside the Northern Shenandoah Valley... a sampling of The Daily's political coverage, plus unofficial, 'reporter's notebook' stuff. And occasional dry humor...

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Location: Strasburg, Virginia

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Blubaugh gets VEA support; B1

By Garren Shipley
(Daily Staff Writer)

The Democratic candidate in the 15th House of Delegates district picked up a statewide endorsement on Monday.

Jim Blubaugh, a Rappahannock County resident and former federal employee, was endorsed by the Virginia Education Association’s political action committee.

The PAC has supported the Democratic ticket in this year’s statewide offices, but has crossed party lines in some House of Delegates races. It even backed Del. Terry Kilgore, R-Gate City, twin brother of gubernatorial candidate Jerry Kilgore.

“This is an outgrowth of our party-blind and issue-driven philosophy,” said VEA President Princess Moss. “We stand with those who stand for public education.”

Blubaugh is running against Shenandoah County Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Todd Gilbert, the Republican nominee, to succeed retiring Del. Allen Louderback, R-Luray.

“[VEA’s endorsement was] really no surprise,” Gilbert said. “I don’t think anybody should be surprised that they’ve decided to endorse a big government Democrat in this race.”

“Education has been a significant part of my life and my life experience,” Gilbert said. His mother was a teacher for 30 years, and he was a substitute teacher for 6 years.

“I’m fully committed to accountability in education, better paid teachers,” he said. “I’m committed to cutting out first and foremost the waste in education.”

Money spent on bureaucracy should be routed to classrooms as much as possible, Gilbert said.

Blubaugh, meanwhile, took issue with plans to widen Interstate 81 through the Shenandoah Valley on Monday.

Some suggestions in front of the Virginia Department of Transportation, including a plan to build an eight-lane “truck way,” are just intended to turn the valley into an even bigger freight artery, he said.

“Is this all that we can come up with — more and more highway construction?” he said.

VDOT officials have said that an environmental study, not suggestions from corporations seeking to build the project, will dictate what the highway expansion looks like.

Tolling options would drive more trucks onto U.S. 11, which would make living in any of the small towns along the highway more difficult, Blubaugh said.

The Democrat said he supports rail options. More use of rail freight “offers more opportunities for jobs for Virginia’s men and women, far less pollution and a much greater degree of safety.”

I-81 expansion is a national security issue, he said.

“When I was at the CIA and State Department, I always saw our highways as a security concern,” Blubaugh said. “Our entire transport system in this country relies on trucks and a handful of key highways. This leaves us vulnerable.

“That is why I support greater law enforcement, widening for safety, more funding for safer on and off ramps and alternative transportation.”

Gilbert said his position is close to that of his opponent.

“I’m glad Mr. Blubaugh decided to get on board with what I’ve been saying for months. We don’t need a multi-billion dollar mega-highway running through the Shenandoah Valley,” he said.

“I’m also adamantly opposed to any of the toll schemes that have been put forward,” Gilbert said. “I don’t think people should have to pay for a road that they’ve already paid for once."