Voters in Virginia’s 99th House District may well have a strong sense of déjà vu when they step into the voting booth Nov. 5.
The House of Delegates race is a repeat of the contest two years ago, with retired CEO and Democratic nominee Francis Edwards squaring off against incumbent Republican businesswoman Margaret Ransone to see who represents a district that’s mostly the Northern Neck.
There’s been more vitriol in the race this year after barbs were traded by Ransone and critics earlier this year during the General Assembly session. That came during failed efforts to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, an idea voted down by Ransone and others in a subcommittee she chaired.
As she has in past years, Ransone argued that the ERA would duplicate existing protections in the U.S. and Virginia constitutions while potentially opening the door to taxpayer funding of abortion.
Proponents of the measure said it is needed to fully protect women and their rights, and that claims of extending abortions are baseless.
The district the two candidates are running to represent includes part of Caroline County and the counties of King George, Lancaster, Northumberland, Richmond and Westmoreland.
Asked about the issues they find most central to the race, the two candidates gave very different answers.
Edwards, who is 70 and the former chief executive officer of QVC Germany, succinctly laid out three things he’d work to accomplish if elected.
The candidate, who grew up in public housing in London and moved to Lancaster County as a young man, said he’d strive to protect the recent state Medicaid expansion that gave an additional 400,000 Virginians access to health care, seek funding for teachers and school buildings in the region and work to revive the Northern Neck’s economy, starting by giving businesses access to high-speed internet.
Ransone, who lives in Westmoreland County and is in management at her family’s Bevan’s Oyster Company, said she wouldn’t be identifying her main issues.
Instead, her campaign manager provided web addresses for her website and General Assembly page and added, “All the information you need is right there.”
Ransone said she and her family have been subjected to harassment that has made her fearful for the safety of her family. To that end, she asked that details about family members be limited.
The delegate seeking her fifth two-year term said people could find out all they need to know about her as a candidate by looking at the bills she’s passed in her time in Richmond.
This past session, she was chief patron of measures that: require insurers to cover services legally performed by licensed nurse practitioners; raised the penalty for those who injure dogs or cats; required school boards to have policies allowing parents to review materials in anti-bullying or suicide prevention programs that contain graphic sexual or violent content; allowed Caroline and Essex to adopt a voluntary boundary change; and made changes that exempt those with a commercial fishing license, and one of their immediate family members, from needing a saltwater recreational fishing license.
On her campaign website, Ransone lists top priorities as supporting small business, education and defending property and Second Amendment rights.
Edwards—who is married and has four sons and three grandchildren—describes himself as a proven business leader “who knows what it takes to achieve the American Dream.”
He said that dream is what brought him to America and drove him to build a successful career working with businesses large and small.
On his website, Edwards points to the Northern Neck as having the potential as a coastal area to lead the way in protecting the environment.
“The Northern Neck is energized and ready to be a leader in renewable energy,” he said. “After all, we will see the effects of climate change far sooner than most of the country. Our elected officials must reflect this passion and incredible economic opportunity in order to bring in high paying jobs and avoid the mass exodus of folks away from the district.”
According to information compiled by the Virginia Public Access Project, the two candidates have raised about the same amount of money to this point, with Edwards raising $163,281 and Ransone bringing in $166,520.