Democrat VanValkenburg kicks off Gen. Assembly campaign

Schuyler VanValkenburg
addresses supporters Feb. 22.
Senior students at Glen Allen High School will get a personal touch when studying elections with their AP government teacher.

That teacher, Schuyler VanValkenburg, recently announced his intention to seek the Democratic nomination for the 72nd District seat in the House of Delegates. If he earns the nomination, he will run against Del. Jimmie Massie, R-Henrico, who has been unopposed for 10 years.

VanValkenburg, a 2004 University of Richmond alumnus who majored in history, is running for office for the first time. Although he has lived in Richmond since he began his undergraduate studies, aside from one year spent in Seattle, he said he never felt it was his time to run.

In college, he described himself as apolitical. However, VanValkenburg described the “elephant in the room,” saying that Donald Trump’s presidential win was really the “gasoline” that fueled his political fire.

A self-proclaimed “Constitution nerd,” VanValkenburg said he hopes to organize Henrico Democrats, in a county that went blue in the 2016 presidential election, and create a General Assembly that follows the ethos the country was founded on – “ life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

“How do you actually pursue happiness?” VanValkenburg asked. “You have to have the access to be healthy, you have to have the opportunity to work at a job that can provide meaning and stability, you have to have access to education for mobility and self confidence.”

At a young age, VanValkenburg watched his father grow ill, lose his autonomy and ultimately lose his ability to be a parent. During his childhood in his industrial upstate New York hometown, just outside of Albany, VanValkenburg was unaware to the hardships and difficulties around him because his mother — an educator and rigid Republican — was a “superwoman.”

That relationship with his mother, he said, “is evidence that people with different political agendas may not be as different as they may think,” VanValkenburg said at his campaign kickoff event on Wednesday in Lakeside at the Final Gravity brewery.

“At the root of it all we all to some extent go by the American creed that fear doesn’t win, dividing doesn’t win and people want to be their better angels.”

In another anecdote, VanValkenburg discussed his first day out canvassing. The first door he knocked opened to a man with strong fundamentalist Christian beliefs who extolled his passionate beliefs for 20 minutes — but VanValkenburg said with a smile, “although he probably won’t vote for me, he signed my petition.”

Sara and Mark Hudson, two supporters at the kickoff event, discussed their frustration with current local and national politics.

Sara Hudson, a pre-K teacher, said she is “disgusted by adults in politics who act in ways that I would reprimand my children for… It’s sad that we teach our kids that everyone is valid and deserves love and respect, yet adults can act in ways that are so uncaring and unforgiving.”

Mark Hudson, a Republican, was at the kickoff in support of VanValkenburg, because he is frustrated with current representation and proud that someone finally has “stepped up.”

“He’s lovely, down to earth and most importantly, approachable,” said Lisa Rogerson, a VanValkenburg supporter.

VanValkenburg hopes to focus his efforts on education reform and limit the gerrymandering that he believes has occurred in the General Assembly. He said he wants to better represent the “purple” district of Henrico, referring to its increasingly Democratic leanings.

“We need someone who is intelligent and actually represents the people,” added Theresa Kennedy, a fellow supporter. “He knows what it’s like to pay bills, raise kids and knows what keeps the rest of us up at night.”

Both VanValkenburg and his supporters hope to start a movement for Democrats from the bottom up, focusing on local and state elections in order to stir democratic support at the national level in 2020.

“I’m an honest broker who listens, but willing to say I am not always right, let’s look at both sides of the issue,” VanValkenburg said. “They’ll know where I stand. That’s my appeal.”

Margaret Graham, the legislative assistant to Massie, said that Massie is “focused on state business… He will begin his campaign-related activities by mid-March.”
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June 2017
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The Senior Center of Richmond will host its third annual Senior Safety Day from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at First Baptist Church. Learn how to be a savvy and safe senior living independently. There will be 10 different workshops to choose from. Meet local officials, visit with vendors at a resource fair, win door prizes and network with people from across the Commonwealth. Admission is free and lunch is provided. First Baptist Church is located at 2709 Monument Avenue; enter on Mulberry Street to access free parking on Robinson and Mulberry Streets. Registration is required online at https://SeniorSafetyDay2017.eventbrite.com. For details, call 353-3171 or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Full text

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