Democrat running in 26th Senate District

April Moore

Incumbent Republican Mark Obenshain has at least one Democratic challenger in the 26th state Senate District.

April Moore, a retired teacher and environmental activist, said Tuesday she is seeking her party’s nomination. No other Democrats have entered the race so far, although the deadline for party members to declare a candidacy is still weeks away.

Moore, 62, of Orkney Springs, said concerns about climate change, utility regulation and ethics in state government fueled her decision to run.

A bill recently passed by the General Assembly is too friendly toward Dominion Virginia Power, Moore said. The bill, supported by Obenshain, allows the utility a five-year reprieve from comprehensive financial reviews. Critics argue that the bill will allow the utility to escape rate reductions or paying refunds to customers.

“I feel strongly our state legislature should be serving the people and not special moneyed interests like Dominion Power,” Moore said. “Dominion Power owns a big part of our legislature, and Mark Obenshain is part of that.”

Obenshain said the Dominion Power bill passed with support from 12 of 17 senate Democrats. The bill, he said, will allow businesses and consumers to have “predictable, stable (utility) rates going forward.”

Moore criticized the General Assembly for failing to establish an independent ethics commission that could investigate accusations of wrongdoing by state officials. Moore said Virginia lags behind most states in the strictness of its ethics laws. The recent prison sentence tentatively imposed on former Gov. Bob McDonnell also illustrates the need for a robust ethics commission, Moore said.

“They passed something that was an empty gesture,” Moore said of ethics legislation passed earlier this month by the General Assembly. “We need a government that serves the people.”

Obenshain defended his past work on ethics reform and on the latest bill.

Obenshain said Republicans and Democrats “linked arms” in the Senate to pass the new ethics bill, 35-1. The legislation includes a $100 annual limit on all gifts.

Obenshain said he wondered if Moore is “looking to link arms with the one who dissented” on the Senate vote.

“I’m trying to make sure we have meaningful ethics reforms that are going to work, and the people of Virginia are going to have confidence in the integrity of our elected officials,” Obenshain said. “They deserve it.”

Moore spent several years teaching grade school in New Mexico before moving back to the area.

“We’ve lived here quite a few years and love it,” Moore said of her family.

Moore is on the board of directors of the Friends of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River and has worked as a writer, editor and substitute teacher in Shenandoah County public schools. Her husband is Andy Schmookler, who was the Democratic candidate for Congress against U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Roanoke, in the 6th District in 2012.

The 26th district includes Harrisonburg and part of Rockingham County and Warren, Shenandoah, Page and Rappahannock counties.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com