Sen. Warner discusses projects, bipartisan work

Sen. Mark Warner answers questions from the crowd during his visit to the Woodstock Brewhouse on Sunday afternoon. Rachel Mahoney/Daily

WOODSTOCK – Community members heard from Sen. Mark Warner over a few pints when he stopped by Woodstock Brewhouse while visiting the area on Sunday.

Woodstock Mayor Jeremy McCleary introduced Warner’s visit for a crowd of business leaders, a few local politicians and area Democrats. Warner took a few sips of a Woodstock craft brew before launching into his political initiatives, including support of entrepreneurship and helping to guide the “future of work” with more people working freelance or contingent jobs.

“What I’m working on is a whole new system of how we do social insurance in the 21st century,” he said. “It says we ought to create a portable benefit system so that whatever money you make, a little piece of it attaches to you and goes towards healthcare, retirement, disability and maybe even a little emergency fund.”

He also discussed the need for a “capitalism 2.0.”

“Even as somebody that’s been a business guy longer than I’ve been a politician, something is wrong with … modern capitalism in America in 2016,” he said. “It focuses way too much on the short term and not enough on the long term.”

Warner then heard questions and comments from those at the brewhouse on topics ranging from tax rates and Obamacare to student loans and the Industrial Hemp Farming Act – a topic he said he’d heard a lot about from other parts of the state.

Some of those who asked questions of Warner also commended his service as governor from 2002 to 2006. Jim Fitzsimmons, former Shenandoah County School Board member and chairman, thanked him for his work in balancing the budget and support for education.

“Because of your work there, we were able to refinance and rebuild three high schools here,” he said. “A lot of folks don’t know that connection…that we were able to get that bond money because of a lot of the work you did there in Richmond.”

Conversation also turned to the partisan “spitball contest” in Washington that Warner said has stalled government. He made mention of politicians who don’t want to be seen with those on the other side of the spectrum.

“My hope is there’s going to be a fresh start come January, and that both sides realize the current state of play is: we’re not doing good by the country,” he said.

Warner has been traveling around to visit other parts of the state after the Senate went into recess, including Charlottesville, Harrisonburg and Waynesboro. He said many Virginians have expressed the same concerns on policy and the economy.

“It’s a chance to talk a little bit about some of the things I’m working on … when you think about portable benefits or when you think about, ‘how can we make capitalism work for a broader group of people?’ – these are not typical issues that are thought about in Washington, but I think are really underlying some of the economic insecurity and uncertainty,” he said before leaving the brewhouse to continue up the Shenandoah Valley.

“To me, these trips … it gives me a chance to see what’s going on the community, hear people’s concerns – but also it recharges me,” he continued.

McCleary said that Woodstock Brewhouse was a perfect venue for Warner’s visit as a new business that had just celebrated its first anniversary in town.

“We’ve got a lot of energy going on downtown, we’ve got the downtown parking project … so it was perfect timing for him to come, and we’re thrilled to have him,” he said.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or