FRONT ROYAL — On a night that was supposed to have a full slate of candidates, three of them did not show up, leaving their challengers the floor to themselves.
Eugene Tewalt, who is running for mayor against Hollis Tharpe in a special election after Tharpe stepped away from the mayor’s seat earlier this year, recounted his history of public service in Warren County.
Tewalt reeled off examples of his commitments — leading with the fact he has been married for 55 years.
Before he had time to get to brass tacks, his two minutes came due, preventing him from speaking to public policy in town but leaving to a tumult of applause.
Although candidates making statements didn’t have any opposition, moderators held them to the same rules as candidates with their opponents present, restricting them to a hard two-minute cap on speaking time.
Laura Galante, D-Marshall, followed Tewalt, speaking about why she wants to represent Warren County in the House of Delegates 18th District.
Brimming with energy, Galante flew through her roots in the county going back to 4-H competitions as a child to her stances on improving technical education to keep students in the county. Affordable health care cropped up too, along with her desire to retain teachers and make sure Virginia lottery money goes into education.
Above and beyond anything though was Galante’s emphasis on what she said is the No. 1 issue she hears from voters when she goes out knocking on doors — what she as a delegate would do about the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority scandal.
“I think it’s important Richmond have an oversight role to make sure what has happened in Front Royal, the tragedy to people’s tax dollars here, is not happening again,” she said. “That means a basic oversight function of an annual report.”
In addition to a Richmond-based group that would read annual reports from Economic Develop Authorities all over the state, Galante also touted a more robust public hearings process to ensure people know when bids for projects are happening and quick responses when someone reports concerns about their local EDA.
Vying for the delegate seat in Virginia’s 29th District, Irina Khanin, D-Winchester, said she is running to expand access to affordable health care. She touted the successful expansion of Medicare and the fight Virginians had to have to get it.
“It took us four years to expand Medicaid, which is an inexcusable length of time given that the federal government was offering to pay for this expansion and there was no money coming out of the pockets of the residents of the 29th District,” she said. “I want to make sure this doesn’t happen again. I want to make sure people get access.”
Khanin also touched on other hot Democratic issues such as increasing the minimum wage and improving teacher wages.
Khanin is challenging incumbent Chris Collins, R-Winchester; Galante is challenging incumbent Michael Webert, R-Marshall.