JCRC 2023 Voter’s Guide

by | Oct 12, 2023 | Other News

State elections take center stage.

Drew Goodove, JCRC Summer Intern
All seats in the Virginia House of Delegates and the Virginia Senate are up for grabs on Tuesday, November 7. With so many vital issues, the Jewish Community Relations Council of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater contacted the candidates with four questions of importance to the Jewish community.

Take the time to learn which district is yours, about the candidates, and where and how to cast a ballot on the Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP) website at VPAP.org.

We hope this Voter’s Guide serves as a valuable resource in assisting you to make an informed choice. Since our country’s founding, the Jewish community has advocated for a robust democracy that reflects the people’s wishes while safeguarding the rights of both individuals and minority groups.

As the Union for Reform Judaism’s Rabbi Dara Lithwick shared, “Judaism teaches us that voting is not just a civic duty. In fact, throughout Jewish history, many of our rabbis and sages have framed voting as a mitzvah, a Jewish imperative.” Be sure to perform this mitzvah and cast your vote on or before November 7.

For additional information, contact Robin Mancoll at the JCRC at RMancoll@ujft.org.

The questions were:
1. What can the General Assembly do to eradicate hate speech and bigotry of this nature?
2. How do you perceive the potential impact of the BDS Movement on the Virginia economy?
3. Will you support the continued funding for VIAB?
4: What are your thoughts on increasing the Combating Hate Crimes Grant Program Funding Opportunity?

Here, the candidates’ responses to the first question are answered. To read their answers to the other questions, go to JewishVa.org/vote23

District 17 – Senate

Delegate Emily Marie Brewer
In the past few years, the General Assembly has made large strides to combat antisemitism. My concern is continually increasing as I have seen the rise in hate crimes for those of Jewish faith – and we must put a strong message forward that hateful rhetoric and criminal activity will not be tolerated. In 2023, I voted to adopt a non-legally binding Working Definition of Antisemitism for use as a tool and guide for training, education, recognizing, and combating antisemitic hate crimes or discrimination and for tracking and reporting antisemitic incidents in the Commonwealth. Also in 2023, I voted to require a contract provision through the Virginia Public Procurement Act that would prohibit a boycott of Israel for any company that has a contract with a public body in excess of $100,000. These steps signify a path forward to combating antisemitism and creating a more welcoming environment in Virginia, which must be our continual goal.

Delegate Clinton L. Jenkins
A priority for the General Assembly should be the prompt enactment of laws designed to strengthen penalties for hate crimes and enhance educational programs promoting inclusivity and interfaith understanding. Furthermore, it is crucial that we follow the Commission’s recommendations in allocating resources to promote community outreach and support, thereby creating a safer and more harmonious environment for everyone.

District 18 – Senate

Anthony W. “Tony” Goodwin

Senator L. Louise Lucas
The swift implementation of legislation aimed at bolstering penalties for hate crimes and improving educational initiatives that promote inclusivity and interfaith understanding should be the foremost concern of the General Assembly. Additionally, it is imperative that we allocate resources in accordance with the Commission’s suggestions to facilitate community outreach and support, ultimately fostering a safer and more harmonious environment for all individuals.

District 19 – Senate

Christie New Craig
As a mother and Yaya to my grandkids I believe that antisemitism and hate crimes are inexcusable and should never be permitted in our Commonwealth. In light of the Commission to Combat Antisemitism’s recommendations there are numerous proactive steps the General Assembly can and should take to increase awareness of antisemitism and penalties for hate crimes against any specified groups, including Jewish people.

Myra J. Payne
I appreciate your question and the concern it raises about the rise in antisemitic incidents within our state. As an AME pastor and a follower of Christ, I firmly believe in the importance of compassion, understanding, and unity among all people, regardless of their faith or background. The report by Governor Youngkin’s Commission to Combat Antisemitism and its comprehensive set of 21 recommendations highlight the urgent need for collective action against hate speech and bigotry. It’s crucial that we approach this issue with a heart of empathy and a commitment to fostering an environment of respect and tolerance. To eradicate hate speech and bigotry, the General Assembly can take several proactive steps.
Read Payne’s full response at JewishVA.org/vote23.

District 20 – Senate

Senator William R. “Bill” DeSteph
I have a deep and abiding respect for the Jewish community and am proud of the efforts Governor Youngkin has undertaken to ensure hate has no place in the Commonwealth. I have, and will continue to support legislation aimed at combating antisemitism. We must ensure that Virginia remains a great place to live, work and play, and that means eradicating hate speech and bigotry of any kind.

Victoria Luevanos
The General Assembly can step up hate crime training for law enforcement, and on enhancing the recording, reporting, and data collection of hate crimes. In addition, to face the challenges of online hatred, the GA can initiate a voluntary Code of Conduct on countering illegal hate speech online with well-known IT companies. They can also follow through with zero-tolerance policies for hate speech and hate crimes.

District 21 – Senate

Delegate Angelia Williams Graves
For starters we can do a better job of leading by example. We can work to not demonize others because they’re different – whether that be who you love, what you look like, where you’re from, or what God (if any) you pray to. In the last several years in particular, we’ve not lived up to this simple standard and I believe it’s had devastating impacts. Additionally, we should be working to educate our children about our history – including the bad – so that they understand what oppressed communities have been through. We’re doomed to repeat our history if we don’t learn from it.

Giovanni E. “Gio” Dolmo

District 22 – Senate

Kevin H. Adams

Senator Aaron R. Rouse
The General Assembly should prioritize the swift enactment of laws aimed at strengthening hate crime penalties and enhancing educational programs that foster inclusivity and understanding of all faiths. Furthermore, we should allocate resources for community outreach and support, following the Commission’s recommendations, to create a safer, more harmonious environment for everyone.

District 83 – Delegate

Mary Person

Delegate H. Otto Wachsmann, Jr.

District 84 – Delegate

Delegate Nadarius E. Clark

Michael J. Dillender
There is absolutely no place for Antisemitism of any kind in the Commonwealth of Virginia. I believe in having very high standards, zero tolerance policies for these types of activities, and to hold violators accountable for their actions to the fullest extent possible. I support very tough laws towards prevention and full enforcement of those laws.

District 87 – Delegate

John M. Chapman

Delegate Jeion A. Ward
To combat hate speech and bigotry, the General Assembly should prioritize education and awareness programs, ensuring schools teach tolerance and diversity. Additionally, we must strengthen hate crime laws, promoting reporting and prosecution of such incidents.

District 88 – Delegate

Delegate Don L. Scott, Jr.
The Virginia General Assembly has a responsibility to condemn hate and bigotry in all its forms. I was honored to be part of a bipartisan effort in the Virginia General Assembly, voting in favor of legislation that includes individuals of Jewish ethnicity or those practicing the Jewish faith as victims of hate crimes. Recognizing the impact on these individuals and ensuring their protection is crucial. I will continue to work and listen to stakeholders as we collaborate to combat hate, not just by-passing resolutions in the General Assembly but also by ensuring that all forms of dog whistles and rhetoric are swiftly condemned by elected leaders from all parties.

James “Jim” Wright

District 89 – Delegate

N. Baxter Ennis

Karen L. Jenkins
In the past few years, Virginia has unfortunately been the subject of national attention due to antisemitic incidents within our state. This is unacceptable, and we must do better. As a member of the Suffolk School Board, I believe that combating antisemitism starts with education. There are troubling reports of harmful antisemitic conspiracies being spread in Virginia through propaganda and leaflets. As a member of the General Assembly, I support an increase in funding for antisemitism awareness training in schools. We should increase the number of lessons focused on Jewish history and civilization, the Holocaust, and on Jewish American Heritage month in order to stop antisemitic conspiracies at their source.
Beyond education, we must take antisemitic hate crimes seriously. Antisemitic hate crimes should be subject to the same penalties as other hate crimes; and antisemitic discrimination should be subject to the same penalties as other civil rights violations.

District 90 – Delegate

Delegate James A. “Jay” Leftwich, Jr.
Addressing hate speech and bigotry requires a multi-faceted approach. Based on the recommendations from Governor Youngkin’s Commission to Combat Antisemitism, the General Assembly can take several actions to combat antisemitism and eradicate hate speech, including funding education and awareness, build- ing collaborative partnerships that foster community engagement, enhancing legislation that specifically targets bigotry that is comprehensive and enforceable.

Jeremy D. Rodden

District 91 – Delegate

Delegate C.E.” Cliff” Hayes, Jr.

Elijah Colon

District 92 – Delegate

Bonita Grace Anthony
Yes, there has been a need to combat antisemitism, racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, hate speech, and hate crimes. We must work to demolish all rhetoric of intolerance. At the federal level, we already have the anti-Asian bill that directs the DOJ to advance the review of hate crimes related to COVID-19 and bolster law enforcement to collect data on such crimes better. The report by the Governor’s Commission to Combat Antisemitism emphasizes the need to fund more reporting efforts and synthesizing of data. Data collection helps us understand the need but does not deter the violence. Distribution of resources should go to law enforcement and for community-based solutions. There is a need to reframe hate speech, crime, and violence as a public health issue.
The General Assembly can pass the recommended laws and provide funding to combat antisemitism. One of the recommendations that struck me was education regarding the Holocaust. As an educator, I’ve always supported teaching
our entire history and ensuring young people can access materials to understand other cultures. The general assembly can ensure that Public Education is fully funded, push back against book bans, and reverse the distortion, dismantling, and deletion of anyone’s history. Our children must learn the full breadth and depth of our complex history to develop empathy and compassion to avoid repeating it. I’m concerned about rewriting our history standards that accommodate antisemitic and racist ideologies (i.e., deeply troubled by efforts in some schools in the U.S. to ban books like Maus). We must learn the truth of our history and address the rise in antisemitism in Virginia.

Michael L. Durig

District 93 – Delegate

Delegate Jackie Hope Glass
Eliminating hate speech and bigotry undoubtedly represent commendable objectives. However, we must remain cognizant of the boundaries that restrict the government’s authority in regulating speech and behavior modification. I wholeheartedly endorse any initiatives aimed at monitoring hate speech, ensuring accountability for hate crimes, and fostering a heightened understand- ing of diverse cultures. One aspect of this support involves endorsing the measures outlined in the Commission’s report, particularly those that address academic boycotts. In line with these principles, I took the initiative to introduce legislation during the 2023 General Assembly Session. The goal of this legislation is to safeguard the rights of students who are absent for religious reasons, including religious study, to ensure they do not face any form of penalization. It is my firm belief that by striking a balance between the pursuit of inclusive, respectful discourse and the protection of individual rights, we can work towards a more tolerant and equitable society.

John Sitka III
Moderating speech is not the place of the government; however, we must be ready to condemn hate. I am proud of the Youngkin administration’s work to end and address the rise of antisemitic rhetoric. In the future, reviewing all legislation for potential biases or any other issues involving religious liberties will be crucial to protecting against bigotry and hatred. When I arrive at the legislature, I plan on preparing and combating any internalized notions the state may have about anyone, making sure we judge on the content of character, not race or religion.

District 94 – Delegate

Phil M. Hernandez
With the alarming rise of incidents of antisemitism here in the Commonwealth and across the nation, the General Assembly must continue to do all it can to fight bigotry. This includes shining a light on the increase of incidents of hate speech and bigotry, improving data collection and training, strengthening antidiscrimination laws, as well as funding efforts to combat antisemitic hate crimes.

Andrew B. “Andy” Pittman
Antisemitism, and all hatred and intolerance for that matter, have no place in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Since its founding, Virginia has always been at the vanguard in defending and promoting religious liberty, as highlighted by Thomas Jefferson’s “Statute for Religious Freedom.” Efforts to combat rising antisemitism should be no exception. I wholeheartedly applaud the work of the Commission to Combat Antisemitism, which Governor Youngkin established via executive order on his very first day in office. The General Assembly has already taken a great step forward by following the Commission’s first recommendation to adopt the working definition of antisemitism as set forth by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. The General Assembly should take further steps to continue to implement the Commission’s recommendations through antidiscrimination statutes and establishment of educational programs. Education and awareness are key and should be a top priority. Such steps should include an expansion of the Holocaust standards of learning, inclusion of the study of Judaism and Israeli history as part of world history and world studies programs in middle and high school, the creation of curricula to highlight Jewish days of recognition, increase educator access to antisemitism non-profits and materials, and inclusion of advanced studies of Judaism, antisemitism, and the law in college and law schools. Further, academic boycotts of Israel and other foreign countries should be prohibited (except for national security concerns). Finally, any antisemitic indoctrination should be prohibited in public education.

District 95 – Delegate

Alex Q. Askew
Drafting legislation is not merely an act of governance; it is an act of conscience. We must strengthen our laws to combat hate crimes, including those targeting our Jewish communities. These laws must be met with appropriate penalties to send a clear message: Virginia will not tolerate hate. We must also invest in education and prevention. The General Assembly needs to fund programs that enlighten our youth, that promote understanding, and inspire unity. The fight against antisemitism and hate speech begins with knowledge and empathy.

District 96 – Delegate

Delegate Kelly Convirs-Fowler

Mike Karslake

Nicholas S. Olenik

District 97 – Delegate

Michael B. Feggans
The General Assembly plays a crucial role in addressing antisemitism and making our Commonwealth more inclusive of people of all ethnicities and faiths. One way to stem the tide of rising antisemitism is to address it early in our schools. The legislature should ensure a more robust curriculum around antisemitism, the Holocaust, and Judaism more broadly in public schools. By providing students with valuable context and exposing them to different cultures they may be unfamiliar with, we can help combat much of the misinformation and conspiracies contributing to antisemitic sentiments. Additionally, the General Assembly should encourage partnerships between the Virginia Department of Education and outside organizations, such as the Virginia Holocaust Museum, to provide educators with the necessary resources and instructional materials to effectively teach these lessons.
While ensuring our schools are equipped to address antisemitism early is an important step, it is only part of a complex approach. The General Assembly should also work to improve law enforcement and reporting practices surrounding antisemitic hate crimes. Maintaining accurate data regarding these incidents is crucial to preventing future ones. The legislature should also require new law enforcement officers to undergo hate crime training and receive updated annual instruction with specific provisions on antisemitism.
These steps are part of a necessary and comprehensive approach to ending antisemitic bigotry. With one of the fastest-growing Jewish populations in the country, the General Assembly has much work to do to ensure our Commonwealth lives up to its promise of freedom and inclusion for all. As Delegate, I will champion these efforts to make Virginia a more welcoming place.

Delegate Karen Greenhalgh
The General Assembly passed a definition of antisemitism, which I co-patroned last session. This would work as a guide for training, educating, and recognizing antisemitism as hate crimes and allow tracking and reporting of antisemitic incidents across the Commonwealth.

District 98 – Delegate

Delegate Barry Knight
I introduced legislation several years ago which banned discrimination of all kinds, including the Jewish community. Unfortunately, the legislation passed in the House of Delegates but failed to pass in the Senate.

District 99 – Delegate

Cat A. Porterfield
The General Assembly plays a crucial role in addressing hate speech and bigotry. To eradicate these issues, it is important to promote education and awareness about the consequences of hate speech. Implementing antidiscrimination programs in schools, organizing community events to foster understanding and inclusion, and supporting initiatives that emphasize tolerance and respect can all be effective steps in combating hate speech and bigotry.

Delegate Anne Ferrell Tata
I was the Chief Patron of HB1606, the first recommendation of the Governor’s Commission to Combat Antisemitism. It adopts the Working Definition of Antisemitism adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, and it passed with strong bipartisan majorities in the House and Senate, and it was signed into law by Governor Youngkin. I am honored that Virginia sent this firm message that intolerance and hate will not stand in the Commonwealth. We can continue emphasizing this by fighting Antisemitism through education, law enforcement, and antidiscrimination protections.

District 100 – Delegate

Delegate Robert S. Bloxom

Charlena Jones
*The JCRC of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater does not make political endorsements. This guide is for educational purposes only.