__Northam, parent of student, defeats GOP incumbent__
Democrat Ralph Northam won election to the sixth district of the Virginia Senate Tuesday with 54 percent of the vote over incumbent Nick Rerras.
p. The district is comprised primarily of Norfolk as well as Accomack County, better known as the Eastern Shore. Northam attended the Virginia Military Institute and Eastern Virginia Medical School. He served eight years in the United States Army and is currently a child neurologist at Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters in Norfolk. Northam’s son, Wes, is a sophomore at the College.
p. By defeating a Republican incumbent, Northam helped the Democrats pick up the four necessary seats to regain control of the state Senate for the first time in over a decade.
The following is the transcript of a Flat Hat interview with Northam.
p. **Flat Hat:** What are your priorities in terms of public education, especially state universities such as the College? What about the 6.25 percent budget cut that the College recently experienced?
p. **Northam:** We really need to focus on education. We need to emphasize development and technology. I teach a lot of students and residents and I can tell you that other countries are not playing for second regarding education. It’s all about priorities. We need to make budgeting for education a top priority. I have a real problem with budget cuts regarding education and I’ll make it a priority to even those out. We have some excellent universities and colleges in this state and we need to continue to keep them at their current stature. However, we also need to focus on K-12 education and even pre-K. The Governor is looking into voluntary pre-K for children under 4 years, and I am certainly in favor of that.
p. **FH:** How has your son’s experience at the College informed your priorities for higher education?
p. **Northam:** The College of William and Mary is an excellent school. I have been very impressed with it. He is, I think, receiving a very good education. We need to make it a priority to continue that trend.
p. **FH:** There were quite a few members of the College’s Young Democrats helping on your campaign. Would you like to show special recognition to any of them?
p. **Northam:** Senior Rachel Wolin did a lot of our writing and communicating with the newspapers and media. She did a wonderful job. Aaron Shepard and Ally McIntosh also worked on my campaign for a while and were very helpful
p. **FH:** Have you been paying attention to some of the recent battles on campus regarding the administration of President Nichol and what is your opinion?
p. **Northam:** I haven’t paid a lot of attention because I have been so busy with the campaign. From what I have seen and read, I think President Nichol is a very smart, articulate man with progressive ideas and that he has been good for the College of William and Mary.
p. **FH:** Is there anything about the College that you would like to add?
p. **Northam:** This is about you all’s future. The more that college students get involved in politics is better. People from William and Mary, Old Dominion, and out-of-state were helping out on the campaign and I thought that it worked real well.
p. **FH:** Do you feel you have some kind of mandate to change politics in Richmond? Specifically, what issues are you going to focus on?
p. **Northam:** There are a lot of challenges here in the Commonwealth. The voters are looking for a legislator with vision instead of someone who is at best, reactionary. I plan to look down the road to the future when I make decisions that will hopefully improve the quality of life for folks in Virginia.
p. The foremost challenge that we face presently is transportation. We need to find a reliable source of revenue for our transportation system that won’t take away from healthcare, law enforcement or education. We need to start looking at using tolls, such as EZ-Pass and look at the possibility of a gas tax that would be fair to everybody who uses our roads. The current abuser fees are not a very effective or efficient way of obtaining revenue because they do not apply to out-of-staters. Transportation is the first order of business in Richmond.
p. There are a couple other major issues. My background is in healthcare. We need to help people without access to healthcare and those who lack health insurance; children especially need access to quality healthcare.
p. I am real concerned about our education system in Virginia. We need to make sure our teachers are paid a fair salary. Right now, Virginia is ranked 26th in the country in teacher salaries. We need to do better than that.
p. Finally, we need to be concerned about our environment. I describe what we’re doing as society’s footprint on our environment. We know we are making the footprint way too large and we need to all work together to make that footprint smaller than it is. We’re releasing too much nitrogen, phosphorous, and other gases into the air. There are dead zones in the Chesapeake Bay without any oxygen. Fish and crab stocks are way lower than they should be. So that’s going to be a priority of mine.
p. Those are the main things: transportation, healthcare, education, and the environment. I feel like I can make my mark on the Commonwealth.