RICHMOND, Va. – Del. Will Morefield is a Republican from the solid-red coal country of far Southwest Virginia. Del. Lashrecse Aird is a Democrat from Petersburg, a majority-black city near Richmond.
It would be hard to envision two more different figures in Virginia politics. But Morefield and Aird are at the heart of an unusual legislative long shot that’s making its way through the General Assembly – and highlighting the power of some ideas to cut through traditional politics.
The unlikely partners discovered that they share something unfortunate: their home towns are dying. People are leaving, money for basic services is running out and nothing about state government seems to promise any help.
In 2016, that phenomenon nationwide contributed to the rise of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, and disaffection with the establishments of both major parties. Last year saw Virginia elect a new, diverse generation of Democrats to the House of Delegates, most running on a promise to fight the status quo, as represented by the Republican majority.
While it seems like the upshot is an increase in partisanship, the reality – at least in Virginia’s statehouse – is that economic desperation sometimes pushes the fringes together.
From attempts to address food deserts in cities and rural counties, to efforts to boost funding for at-risk public school students, lawmakers in some of Virginia’s most distressed localities are uniting across party lines to challenge the wealthier, more powerful regions of the state.
No issue captures that spirit better than Morefield’s proposal to offer tax breaks…Read More