Quality roads in Virginia are “an economic development tool and businesses understand that,” said Edwards. “It will hurt Virginia’s long-term prosperity if we disregard quality roads and rail.”
Virginia’s 16-year incumbent Democrat Senator John Edwards said that he is “running on his record.” Edwards is seeking re-election to the 21st district. Edwards expects to expose a broad contrast between himself and his opponent. “I look forward to a vigorous race,” he said.
Edwards, 67, touted his record of supporting public education, higher education, transportation, veterans, mental health, and the environment. He opposes charter schools
“I’m very proud of what we’ve done [in the Senate], said Edwards.
Edwards’ campaign will focus on economic development and job creation. His crowning achievement, he says, is “procuring funding for Roanoke City’s Higher Education Center.” Based on a study done on its tenth anniversary, the center has had a $32 million yearly economic impact on the region.
“Directly as a result of [his] effort it has created 310 jobs, 6000 degrees in its first ten years. It has increased on average the annual income of graduates by $17,500.” He is confident that there is no other candidate that can compare to this accomplishment.
Edwards’ partial solution to Virginia’s long-term transportation needs is the implementation of passenger and freight rail service. This strategy will take the load off highways and reduce the need for more pavement and associated costly maintenance.
Edwards was responsible for procuring the $150,000 for the smart road connector bus to Lynchburg. Roanoke and Blacksburg now have access to the Amtrack train. “Without this kind of leadership, Roanoke would not have a connector bus,” said Edwards. The train from Lynchburg has far exceeded ridership expectations.
He said his opponent [Del. Dave Nutter] “has no plan for transportation funding. The borrowed federal funds are “just a band-aid – a short-term infusion … it gives you a bubble now but you have no long-term revenue stream.”
A billion dollars of new money is needed for transportation every year – the only credible way is to raise the gas tax. “The user fees were a Republican idea,” said Edwards. That bill was eventually scrapped after Virginians became outraged that out-of-state drivers were exempt. He also opposed the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority tax that was later deemed unconstitutional and dropped. Southwest Virginia would have received no benefit from that tax.
Edwards prefers a bill that would levy a tax at the wholesale level. “This way it would be dispersed,” said Edwards.
Edwards called the VDOT audit “smoke and mirrors.” He explained that the money uncovered in the audit was part of a policy to keep five months of highway maintenance in reserve. The governor changed the policy from five months to only 30 days. “All of a sudden there was four months of extra money there,” he said.
A gas tax is a user fee and out-of-state drivers pay 36 percent of that. “They should have the privilege of helping maintain our roads,” he said. He believes a gas tax is the best way to build and maintain roads. He added, “Tolls do not provide enough revenue and are expensive to operate.”
He opposes raising the sales tax for transportation.
Businesses support a gas tax increase for fear that real estate taxes will rise in its place. Edwards said a business owner told Nutter at a meeting that if he didn’t vote for the gas tax he would vote against him in the next election.
Edwards addressed why proxy voting in the Senate was necessary. “If you don’t vote, then there is no accountability,” he explained. Committees and especially subcommittees can convene simultaneously and Edwards said he has been caught in these situations. “The only way to avoid not voting and being accountable is through a proxy,” he said.
Standards of Learning “limit what teachers can teach,” Edwards said. He left open the door for exploring the national Common Core Standards if school administrators feel that students will lose ground. He explained that Federal grants are available if a state employs the national standards, and is another option to consider. Only seven states have resisted – Virginia being one. Edwards is willing to give it more study.
Edwards lives in Roanoke City with his wife Cathye and has three children and one grandchild. He is a graduate of the University of Virginia Law School where he was a member of the Virginia Law Review. Edwards served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1971 through 1973 and was a Captain/Judge Advocate. Edwards’ Roanoke law practice includes civil and criminal litigation in federal and state courts. Edwards is the son of the late Judge Richard T. Edwards, who served as Mayor of the City of Roanoke from 1946 to 1948.