Although the Roanoke region is rather small in population and area, the two state senators we send to Richmond to represent us reflect two vastly different ends of the political spectrum. When the non-partisan, Richmond-based Virginia Family Foundation released its new “Parental Rights Report Card,” those differences come into stark clarity.
(As I have been saying for some years, “If you live in the Roanoke area and don’t like your current political representation, it may be hard to vote him or her out of office. It’s probably easier to just call a realtor and move ten or fifteen minutes down the road into a district where the leadership is more to your liking.”)
The issue of parental rights in the education of their children took center stage in last fall’s Virginia elections. Fueled by parental involvement and passion, Glenn Youngkin went from being underdog and won the Governor’s Mansion, and the GOP wrested back control of the House of Delegates from the Democrats. However, since state senators serve four-year terms and none were up for re-election last year, the Democrats held onto their slender 21-19 majority. By controlling the upper chamber, Democrats also control all Senate committees and can often use those as so-called “killing fields” for pro-life or school-choice bills.
As many predicted, the House indeed passed many parental rights bills during the most recent 2022 session, but the powerful Senate Education & Health Committee nixed many of them, usually along partisan lines. Without Senate approval, the bills died and never reached the governor’s desk.
According to the new Parental Rights Report Card, liberal Sen. John Edwards (D-Roanoke) voted against all the pro-parental rights bills except one, where he did not vote. In contrast, conservative Sen. David Suetterlein (R-Roanoke Co.) voted yes on eight of the bills, no on a bill about a Family Life Education Opt-In, and did not vote on two bills: protecting female’s sports and prohibiting the teaching of divisive concepts.
This link will show you each bill number in question, its name, a brief description, and the actual vote tallies of each senator on the Education & Health Committee.
As pointed out here, it seems one reason why Sen. Edwards has been able to hold onto office for so long with views out of step with so many in Southwest Virginia is because the district he has long represented was heavily gerrymandered, lumping large numbers of Democrat voters from Roanoke City in with those from the Virginia Tech area one hour’s drive down I-81. (A largely sycophantic local media has helped keep Edwards in office as well, but that is a different topic for a different day.) By intentionally placing lots of Democrats in one district, that makes the surrounding district more heavily Republican. As a result, our region has two senate seats that are largely non-competitive between the two parties. However, recent redistricting has finally ended “The Johnnymander” and has instead put most of Roanoke City and County into one senate district, with elections in 2023.
With a more level playing field, and if both Senators Edwards and Suetterlein chose to run for re-election, they will face each other in what should be a more competitive environment. Stay tuned.