Del. John Cox’s retirement from the House of Delegates is giving voters in the 55th district more than two candidates on the ballot this November.
Despite varying ideological backgrounds, the unprecedented three candidates, who will represent portions of Hanover, Spotsylvania and Caroline counties if elected, have one thing in common: none have ever pursued a long-term career in politics.
Republican candidate Hyland “Buddy” Fowler said he has not been in politics for long, but he had worked as an aid to outgoing Del. Cox for the past four years. Prior to working for Cox, Fowler served as former Del. Frank Hargrove’s aid for about nine years, Fowler said.
Hargrove offered Fowler a job with the Joint Republican Caucus after they met in the Hanover Republican Committee, which Fowler joined in 1988. Many of Fowler’s friendships with politicians were formed when he worked as the Joint Republican Caucus’ Research Director.
Though Fowler has some political experience, he primarily considers himself a businessman. He co-owned the billing service Doctor Copy Inc. for several years but sold the business when his partner died.
“I think of all the candidates in this race, I think I by far have the most experience at the General Assembly and how the process works,” Fowler said.
His ties with the community, however, extend outside of politics. He has been involved with organizations such as the Hanover Ruritan Club, Boy Scouts of America, and Little League. He also attends Slash Christian Church, located off of Mount Hermon Road.
If elected, Fowler said he is “very committed to continuing along the path of transitioning Virginia from the mental institutions to community-based services.” It would be beneficial for both the patients and taxpayers, he added.
In the wake of the scandal with Gov. Bob McDonnell and his family not reporting gifts, Fowler said he would propose a bill that would require officials’ family members to report gifts over $100.
“Hanoverians and members of the 55th District have become increasingly cynical about their elected representatives and this latest episode doesn’t help that, said Fowler.
Likewise, the Democratic Candidate Toni Radler said she would propose an ethics reform bill because of the scandal. Radler is a community activist and recently retired director of communications for what is now ChildFund International.
The bill would be similar except it would require family members of officials and staff to report gifts over $50 within seven days of receiving the gifts.
However, Radler mainly plans to focus on jobs and education. Radler said she is concerned about large classroom sizes due to teacher cuts and increasing teacher attrition in Hanover County Public Schools.
“Teachers are the life blood of the schools, so we need to do everything possible to keep our good and wonderful teachers of Hanover,” Radler said.
She added that schools are a focus of hers in Caroline County as well, but in Caroline her main focus is economic.
“Caroline County could really benefit from extension of the Virginia Railway Express,” Radler said. “It could totally change the nature of that county in a positive way and could result in a building boom.”
Radler has been a member of the Hanover Democratic Committee since 2008 and serves as vice chair of outreach.
If elected, Radler said she hopes to “be the voice for women.”
“I don’t think the government should mandate transvaginal ultrasounds,” she added.
Radler also said she does not want Planned Parenthood to end up unfunded.
Radler grew up in Ashland and has lived in Hanover County for the majority of her life.
She has worked for several newspapers during her career as a reporter including Hanover’s Herald-Progress, Fredericksburg’s Free-Lance Star and the Richmond News Leader, which is now the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Adding to the mix is Libertarian candidate Chris Sullivan, who is originally from Danbury, Conn., but was stationed in Virginia while in the Marine Corps. When Sullivan left his uniform behind roughly two years ago, he and his family chose to settle in Beaverdam.
Sullivan, a project manager and intelligence analyst for a government contractor in Fredericksburg, wants to “restore the liberties to the people and the market,” he said.
If elected, Sullivan said he would propose legislation that would focus on “food freedom,” the ability for farmers to freely sell their products to whomever they choose without getting federal permission, but also legislation that would focus on restoring people’s liberties and tax reforms.
More specifically, Sullivan said he would like to remove the state income and grocery taxes.
Sullivan pointed specifically to the 2.5 percent grocery tax.
“If you buy a bag of organic apples because you’re trying to do right by your kids… there is 2.5 percent tax on your basic ability to feed your family,” Sullivan said. “So they tax your income and then they tax again when you go to buy food.”
“I think I could represent people without party politics that keep some in line,” Sullivan said.
He then added, representatives who hold true to what the people want are the ones who are needed.
Sullivan said that the main reason he wanted to run is to educate citizens on the other ideologies and perspectives that exist in politics.
Sullivan said he has not previously been involved with local politics or government. He does not belong to any community organizations, but said he “is affiliated with” the political organizations Virginia Independent Consumers and Farmers Association as well as the Virginia Citizens Defense League.
Even though Sullivan has not lived in Hanover County for long, he does have a direct tie with the agriculture community. He and his family have a 10-acre farm where they live in Beaverdam and have worked with other local farmers.
Sullivan said when they first moved to the area that the people in the farming community were helpful and taught the Sullivans how to raise and keep livestock on a farm and how to extract goats’ milk.
“We felt plugged in with the community,” Sullivan added.
When the Herald-Progress asked every candidate what their favorite aspect of the 55th district was, each person’s immediate response was the people.
Sullivan said he was surprised by kindness of the people [in the 55th district], especially when he and his family moved to the area.
“They seem to not really care about where you came from but that you’re here and that kind of makes you instant family,” he said, referring to the fact that he isn’t originally from Hanover County or Virginia.
For Radler, it isn’t only the people but also the town of Ashland.
“It’s a wonderful town,” she added.
Fowler also voices his love for the people of the 55th district. “I’ve gotten to know a lot of people in the district,” he said. “[They] are always willing to pull up their sleeves and help out.”