I believe that infrastructure and the economy can work together to make our district stronger. We need to invest in infrastructure to live a better life, and that investment will, in turn, create many decent-paying jobs in both the public and private sectors. Instead of building pipelines, the focus should be on clean energy and clean water initiatives. So that all people have the same access to the internet, and to the jobs and opportunities that the internet affords, high-speed broadband networks need to be expanded.

Updating roads, like Interstate 81, should be a focus of this initiative toward infrastructure, but wider and more readily available public transport is key for our area. We can’t keep using the public transport models made from giant metropolises; District 26’s unique features of an urban & rural split need to be integrated into a more effective public transport system.

Campus Sexual Assault

President Barack Obama worked to shed light on not only campus sexual assault but also how victims are treated after an assault. Here, at JMU and EMU, we need to work to expand prevention efforts. We need to promote bystander intervention and educate on consent and sexual violence prevention education programs.

When campus sexual assault does happen, victims should be protected. One, we need to talk more openly about the crime of sexual assault and how the fault lies solely with the perpetrator of the crime. Every victim—no matter their gender, race, or sexual orientation—needs to be given comprehensive care. A physical examination alone cannot help with the emotional trauma that was also sustained. Fair judicial proceedings must be followed, whether the process occurs within campus discipline proceedings or within the criminal justice system.

Gun Violence Prevention

Guns do have recreational and safety uses, and the right to use a gun should not be infringed on. However, gun violence prevention needs to discussed much more. Gun violence is the second leading cause of death for Americans between the ages of 15 and 24; homicide and suicide by firearms are preventable causes of death. Mass shootings have become all too common a news story, and, too often, mental illness becomes entwined with gun violence, but the two shouldn’t be conflated. People who suffer from mental illness are far more likely to be victims of the violence rather than the perpetrators of gun violence. I do think that we need to expand our resources for the mentally ill, but that can’t be the only way to approach gun violence.

First, we need to invest in gun violence research. This can help determine the social components of mental and physical health that often relate to gun violence. We need to work on expanding mentoring programs, which have been proven to lower the later risk of gun violence. And we need promote programs such as …, which help train to…  In addition, gun violence prevention needs to be more strongly connected to domestic violence prevention as well. Having one or more guns in the home makes a woman 7.2 times more likely to be killed by her partner, according to the Violence Policy Center.

At the state level, I believe that I can make a concrete difference by expanding background checks. Most Americans agree that closing gun show and internet sales loopholes would be a net positive. For gun enthusiasts, it means that everyone conforms to the same rules and regulations. I also would like to take on the gun lobby and remove the industry’s legal protections for those that commit crimes as well as revoking licenses from dealers who break the law. I want to work with gun enthusiasts and those who are more gun-shy to find ways that Second Amendment Rights can be protected while keeping the right to live safely in our world paramount. I think that both sides can find common ground, and we can coexist peacefully.