Kelly Fowler is a political newcomer. She hasn’t held an office before and says her ideas aren’t founded on a party line. This June, Fowler is one of two Democratic hopefuls looking to turn Virginia House of Delegates’ District 21 blue.
In the current civic climate, 36-year-old Fowler said she believes simplicity is key, and it’s a lesson she learned from her 8-year-old daughter, Tessa, in the aftermath of the presidential election.
“She kept asking questions about why everyone isn’t welcome here,” Fowler said. “She wanted to know why people couldn’t go see a doctor as easily as she could go see a school nurse.”
Tessa was born on January 20, 2009 – the day of former President Barack Obama’s first inauguration. To help Tessa get her spirits back, Fowler said she decided to take her to the Women’s March on Washington. The mother and daughter pair have since attended several area activism events together.
While watching Hillary Clinton’s concession speech, Fowler told her daughter that Clinton was reaching out to younger generations, encouraging them to speak up and chase their dreams. It was then, Fowler said, that she realized Clinton was speaking to women like herself, too.
When the Delegate Ron Villanueva, the current district representative, voted in support of legislation that recognizes Jan. 22 as the “Day of Tears” which asks Virginia residents fly their flags at half-mast in recognition of abortions, Fowler said she knew she had to run.
“After that vote and I saw that his seat was up this year, that was it,” Fowler said. “It’s become a social responsibility.”
What are your qualifications for the office?
I’ve just gotten involved in politics, which I don’t think is a bad thing, but content of character and motivation. I’m in real estate, and I always want to protect them and educate them and ensure that everything they need is available to them. I’m their advocate. It’s always been a belief of mine that that’s how you need to be – impassioned. But, we need more female and minority representation. I feel like I’m someone who can bridge the gap. I won’t vote on party lines. My ideas aren’t party line, but inclusive of all people.
In your opinion, what’s the biggest problem facing Virginia Beach? How will you address that problem?
Medicaid expansion has been brought to light. Villanueva voted against that, and there are a lot of stubborn votes like that. It was voted down because they didn’t know how long the federal government would be giving money, but they needed to take what they can.
What specific plans do you have concerning education?
Education is always a top priority because it’s investing in our future. I taught third grade in Virginia Beach for five years. I loved teaching. I’m one those people who like standards, but we need to find a baseline and be able to differentiate instruction from there for all students. Full-day kindergarten for Virginia Beach is great, and the issue we were facing there is about staffing. That was a priority and that’s why the budget has gone up and it’s going to be phased in. But there’s an issue with efficiency when it comes to the budget. When I taught, we had smart boards on the walls. They cost thousands of dollars and we had one in our copy room. Why? Because we had the money and needed to use it? There has to be some common sense there and teachers need to be included on those decisions and how funds could be used.
What is the top transportation issue impacting the city? What do you propose to fix it?
There are so many small issues. When I think about transportation and little issues that add up, there’s at least an accident a month on a section of Indian River near my house where the road narrows. We hear the crashes. How many people have to get hurt before we start looking at spots like this where we can spend little amounts of money to benefit people? Let’s fix what we have and make roads better to stop recurring accidents. We need a forum where people can address these types of specific things. I want to be accountable to people. I want to know what they want and vote accordingly.
How can the city address and fund developing stormwater issues?
It’s a growing problem in Virginia Beach and we can’t keep putting it off. This goes back to forums and how we can engage citizens and find out what the people who were impacted want to happen.
What other issues are most important to you?
Work and minimum wage issues, including equal work and equal pay. There’s been some reluctance to study equal pay and work. Women’s issues are tied into this, too. When women are evaluated in their jobs, they are more likely to be looked at as unreliable because they’re seen as the parent that has to take care of a sick child or children in general. Studying disparities, in general, is incredibly important.
How will you serve your district differently than Del. Villanueva?
He votes on a party line. His votes don’t coordinate. We need someone who will look out for the people, not just the interest of themselves and their political party. I’m not going to do that. I’m willing to work across the aisle.
To read more about Fowler, visit her campaign site.