There are currently four people on the ballot for Virginia’s House of Delegates District 21, and Tom Brock, 48, is one of them. He’s one of two Democratic candidates looking to take the seat from Del. Ron Villanueva, who has held the office for 7 years.
Modeling his campaign after Sen. Bernie Sanders, Brock’s logo even bears the same sky blue, red and white that Sanders used during the presidential primary. There’s even a little blue bird perched on the “k” of his last name on his campaign sites.
As Brock watched Sanders campaign for the chance to represent the Democratic party, Brock said he was moved to answer the call.
“His message during the presidential primary was very inspirational to me,” Brock said, “specifically the parts when he was talking about people stepping up and getting involved.”
Health care, Brock said, is the biggest driving force behind his campaign. Brock is on the Affordable Care Act, which has allowed his family to have a health insurance plan that suits them for the first time in many years due to a pre-existing condition he has.
Brock currently lives in Virginia Beach with his wife and two teenagers in the home his parents raised him in.
“I’ve been here all of my life.”
What are your qualifications for the office?
I’ve had personal interactions with people from all walks of life, both in my career now as a systems administrator in health care from my previous career as a high-end restaurant manager. I think my communication skills and ability to produce positive outcomes through that communication are paramount to the job. Recently, I started a political action committee called Progressive House Virginia where our mission was to make sure we had a good progressive candidate in every delegate district across the Commonwealth. As the organizer, I found it was very important to lead that effort from the front and walk the walk.
In your opinion, what’s the biggest problem facing Virginia Beach? How will you address that problem?
Health care is clearly on the forefront of everyone’s mind, and the way that I would address that, coming right out of the gate, would be to join with the other members of the Democratic caucus in pushing Medicaid expansion as quickly as possibly.
What specific plans do you have concerning education?
I think that public education is really something that has maintained as a number one issue over time. The solution there is simple; let’s keep public money in public schools. I think we need to do a statewide audit to determine the level of systemic racism within the public school system. I think that we’re having a lot of problems with the wealthy neighborhood schools getting the lion’s share of the money and the poorer schools are left to fend for themselves. There is a disparity there and we need to solve that in a way that is productive and in a way that gives all students the ability to get an education regardless of their race, their gender identity and the neighborhood they grew up in.
What is the top transportation issue impacting the city? What do you propose to fix it?
There’s a lack of attention paid to southeastern Hampton Roads in general by the transportation committee. There have been several attempts at getting a study done to identify issues and they are continuously beaten down. These public-private partnerships that have been entered into between the state or city and the private entities where the public taxpayer is picking up all the bills and the private entities are collecting all the revenues, that is a huge problem. There are general traffic pattern issues, and public transportation has been wholly ignored. It’s been a necessity since I was a child and it has never materialized.
How can the city address and fund developing stormwater issues?
Drainage issues are key to this. Hampton Roads Sanitation District has been really working hard to come up with some solutions as to what to do with all that runoff. I’m a huge fan of their SWIFT program, where they’re attempting to collect that runoff, filter it, purify it and reinjecting it back into the aquifer that sits right in Western Chesapeake. I’m in full support of that program. I think it looks like something that can deal with a lot of environmental issues, specifically in those sections where the aquifer has been depleted.
What other issues are most important to you?
I think something that’s important to all of us is social equality. When I’m talking about social equality, I’m talking about issues that are specific to women. Specifically, issues like Planned Parenthood closings and the potential of women not being able to select their own health care providers and the ability to make personal choices about their pregnancies.
Also, issues that pertain to the LGBTQ community. We need to make sure we are not passing any kind of laws that are discriminatory in nature that doesn’t even allow for discrimination. Most importantly, we need to focus on a lot of racial equality. The 21st district is one of most diverse districts in entire Commonwealth. We’ve got a very good mix of racial makeup. We all need to come together and have these discussions about things like community policing and making sure that police are from the communities they are policing so we can build trust in these neighborhoods. Doing things like creating economic empowerment zones in communities that need it so we’re building stronger communities and protecting families that need it as opposed to what we’ve been doing for last several years which is shoring up already successful businesses under the promise of new jobs that never materialize.
How will you serve your district differently than Del. Villanueva?
Well, I think that I can focus on things that are little bit higher priority. When Ron Villanueva took office he came in and actually looked like a pretty good moderate. He looked like somebody that I could relate to on some levels. He promised some things like environmental protection bills that he actually did get through, but then when it came down to implementing these things, he obstructed them and voted against them. I’d put our priorities in order and make sure keeping public money in public school and dealing with the fact that there are 2,500 individuals in the district who have been completely priced out of health care insurance. I’ll make sure we follow through on environmental issues and ensure that we can take care of working families and protect the rights of union members to collectively bargain. I want to make sure that living wages are the standard, not exception. Those are just a few of the things I would start focusing on right out of the gate.
To read more about Brock, visit his campaign site.
Del. Villanueva’s office did not respond to an interview request.