Virginia’s 30th House of Delegates district is comprised of three counties – Orange, Madison, and most of Culpeper – and all three counties voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump. Their incumbent representative is Republican Nick Freitas, an Iraq War veteran. Mr. Freitas ran unopposed in both the Republican primary and the general election. Before him, the 30th was represented by Republican Ed Scott, who served the district from 2004 till his retirement in 2016.
The 30th is made up of large rural communities, the sort that helped propel Donald Trump from 5th Ave to Pennsylvania Ave. The 30th is as red as the day is long. The 30th shouldn’t be competitive in the slightest.
But the 30th can be flipped.
Samuel “Ben” Hixon is the Democratic challenger to Del. Freitas, and what’s more, he represents the possible future of the 30th. A self-styled progressive libertarian with a background in technology, the 35-year-old Mr. Hixon is never short on ideas.
Mr. Hixon supports the sort of ideas that would help his agricultural community today, like mobile abattoirs that would cut costs and allow small farmers to compete against large-scale operations. He also supports House Bill 619, the Virginia Food Freedom Act, which would allow dairy farmers to streamline the process of selling milk.
But it is his forward-thinking ideas that truly separate Mr. Hixon from the pack. The internet is a vital tool in today’s economy, and unfortunately, the 30th, like many rural communities, does not receive reliable high-speed internet at reasonable rates. In Madison County alone, “approximately 60% of students, seniors, job seekers, families, and home businesses… lack access to broadband Internet.” Improving rural broadband is a core belief of Mr. Hixon and a vital component to changing the economic landscape of the district.
Beyond improving internet access, Mr. Hixon is also proposing that “Virginia should be the first state in the nation to offer a two-year, full-time vocational degree dedicated exclusively to teaching students how to write computer code.” In addition, he also supports funding that would begin to teach coding and programming in high school.
He also proposes other common-sense ideas to improving the local economy, from instituting a $15 minimum wage for big businesses to legalizing marijuana to relaxing the restrictive laws surrounding the sale of alcohol.
Mr. Hixon’s ideas are so exhaustive and ambitious that you could be forgiven for believing he has a long background in politics. Far from it: Mr. Hixon interest in politics only began with this last presidential election, and only intensified when he learned that his representative, Del. Freitas, introduced House Bill 2025.
The bill would protect any faith-based organization from civil or criminal punishment for denying services to same-gender couples. It passed both chambers of the Virginia General Assembly but was ultimately vetoed by Gov. McAuliffe.
Mr. Hixon is a gay man, and reading about Del. Freitas bill and the possible impact it would have on his life, plus a growing sense of personal responsibility, compelled Mr. Hixon to challenge the otherwise unopposed incumbent.
So long as Republicans like Del. Freitas are in office, they will continue to pose a threat to same-gender couples in Virginia. HB 2025 wasn’t the first bill of its kind to be vetoed by Gov. McAuliffe. It wasn’t even the only anti-LGBTQ bill vetoed by the Governor on that day. SB 1324 was the Senate version of Freitas bill. And before those two bills ever existed, Gov. McAuliffe vetoed SB 41.
And with the margins between Ralph Northam and Ed Gillespie tightening in the gubernatorial race, counting on an LGBTQ-friendly governor to veto the zealously anti-gay agenda of the Republican Party after Gov. McAuliffe is gone is no sure bet.
The article began with foreboding facts, but let me end on a hopeful note. Historically, the 30th has been solidly red, but there are some numbers that suggest it may be ready for a change.
When looking at campaign contributions, Mr. Hixon has been able to raise more money from smaller donations than Del. Freitas. In the latest filing period between 10/01/2017 to 10/26/2017, Mr. Hixon was able to raise over $71,556 compared to his opponent, who raised $16,597. In the period before that, Mr. Hixon was able to raise $28,039 while Del. Freitas raised $12,998. In fact, since entering the race, Ben Hixon has outraised Del. Freitas every filing period. He is one of the few Democratic candidates in the House of Delegates races to receive more donations than his GOP rival.
Suspecting that many of Mr. Hixon’s contributions were coming from out-of-county or even out-of-state, I went over each file in their given period and discovered that, yes, Mr. Hixon did receive many donations from other counties in Virginia and some from out-of-state, but most of his contributions were from potential constituents, and their numbers exceeded that of Del. Freitas.
What all this suggests is that there is real momentum behind Mr. Hixon. He is a thoughtful and energetic candidate, which may be enough to change the 30th from red to blue.