Vowing A Better Virginia
Lt. Governor Hopeful Chopra Visits Valley
Posted: February 14, 2013
HARRISONBURG — Democrat Aneesh Chopra has identified the challenge that awaits him if he is successful in becoming Virginia’s next lieutenant governor.
Making his first campaign stop in the city Wednesday, the nation’s first chief technology officer said the commonwealth’s government must become “faster, better, smarter and fairer” instead of the “late-night comedy show feature of the week.”
In other words, Chopra thinks a lot can be improved upon from the last few years under Republicans Gov. Bob McDonnell and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling.
“We can’t take business as usual,” he said.
Chopra, 40, spoke at Beyond Restaurant & Lounge in downtown Harrisonburg. President Barack Obama appointed him as chief technology officer, a post he held from April 2009 to February 2012.
Chopra, who lives in Arlington, was Virginia’s technology secretary before then. He is now a senior adviser to the Advisory Board Co., a global technology, research and consulting firm.
Chopra is one of two Democrats seeking the party nomination to succeed Bolling in November’s election. Sen. Ralph Northam, D-Norfolk, is his rival.
Bolling is not seeking re-election to a third four-year term and may run as an independent for governor.
Republicans have a cluster of seven candidates for lieutenant governor: Del. Scott Lingamfelter, R-Prince William; former state Sen. Jeannemarie Devolites Davis of Fairfax; Sen. Stephen Martin, R-Chesterfield; Corey Stewart, chairman of the Prince William Board of Supervisors; Chesapeake minister E.W. Jackson; Susan Stimpson, chairwoman of the Stafford County Board of Supervisors; and Pete Snyder, a Fairfax County entrepreneur.
The lieutenant governor’s most visible role is presiding over the Senate, which through 2015 is split with 20 Republicans and 20 Democrats. That scenario has given Bolling the tie-breaking vote in some situations, which Chopra said the lieutenant governor has used to reflect values that do not represent Virginia.
Those include a vote last week to require a photo ID at the polls, which Chopra argues discriminates against minorities.
Both Republican candidates for attorney general — Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, and Del. Rob Bell, R-Albemarle — filed bills to require the photo ID.
The General Assembly also has made Virginia fodder for late-night comics, he said. The most recent example — a Republican redistricting plan proposed on the day of Obama’s inauguration to his second term, when one Democratic senator was gone — was laughed off by Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert.
The House of Delegates, where Republicans hold a majority, killed the plan last week.
Chopra said he can do better by “bringing people together,” which includes a more innovative K-12 education system and more diversification of the economy.
By 2020, Virginia needs more college graduates and an economic system “flourishing” with businesses that have not yet started, he said. Chopra thinks SRI Shenandoah Valley, a pharmaceutical research institute that is a subsidiary of SRI International in California, is a “game changer” for the area in leading to startup businesses.
Chopra served under Democrat Gov. Tim Kaine, now a U.S. senator, when SRI came to the area, just north of Harrisonburg.
“We can do a better job nurturing future companies,” he said.
Voters will choose a Democratic nominee for statewide offices during a primary election June 11. The Republican nominee will be selected at a party-run convention in Richmond on May 18.
Depending on Bolling’s decision to run, the winner in November’s general election will likely serve under either Democratic businessman Terry McAuliffe or Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, the two candidates for governor so far.
McAuliffe will be in downtown Harrisonburg this afternoon visiting local businesses.
Contact Preston Knight at 574-6272 or email@example.com