RICHMOND, Va. — The balance of power is at stake with the election this coming Tuesday. Virginia Republicans have held just a few more seats in the state senate compared to Democrats in recent years.
One race that’s getting a lot of attention is the 10th Senate District, which encompasses parts of Richmond, Chesterfield County and all of Powhatan County.
On the ballot is the Republican Incumbent Glen Sturtevant and Democrat Ghazala Hashmi.
Many people who watch television in Central Virginia may know this race because of the campaign and attack ads in every commercial break.
According to the Virginia Public Access Project, these candidates have spent more than $2 million on media. This is the second-highest amount of money spent on media for a race in these state elections.
Sturtevant’s platform portrays him as an independent voice in the General Assembly. Before getting elected to the state Senate in 2015, he sat on Richmond’s school board.
“I’m going do what I think is right regardless of what party leadership says,” Sen. Sturtevant said in a one-on-one interview with Capitol Bureau Reporter Sara McCloskey.
Sturtevant has campaigned heavily on boosting education spending. His wife is also a teacher so he says he sees a different perspective on the issue.
During the 2020 General Assembly session, lawmakers will be working on the state budget. One of Sturtevant’s priorities is lowering healthcare costs. In the Senate this year, he sponsored a bill to get rid of “surprising billing” at hospitals after seeing what happened to his mom.
The senator says he’s received numerous calls about the same problems facing residents.
“We’ve had to get involved and negotiate on behalf of constituents with the health insurance companies,” he added.
Sturtevant also supported calls to pass the Equal Rights Amendment and Extreme Risk Protection Orders, also known as red flag laws.
Democrat Ghazala Hashmi is running against the incumbent. This is her first run at the political office and if she were elected, Hashmi would be the first Muslim woman in the state senate.
2019 is the 50th anniversary of Hashmi moving to America from India.
“I didn’t even speak English when I arrived here. So I actually learned how to speak English by watching ‘Gilligan’s Island’.”
One of the people who pushed Hashmi to get an education was her grandmother, who only received up to a 3rd-grade education in India.
She was the first woman in her family to get a Ph.D. and has organized leadership programs for women too.
After decades of working in the Virginia community college system, Hashmi recently left her job to campaign full time. Education is the main issue she is focused on. One topic, in particular, is funding for universal pre-k programs, which is supported by Gov. Ralph Northam.
“We know from research that young children when they are given an effective start in a quality pre-k program are able to get off to their education in a wonderful manner,” she explained.
Some are critical of Hashmi because she still accepted a $25,000 campaign donation from Gov. Northam after she initially called on him to resign amid the blackface scandal in February. Hashmi says voters aren’t focused on the scandal and talk to her more about issues like “gun safety” and education.
The candidate says the “top priority for Democrats is to have a majority.”
“We know that our governor’s priority is to support and elect Democrats and so we are working collectively towards that,” Hashmi said.
The sitting senator has also received backlash for not supporting Medicaid expansion when it was passed by the General Assembly in 2018. He campaigned against it when running initially to represent the district four years ago.
“We have expanded Medicaid and it’s the law of the land and it’s not going anywhere,” Sturtevant said. “My concern was the fiscal concern of ensuring that we were not hurting other people to pay for this.”
All 140 seats in the General Assembly will be determined on Tuesday, Nov. 5. Polls open at 6 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. If you are in line at 7 p.m., you will be able to vote.