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Challenger emerges early for Wright’s House seat

SoVaNow.com / August 06, 2014
It is 18 months until the next election for members of the House of Delegates, but already 61st District Delegate Tommy Wright (R-Victoria) has an opponent, Greg Marston.

The 50-year-old Marston is retired from the engineering department of Norfolk Southern Railroad, where he worked for 31 years. For 24 of those years, he was also the legislative director of for the railway workers’ union, the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

Working with the legislature, Marston said, introduced him to politics and government, but it was the General Assembly’s response to Medicaid expansion in Virginia and watching the fight over former Gov. Bob McDonnell’s transportation bill that pushed him to run.

Working for the railroad has been a blessing, said Marston, who has had to endure two separate knee surgeries. The “high-quality” insurance provided by the Norfolk Southern covered the cost of both operations.

“But I know that many people in this state are not as lucky. There are far too many who are uninsured.” He had the chance to ask Del. Tommy Wright his position on Medicaid expansion in April, said Marston.

“When I asked Tommy how he could be against Medicaid expansion, Tommy looked at me, grinned and said, ‘’Let’s fix the budget first and then take care of Medicaid.’”

Marston said he was unhappy with the response and questioned the logic behind losing $5 million per day in federal money, which would be provided under the Affordable Care Act to health care providers if Virginia lawmakers had authorized Medicaid expansion.

“The budget was passed, but I don’t believe that this General Assembly will work on Medicaid when it returns to session,” Marston said, adding that he sees the expansion program as an “opportunity for Virginia to bring in new federal dollars for health care and provide critical health coverage for their low-income residents.”

Marston also expressed his displeasure with the General Assembly’s handling of former Gov. Bob McDonnell’s transportation bill, and noted that neither local State Senator Frank Ruff nor Wright voted in favor of the bill.

Having served two terms on the Rail Advisory Board — the board that is responsible for oversight of rail enhancement fund and established to prioritize projects involving the fund — and as someone who has lobbied the General Assembly on transportation matters, Marston said he was familiar with the manner in which the state funded secondary roads under the old formula. “Money was being pulled from secondary roads to fix primary roads. In this area, most of our roads are secondary, so we were not getting funds to upgrade or repair our roads. We have a lot of dirt and gravel roads here that need paving.”

He called the new funding formula for roads, “not perfect,” but said it is “still better than what we had before.”

Marston said he uses these examples as proof that the area’s current delegate is out of touch with his constituents.

A lifelong resident of the district, Marston was born in Victoria, and moved to Crewe when he was 12 years old. He graduated from Nottoway High School and a week later being working for Norfolk Southern Corporation.

With wife Lisa, a retired elementary school teacher, he raised two sons Lance and Ben. Lance, their eldest, graduated from Hampden-Sydney College with a Political Science degree in 2007. Ben followed his brother to Hampden-Sydney and came away with a major in history and a minor in Spanish in 2013.

While employed with Norfolk Southern, Marston said he “went to the State Capitol and worked with both Democrats and Republicans to try and better conditions for his fellow Virginians on the tracks.”

Now he says he hopes the people of the 61st District will “return him to the State Capitol, where he will again work with Democrats and Republicans to try and better conditions for all Virginians.”

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