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Northam campaigns for support in Halifax

SoVaNow.com / May 02, 2013
Virginia State Senator Ralph Northam, one of two Democrats running for Lieutenant Governor, campaigned in Halifax late Wednesday seeking votes in the June 11 primary.

Addressing a crowd of about 80 at Molasses Grill, Northam, a pediatric neurologist, told listeners of his early opposition to mining of uranium, and touched on numerous other issues as well. He represents the Virginia Beach area in the State Senate.

Northam is running for the Democratic nomination against Aneesh Chopra, a former Virginia Secretary of Technology and Arlington resident. The Democratic nominee will go on to compete in the Nov. 5 general election. Republicans will choose their nominee at a statewide convention May 17-18.

Northam noted yesterday in Halifax that he was among the first members of the General Assembly to oppose uranium mining, basing his stance on serious concerns about its effects on the environment and public health.

Northam, who grew up in a rural area, also addressed the need for quality education. Stressing his support for Pre-K opportunities for all children, he said that as a neurologist, he could attest to the importance for early learning.

The young brain, he added, is impressive in its capacity to learn. If a child is not reading by grade 3, that is one of the indicators that is used in planning for the number of jail cells that will be needed in the future, Northam pointed out.

He also stressed the need for broad vocational and career education opportunities, since not all people will seek college career paths.

Northam pointed out that other countries place a much greater emphasis on education than the U.S. “Virginia needs to step up to the plate and decide that its educational system is top notch,” he said.

Northam fielded questions about gun control, saying that while he has enjoyed hunting, he sees no purpose to military-style assault weapons. He advocates universal background checks for gun buyers. He also backs more help for mental health services: “There are a lot of troubled people we need to take care of,” he told listeners.

Northam also called the actions of this year’s legislature on women’s rights was terrible. “There is no excuse for a group of legislators, mostly men, to be telling women what they should do with their bodies. And they should not be intervening between a patient and her doctor.”

Northam said he was pleased with the legislature’s passage of a transportation bill, which, while not perfect, is a step in the right direction. But said he is worried about Virginia’s stance on Medicaid expansion, which would open up health care to some 350,000 to 400,000 people who otherwise have no health insurance, he said.

“When people don’t have health coverage, they go to the emergency room, which is the most expensive thing they can do.”

He also criticized moves by the GOP-dominated General Assembly to restrict voting access. Sitting on the Policy and Privileges Committee, he said he has seen no evidence of any widespread voter fraud which some have cited as the reason for stronger voting restrictions.

Northam asked his listeners to turn out to vote in the June 11 Democratic Primary. “I expect the turnout for that to be very low,” he said, “and every vote will count.”

Northam and his wife, Pam, an elementary school science teacher, have two children: a son in his third year at Eastern Virginia Medical School and a daughter who will graduate from the University of Virginia this month.

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