It will be Spider vs. Spider in a coming election for the House of Delegates.

University of Richmond faculty member Tom Shields will be running for the House of Delegates in November. He is running for a seat that has been held by Del. John M. O'Bannon III, R-Henrico, during the past eight years. O'Bannon graduated from Richmond in 1969.

Shields, a professor at Richmond and director of the Center for Leadership in Education at the Jepson School of Leadership Studies, confirmed on March 17 that he was running for delegate in the 73rd House district, which includes parts of Henrico County and Richmond City.

"The 73rd [district] is a very diverse district that is really starting to change," Shields said. "This drove me to start talking to neighbors and community members, who told me that a lot of issues weren't being addressed or even listened to."

O'Bannon, the only practicing physician in the House, has grown out of touch with the district, Shields said.

"John O'Bannon is a good guy and a good doctor, but he should stay a doctor," Shields said. "He views being a delegate as a hobby, and at the end of day we need someone that will give it their full time. In this economy, and in this district that is changing so much, you need more than that."

But O'Bannon lives in the Richmond area, and living in close proximity to the Capitol has allowed him to continue to practice medicine as well as be a delegate, he said.

"Our general assembly is based on diversity, and the House is represented by all types of occupations and professions," O'Bannon said. "I am the only active physician in the House and I bring health care and medical representation to it [House of Delegates]."

O'Bannon said he had voted with his conscience, but had always taken into account what his constituents wanted.

Shields has begun campaigning door-to-door, to meet with neighbors, members of the community and various committees and organizations, he said.

"Voters want someone that is listening to them," Shields said. "Most of the people that I have spoken to have never met O'Bannon and some don't even know that he is their delegate."

Shields has also gained a lot of support from Richmond students, he said. Some students have already signed up to help this summer and in the fall.

"It's cool that students want to get involved," Shields said. "They're helping me with Facebook stuff, since they know that kind of social networking a lot better than me and my campaign manager."

Junior Max Teschke worked with Shields on the University of Richmond Students for Obama campaign. When he heard Shields was running for delegate, he immediately contacted Shields and asked what he could do, Teschke said.

"Dr. Shields recognizes the real issues facing Virginians today," Teschke said, "especially with regards to improvements in education, jobs, housing, and healthcare.

"He cannot only teach leadership, but he can do leadership. Having had the privilege to know him personally from a variety of perspectives, I know he has both the temperance and the intelligence to be an excellent legislator."

Teschke will be campaigning with Shields until the end of the semester. When the campaign heats up in the fall, he plans to work with other students to mobilize the student effort, he said.

But there are also Richmond students helping with the O'Bannon campaign.

Senior Amy Saucier was a legislative intern for O'Bannon last year and will be working on his campaign team during the summer and fall. O'Bannon has been a great representative that listens to his constituents and always addresses to their needs, she said.

"He has continuously supported low taxes, creating jobs, and a strong education system," Saucier said. "This session he worked to protect homeowners and to continue to strengthen the economy. He continuously puts the needs of his constituents as a priority."

Shields and O'Bannon agreed that this would be a challenging election.

"We agree on a lot of issues," O'Bannon said. "So I think it will come down to who can get their name out to the voters and gain their trust."

Contact staff writer Nick Mider at nick.mider@richmond.edu

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