The Collegian
Saturday, February 24, 2024

Vanvalkenburg wins popular vote for District 16

<p>Graphic design Helen Mei.&nbsp;</p>

Graphic design Helen Mei. 

Democrat Schuyler VanValkenburg, ‘04, defeated Republican Siobhan Dunnavant in the election for the Virginia Senate in the 16th District, by a margin of 53% to 47% of the popular vote.

The newly redrawn district, home to just over 150,000 voters in parts of Henrico County, has leaned Democrat by a considerable margin in every federal election since 2016. Despite this record, the race for the Senate seat was highly competitive this year. VanValkenburg raised a total of $5,069,960, while Dunnavant raised $5,104,711, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.

Both candidates focused on abortion policy, a key issue in this year’s election. In January, Gov. Youngkin supported a bill introduced that would restrict abortion access after 15 weeks with exceptions for rape, incest and health risks to the mother. This policy would be a change from the current state policy, which allows abortion access up to 26 weeks and six days, with exceptions past that date for health risks to the mother determined by a physician. A prior proposal of the 15-week policy was shut down by Senate Democrats in January, according to the Associated Press.

This proposal became a talking point in conversations about the potential for Republicans to flip the Senate after this election, which would likely increase the bill’s chance of passing into law.

Dunnavant supports policies that would restrict access to abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, with exceptions up to 24 weeks for rape, incest, a high chance of fetal abnormalities and life-threatening risk to the mother, according to her website. This policy would be a change from the current state policy. In contrast, VanValkenburg opposes additional restrictions on abortion rights according to his campaign manager, Rachel Rothman. VanValkenburg described proposed restrictions as “extremism” in a text message to The Washington Post.

VanValkenburg’s other campaign priorities included educational policies such as greater investment in public education and reducing the cost of higher education. He also supported stricter gun control policies, promising to consistently vote in favor of gun safety legislation if elected and to reintroduce his Safe Storage Bill, which “would hold gun owners accountable when a minor gains access to a firearm that is used to commit a crime or cause bodily injury to themselves or others,” according to his campaign website. He also supported legislation to increase campaign finance accountability and ensure that all workers in Virginia are paid what he refers to on his website as “a livable wage.”

Dunnavant focused on protecting parents’ rights in the classroom and the protection of charter and lab schools, stressing her support for mandatory notification for parents about sexually explicit curriculum in public schools. She also promoted the importance of rebuilding “the unified parent-teacher team,” according to her campaign website. She also highlighted mandating voter ID and promoting bipartisan cooperation.

Contact features editor Kelsey McCabe at kelsey.mccabe@richmond.edu. 

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