State Sen. Creigh Deeds and Del. Sally Hudson met on Monday at the University of Virginia for their first public forum, highlighting the many similarities — and the key differences — in the policies and personalities of the two Democrats.
The pair is running for the new 11th District seat in the General Assembly’s upper chamber.
Deeds currently serves in the 25th District in the Senate and Hudson serves the House of Delegates’ 57th District.
Once allies with a shared vision of what’s best for Charlottesville and Albemarle County, Deeds and Hudson are now political opponents charged with highlighting their differences before the Democratic primary on June 20 and general election on Nov. 7.
One of the key differences: seniority.
“The longer you’re there, the more seniority you have, and that improves your position on committees, improves your choice of committees, improves your ability to get things done,” Deeds, who has represented Charlottesville as part of his old district since 2001, told The Daily Progress on Tuesday. “Also as important are the relationships you establish with people and the longer you’re there the more of a chance you have to establish relationships with people on both sides of the isle in oth houses and I have that.”
Deeds noted that, before he assumed office, Charlottesville had not had a representative on the Senate Finance Committee since James Harry Michael Jr., who served on the committee until President Jimmy Carter appointed him to the bench in 1980.
As a co-chair of the Finance Committee and member of the Appropriations, Commerce and Labor, Rules and Privileges and Election committees, Deeds said it took nearly 20 years to make it into “the room where everything happens.” He said that he joined his first committee, the Labor Committee, after six or seven years in the Virginia Senate.
“The seniority enables me to have good committee assignments and to be chairman of a major committee. … I’m in a position to get even more done.”
But Hudson says “seniority privilege” is not the only way to “get good work done.”
Hudson assumed office in 2020 after she challenged Republican incumbent and former House Minority Leader David Toscano in the Democratic primary and won alongside 10 other Democrats who flipped the House in the 2019 election. She was reelected in 2021 with 77% of the vote against Republican Phillip Hamilton.
“We started making progress on a long list of overdue priorities that had been bottled up for ages, from reproductive rights to clean energy to gun safety,” Hudson said at Monday’s forum hosted by UVa’s Center for Politics and news outlet Charlottesville Tomorrow. “As the first woman to serve Charlottesville in the Virginia House, I’ve been a champion for abortion rights, I helped make Virginia the safe haven for abortion access that it is today.”
In 2021, the House and Senate passed another Hudson bill, one to end coal tax credits in order to support the coal industry and the economy in Southwest Virginia. That same year, the General Assembly voted in favor of legislation sponsored by Hudson to repeal a state law that prohibited the state’s health insurance plans from covering abortions.
During Monday’s forum, Hudson reminded the audience that she accomplished this legislative change as a freshman in the House.
“I was able to say that, as a freshman legislator, I was NARAL Virginia’s Legislator of the Year, because I pushed the conversation on an important piece of abortion access legislation that some more senior members weren’t ready to have. I would rather answer the question of my accomplishments with results.”
Hudson said the importance placed on seniority represents a clear difference not only between herself and Deeds, but between the House and the Senate.
“This is a great example of the difference between the House and the Senate,” Hudson said. “When I talk about why I think it’s important for us to start changing the Senate’s culture, the House is no longer a place that runs strictly on seniority. This year, we elected a Democratic leader for the House caucus, someone from my class, who has only been there for four years like me and we did it because he was the right guy for the job.”
Hudson said that, while she and Deeds are both Democrats in a deep-blue district, she does not believe they share the same vision.
During the forum, she claimed that, although Deeds has been on the side of many major gun safety bills, he has changed his position over time. While it is acceptable and somewhat admirable for elected officials to change their positions over time, it is strange that “he doesn’t want to talk about how he was one of the Democrats who crossed party lines,” she said.
In 2020, Deeds voted against a bill that would have banned the sale of assault-style weapons and the possession of high-capacity magazines. The bill died in the state Senate.
“She brings up the assault weapons bill that was introduced in 2020,” Deeds told The Daily Progress on Tuesday. “I voted against it because the definition was too broad. It wouldn’t have withstood constitutional scrutiny because it definitely had a takings issue. I thought it validated the Fifth Amendment from the Bill of Rights of the Constitution.”
Deeds and a group of lawmakers voted to send the bill to the Crown Commission for edits, but the bill died when the commission did not edit the bill to the group’s liking.
Last year, Deeds introduced a bill that would have strengthened gun laws on college campuses in the wake of the deadly Nov. 13 shooting at the University of Virginia.
Deeds authored the bill with assistance from the University of Virginia and the university’s police department as a direct response to the Nov. 13 shooting that killed student-athletes Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis Jr. and D’Sean Perry and injured two other students.
Republicans voted to kill the bill in February.
Hudson introduced a bill with the same language in the House that legislators killed the same day it was introduced.
Deeds and Hudson do agree that redistricting will make it easier to represent Charlottesville and Albemarle.
“I think the redistricting is going to be so good for this community, because we have been sliced and diced across so many districts for the last few years,” Hudson told The Daily Progress. “I think about how many meetings I’ve attended with the county board where Rob Bell, whose been the delegate from Albemarle, and I were the only ones who showed up.”
“I don’t know that there’s really a transition necessary,” Deeds said. “Charlottesville, Albemarle and Nelson are 62% of the people I represent right now. When you include the rest of Albemarle County, I’ve represented more than 80% of the territory in the last 20 years.”