State Sen. Creigh Deeds and Del. Sally Hudson spoke Wednesday afternoon to about 70 attendees at a General Assembly update sponsored by the Senior Statesmen of Virginia. A pair of current state legislators who find themselves competing for the Democratic nomination for a new State Senate district, the two agreed on reproductive rights and emphasized the need to rein in Dominion, the state’s largest electric utility.
The company was the target of the “Affordable Energy Act,” a bipartisan regulatory measure enacted by the General Assembly this year. Deeds was first to name that act as a legislative accomplishment, while Hudson then amped up the Dominion criticism.
“They’re the single largest donor to both parties,” said Hudson. “And it’s an obviously corrupt conflict of interest to have a state-regulated monopoly, that customers have no choice whether or not to pay their monthly power bill to, donating to campaigns.”
Hudson went on to note that nothing bars Virginia legislators from personally owning Dominion stock.
“So they’re not just lining their campaign coffers, they’re lining their personal pockets with money that is collected from power bills,” said Hudson, who credited Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin for playing a crucial role in passing that new law.
“He’s the first outsider governor that we’ve had in Virginia politics in some time, somebody who didn’t come up through the inside lane of either the Democratic or the Republican Party,” said Hudson. “New blood in Richmond and competitive elections have completely changed the conversation around utility regulation.”
In response to an audience member’s question about a carbon-trading program, both Deeds and Hudson noted that they expect the governor to try to pull the Virginia out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a multi-state compact that lets firms pay the state for the right to discharge pollutants.
“I think until we get full control of the General Assembly again and a Democratic governor we will be having these fights,” said Deeds.
“We just need to go with what the senator said, which is that we entered RGGI by law,” said Hudson. “Our position is that we can only leave RGGI by law.”
Attendee Lisa Hilgartner, who asked that question, complimented both legislators.
“They were well informed and up-to-date and really well prepared,” she told the Daily Progress after the event.
Dan Gallik, however, told the Progress that he found Deeds too interested in obtaining a Democratic majority.
“He seems to be more about power than getting things done,” said Gallik, who also expressed some fiscal conservatism that he found wanting in both contenders.
“They don’t know about controlling costs and cutting costs,” he said. “Neither one has ever worked in a management position in industry.”
Deeds and Hudson now reside in the new 11th Senate District recently created by court order to undo decades of gerrymandering. The terrain includes the City of Charlottesville plus the counties of Albemarle, Nelson, Amherst, and the western part of Louisa. Deeds, a lawyer, currently represents the Senate’s 25th District while Hudson, a University of Virginia economics professor, serves the House’s 57th District. The two will face off in the Democratic primary on June 20, and the winner will likely face opposition from Republican Philip Andrew Hamilton, owner of a legal services firm, in the general election on Nov. 7.
What was missing from the Rotunda Room at Westminster-Canterbury of the Blue Ridge on Wednesday were area Republican legislators. Event moderator Bob Beard, a retired newsman from CBS19, said that Del. Rob Bell of the 58th District, Del. Chris Runion of the 25th District, Sen. Emmett Hanger of the 24th District and Del. Matthew Fariss of the 59th District had been invited.
“A lot of folks, as you know, are not running for re-election and they decided not to show up,” Beard said.
“It’s very telling that we’re the only ones here,” added Hudson.
Messages left for the absent lawmakers were not immediately returned Wednesday. Requests for comment to Dominion on Wednesday afternoon were not answered by deadline.