Amy Laufer is a candidate for the 55th District seat in the Virginia House of Delegates.
She was an elementary school teacher and was elected to the Charlottesville School Board in 2011. She chaired the board from 2012 to 2016. Laufer ran for state Senate in 2019 but lost.
Ahead of the Democratic primary on Tuesday, Laufer sat down with The Daily Progress to discuss her plans for the district and the state.
The interview has been edited for concision and clarity.
You and your opponent both define yourselves as progressive Democrats. Where do you think you differ on policy?
I think the biggest difference really is our experience and my track record of getting involved locally. For the past 20 years, I’ve been a teacher on the school board. I’ve been appointed to different commissions locally and on the state level and have volunteered in a lot of organizations. I think that is the biggest difference. And I would say consistency on policy.
When you say consistency on policy, are you referring to anything in particular?
Well, I’ve started a women’s organization called Virginia’s List to support Democratic pro-choice women get into office. I’ve been part of the National Organization for Women. I definitely champion abortion rights and the Equal Rights Amendment.
Do you question whether or not your opponent is fully pro-abortion or will make pro-abortion votes if elected?
I don’t think that’s up to me to question. The statements he’s had in the past are his direct quotes from his website and multiple other documents. And I’ve basically dedicated and been consistent about my issues. Starting a women’s organization, being part of Moms Demand Action for a long time, and actually as a chair of the school board, implementing the Moms Demand Action SMART curriculum.
I spent a lot of my adult life championing Democratic values on every level that I could.
If elected, what’s going to be your top priority?
The four issues I’m hearing when I knock on doors are women’s rights, public education, gun violence prevention and the climate crisis. And those would be issues that I would want to take on right away.
And I would also like to work really in depth in the disability sector, because I’ve been on the commission for about four years now. And knocking these doors for literally a decade, we have a lot more senior members in our community that want to age in place, and the Disability Commission and aging in place could dovetail really nicely together.
What’s your plan to get those things done if you enter the House without a Democratic majority?
Certainly on the Disability Commission, that is a bipartisan commission. So I have been working with Republicans on issues, and I think there are places that we can find common ground, especially in the disability community.
Those issues as well as climate crisis issues. Just the affordability alone. I think Republicans are starting to realize that we have to be doing mitigation and resiliency policies.
This race has made national headlines, and people within the Democratic Party have expressed disappointment in how both of the campaigns are being directed. Do you think if you get to Richmond, the mud that’s been slung from both campaigns in this race will make it harder to work with Democrats and Republicans?
I feel very confident about my ability to work with both the Democrats and Republicans. I know a lot of these people through a lot of different ways, like helping their own campaigns and advocating for issues that I care about. Picking up the phone with most of them and a lot of them have actually reached out to me, so I feel confident I’ll be able to do that.
Do you think the campaigns themselves have become a distraction from the policies each campaign is trying to push?
I have certainly stayed focused on the people of the 55th and door knocking. I just found out from the caucus that I’m the number one candidate that has knocked on the number one amount of doors myself. So my focus has stayed on talking to the people and meeting them where they’re at. This is the number one issue that they’re talking about. It’s been obviously something I’ve been working on for many years and I will continue to work on as a delegate.
Regarding education in the 55th District, what will be your top priority? What needs to be championed more than anything else?
First of all, the attacks on history. The new curriculum is redone every seven years. It is a very streamlined process. They hire experts years in advance to actually create the curriculum, and then it’s gone over. There’s public comment time and then it is accepted by the Board of Education.
What we saw with the governor is that he replaced many of the people on the Board of Education with his own people, which usually doesn’t happen. They did not accept the new history curriculum. He’s starting to take away that fascism was a part of World War II or say that there is only a pro-life movement. He’s trying to do this whole thing about our own history in Virginia. So I think people are really nervous that this administration is going to take us backwards rather than forward.
The other issue we’re hearing a lot about is that the governor’s administration is targeting transgender children. This is one of the most vulnerable populations we have at schools. Actually as the chair of the school board in the city, I implemented the Equality Virginia nondiscrimination policy. At the time, that was one of only two communities that actually implemented their nondiscrimination policy. So I think protecting our most vulnerable children is something that people are really worried about.
The other thing is that the governor’s sales tax, he’s going to mail everybody a check and cost the public schools $200 million. There’s about 139 communities in the state, and they each have their own school division, and the more rural population usually needs that state money. Everyone does, but most localities actually fund above and beyond what the state gives you. This is a real problem in terms of how are we going to fund the teachers.
The other thing I think people are really concerned about is book banning. Spotsylvania actually was a community that I ran for in the state Senate, so I’m well familiar with folks out there. In fact, I used to train women to run for school board and one of them is on the school board now.
Your opponent told us that he’s concerned people have stopped talking about the opioid crisis. What would you like to add to that conversation?
In the summer, I met with the Charlottesville-Albemarle Rescue Squad to talk about Narcan and the fact there is less and less available to purchase and that fentanyl has gotten more dangerous so they actually need multiple doses of Narcan. I made a whole video about it and what average citizens can do about administering Narcan and being aware of it.
I know that statewide we’ve seen an increase of about 40% deaths.
A suit against fentanyl producers has brought abatement money to the state. I think Albemarle County is eligible for $1 million, Louisa is eligible for $3 million and Nelson County I think was about $700,000.
It’s going to be up to the communities what they can do with the money to service their own members.
You’ve mentioned your experience a number of times as a distinguishing factor between you and your opponent. But both of you would be freshmen members of the House if elected, so wouldn’t there be a learning curve for both of you?
I think there will be a learning curve, obviously. But I’ve already been on the Disability Commission for about four years. I go to Richmond regularly to advocate on behalf of a lot of different organizations. I developed a lot of relationships with elected officials, both from Virginia’s List but also from my run for the state Senate.