Wason Center hosts debate

David Yancey and Shelly Simonds debate each other in the Gaines Theater

The House of Delegates 94th District debate heated up the Gaines Theater stage at Christopher Newport University. Hosted by the Wason Center for Public Policy and the Virginia Peninsula Chamber of Commerce, incumbent Republican David Yancey and Democratic opponent Shelly Simonds debated over a width of topics and questions given by two moderators, from education funding, Medicaid and minimum wage, to women’s rights, gun safety and redistricting laws. 

The candidates were quick to critique each other’s stances and political history, and the crowd was interactive and eager to vocalize their reactions with boos and applause. 

Yancey, a local of Newport News, incumbent representative and a member of several House committees, is also a volunteer Rugby Coach at Newport News High School, a position he claims allows him to connect with the young generation, encourage them to continue their education and help them to achieve their goals with the questions “Where am I going?” and “How am I going to get there?” 

Aside from Newport News, Democrat Simonds has lived in several areas around the world, including Spain, Chile and Palo Alto, California. She is a mother of two, a former part-time teacher and a member of the School Board, a platform she uses to advocate for increases in teacher salaries and school funding. 

On the issue of Medicaid and affordable healthcare, a moderator asked Yancey why his political history indicated he now supported Medicaid after several years of consistently voting against it. Yancey responded that he believed the current administration during the time of his votes was failing to find a responsible way to expand Medicaid and that he was supportive of this expansion if under sensible guidelines. 

However, opponent Simonds responded by criticizing Yancey and claimed that it was irresponsible of him to “allow tax money” to fund other things instead of helping the citizens of Newport News; she promised that if elected, she would specifically focus on improving drug price affordability by putting price caps on prescription drugs. As the moderator moved on to questioning how the candidates plan on improving education in the district, Yancey was quick to fire back at Simonds by stating her role on the School Board was partially responsible for students low test scores and denounced her claim that she wished to raise teachers salaries while raises for school administrators were allowing them to buy luxury items such as BMW’s and harming taxpayers. 

As the debate came to a close, candidates gave their closing remarks and summarized their goals for the district if they were to become elected. Simonds promised to get gun safety bills out of committee, raise the minimum wage and pass the ERA, as well as repeal the Right to Work Statute, and she ensured that education would improve under her experience as a teacher. As for Yancey, he assured voters that his seniority and experience as a delegate would allow him to carry bills, claiming that Simond’s lack of experience would not get bills passed. His goals included creating new jobs for the community, improving transportation and education and ensuring the Right to Work Statute remained, as well as using his platform as a local and lifelong resident of the area to “fight for Newport News.” 

This was a major event politically and for the Newport News area. It was an honor for Christopher Newport University to be able to host this debate with the help of its very own Wason Center. It provided an opportunity for members of the community as well as members of the CNU community such as students and faculty to learn more about the candidates.

~Micaela Moran, Staff Writer~

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