Second-term state delegate John J. Bell (D-87) has announced he will run to unseat Richard H. Black (R-13) in the Virginia senate in 2019.
Bell, of South Riding, said Black does not represent the changing district, one of the fastest-growing in Virginia.
“Number one is focusing on the 13th district and the needs of the families and people who live and work there,” Bell said. “Senator Black has focused on Syria and many issue that have nothing to do with the 13th District.”
He said his campaign will seek to differentiate him from Black, one of the state legislature’s most conservative members. Black is known for stirring controversy with his opposition to same-sex marriage, abortion—once handing out plastic fetus dolls to legislators—and his vocal support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is accused by American and international agencies of human rights abuses and war crimes during his time in power.
“The straw that broke the camel’s back for me was his 24-minute speech on Syria when we were having a very crucial special session on passing Medicaid expansion,” Bell said.
In the press release announcing his campaign, Bell specifically cited “keeping children safe in schools, protecting reproductive choices for women and finding cost-effective transportation solutions, not someone who uses his platform to propagate an extremist agenda.”
In particular he has advocated for years a partial buyback of the Dulles Greenway, something he continues to push. He said that will give the state a seat at the table and a way around the “bad deal” the state struck with the Greenway, which gives the State Corporation Commission little authority to deny toll increases on the Greenway.
“As a partner and really a half owner, we could force distance-based pricing,” Bell said, along with lower tolls in part due to the state taking over the cost of patrolling and clearing the road. Currently the Greenway pays the state police to patrol the road and hires private companies to clear it during bad weather.
Bell also mentioned a number of gun law reforms, such as making it a crime to leave a loaded gun unattended at home.
“We have to tackle this one from a 360-degree perspective,” Bell said.
Bell joins a race that, like many since the election of President Donald J. Trump, is crowded with Democrats. The race has already seen formal announcements, filings, or fundraising from at least four other Democrats. He said he stands out as the only Democratic candidate in the race so far who has held elected office, and as a long-term resident of the area, having moved in when he retired from the U.S. Air Force in 2007.
He also begins his campaign with endorsements from 13 other local elected officials, including Loudoun Dels. Jennifer B. Boysko (D-86), Karrie K. Delaney (D-67), Kathleen Murphy (D-34), David A. Reid (D-32); and Sens. Barbara A. Favola (D-31) and Jennifer T. Wexton (D-33), who is seeking a seat in Congress.
“I am proud to endorse my friend and colleague Delegate John Bell in his campaign for the Virginia Senate,” Wexton stated. “Over the past five years, I have come to know John to be a tenacious candidate, and thoughtful legislator. After we flip the U.S. House from Red to Blue in November, all eyes will turn to Virginia as we fight to flip our State Senate in 2019. There is no doubt in my mind that John is the right candidate to lead that fight.”
Bell is a retired U.S. Air Force officer, serving from 1981 to 2007 as a finance officer and retiring as a major. He and his wife Margaret, a local realtor, have five children and three grandchildren.
The 13th Senate District covers the western half of Loudoun County and a portion of Prince William County. In 2011, Black, who had served in the House of Delegates since 1998, handily won the set over Democrat Shawn Mitchell. His 2015 re-election victory was narrower, as Democrat Jill McCabe came within 2,354 votes of a victory.