Democratic challenger for the House of Delegates 33rd District Paul Siker told some of the leading figures in rural preservation about his ideas for protecting that way of life during a meet-and-greet hosted by former Planning Commission chairman Al Van Huyck on Saturday evening.
During the Sept. 18 event, Siker said although the vision for Loudoun County is set out by the county board’s comprehensive plan, state lawmakers in Richmond can make sure there are tools in mechanisms in place to support conservation.
“My hope would be that in getting to office, I can work closely with county representatives to try and sort out what tools they may need, or where there are legislative gaps that would be potentially appropriate to fill, to assure that we have the mechanisms that can help to keep rural Loudoun rural,” Siker said.
Beyond conservation easements or Purchase of Development Rights programs, two topics that have been often discussed in Loudoun, Siker said there could be other options like tax abatements to incentivize people to keep green space green.
He pointed to his professional experience in helping large organizations hire executives, and his service on the boards of the Community Foundation for Loudoun and Northern Fauquier Counties and the Loudoun Abused Women’s Shelter.
Siker said he decided to run after watching the growing political divide.
“As 2020 unfolded and I witnessed, as did all of you, the real contentious political environment that we were living in, I began to wonder if maybe I could do something to make a difference,” Siker said. “And as the year unfolded to its completion, and we found ourselves in January confronting that momentous day, Jan. 6, like all of you, I was shocked, surprised, stunned, incredibly dismayed, incredibly disappointed. And that became a tipping point for me, particularly when I realized that my challenger not only promoted that event, but participated.”
He also attacked the incumbent, Del. Dave LaRock (R-33), for opposition to COVID-19 vaccinations and on having one of the weakest records for passing bills in the General Assembly. Particularly since 2020, when Democrats took control of both houses, while most legislators of both parties get some bills through, LaRock has introduced 50 bills—setting aside ceremonial resolutions—and seen none of them pass. Of 140 legislators in the General Assembly, in the 2021 regular session LaRock was one of only 13 legislators to pass no bills, and in 2020 one of only seven.
Those legislative “batting averages,” charted annually by the Virginia Public Access Project since 2018, have limits to their value—for example, they can favor a legislator who only introduces ceremonial or routine bills that they know will pass.
“We have a legislator who can’t get things done,” Siker said, who described himself as a “pragmatic centrist.”
“It frankly wouldn’t matter if I was a Democrat or Republican. I’ve always been someone these little more fiscally conservative, and a little more socially moderate,” Siker said. “And I tell people all the time, stack your values up against mine versus those of Dave LaRock, and I’m pretty sure you’re going to agree that we have more in common, because I want to treat people with respect, I want to treat people with decency, and fundamentally, I don’t care what your party is, I promise I will always lend you an open ear and an open mind.”
Siker acknowledged his campaign faces an uphill climb against a four-term incumbent.
“It’s an audacious challenge, but I really believe we can do it,” Siker said.
LaRock has posted commanding leads in electoral results. In 2019, LaRock, whose district covers northwestern Loudoun, northern Clarke County and northeastern Frederick County, won handily over his Democratic challenger, bringing in 56.8% of the vote to her 43.1%, a difference of nearly 14%.
“We’re getting traction and getting momentum. This district is incredibly gerrymandered. It means there a lot of people, they’re recognizing there is a much better choice than Dave LaRock,” Siker said.