Published 6:18 pm Tuesday, September 28, 2021
Emily Brewer and Michael Drewry are running for the 64th District seat in the Virginia House of Delegates.
On Sept. 1, The Smithfield Times emailed Republican incumbent Del. Emily Brewer the same questions sent to her opponent and has repeatedly tried to contact Brewer and her campaign throughout the month, but as of Tuesday morning had not received a response.
In the interest of full disclosure, our thorough attempts to reach her are documented here. The Times re-sent the questions to her campaign email, firstname.lastname@example.org, and her House of Delegates address, email@example.com, on Sept. 8, and left phone messages at her Richmond and Smithfield offices. The Times also called Brewer’s cellphone but was not given the option to leave a message. Editor Tracy Agnew stopped by Brewer’s business in Suffolk that same day and left word with her employees about the questionnaire and impending deadline.
Reporter Stephen Faleski sent a text message to Brewer’s cell phone Sept. 15, re-sent the questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org on Sept. 16, once again called her state and local offices and messaged her campaign Facebook page. On Sept. 18, Faleski left contact info with her representatives at her booth at the 2021 Isle of Wight County Fair.
Michael Drewry’s answers:
- Can you briefly summarize why you decided to run for the 64th District seat?
The 64th District is predominately a rural district with two urban centers. These rural districts are often ignored by politics in higher populated urban areas in our state. I believe it is leading many rural voters to feeling not valued, which leads to political division in our communities. In my local elected position, I have seen what can be accomplished when people work together. I want to bring less division to the 64th District and assist the community in solving many of the issues that are not currently being addressed.
- Who is your political role model? Why?
I grew up in a time when honesty, ethics and treating others with kindness was taught as the golden rule for being a good citizen. I value elected officials that still follow this standard. Since being elected to the Surry County Board of Supervisors, I met a county citizen who I considered a mentor to me. He passed away on July 23, 2021 and I will miss his guidance. His name is Thomas S. Hardy. He told me of times when life was not kind to him. He shared stories of his concern and the efforts it took to make changes in Surry County for the educational betterment for all children. Along with his wife, Gladys, the Hardy family and other citizens too numerous to mention in this brief article, they endured and made permanent change in the community. In spite of tough times, he kept his kindness towards others and shared this kindness with me. I visited him about two weeks prior to his passing. He told me: “Mike, continue your efforts to bring people together. It is time for unity”. Thomas Hardy is my political role model and I will always remember his final words and advice to me.
- What is one issue where you disagree with your political party’s national stance? Why?
I believe that national political party politics which I will call “Tribal Politics” should stay in Washington and not enter into the discussions when attempting to solve local issues. The 64th District consists of four localities and approximately 79,000 citizens. If we allow Tribal Politics to divide us, we will not have the power to enact needed change. I believe permanent change can only occur through community efforts. I disagree with bringing party rhetoric to the local level. It is divisive and a path to failure.
- What’s your position on a bill that stalled earlier this year, which would have allowed golf carts to travel on roads in the town limits of Smithfield with speed limits up to 35 miles per hour?
As a local government attorney, I am very familiar with Va. Code Title 46.2, Article 13.1 that deals with the operation of golf carts and utility vehicles on public highways. I have assisted other localities and residential communities with enacting golf cart ordinances for their residents. I am also familiar with the current restrictions concerning golf carts in the Va. Code. If elected, I would hold community meetings in Smithfield to discuss the issue and consensus on how the community citizens desire it be addressed in the upcoming legislative session.
- Does Virginia need stronger measures to control the spread of COVID-19 and the more contagious delta variant? If so, what should those measures include? Or are the current measures in place infringing on people’s rights?
As a livestock farmer, I know how hard it is to contain viruses in my hog and cattle herds. I know the measures that I have to take to contain disease and I follow the advice of veterinarians when needed. With COVID, I personally also follow the advice of my medical doctors. I believe in people’s rights but also believe that we infringe on our neighbor’s rights when we do not consider them in our personal decisions that impact others.
- Last year, the General Assembly enacted a number of new gun laws. One allowed – but didn’t require – localities to ban guns in government buildings, parks and at public events with limited exceptions. Others included reinstating Virginia’s one-handgun-purchase-a-month ordinance, requiring background checks on all gun sales, increasing the penalty for leaving firearms in the presence of children and a “red flag” law that permits extreme risk protective orders where police can temporarily confiscate firearms from people deemed a danger to themselves or others. Where do you stand on these measures?
My present style of being an elected official is to truly represent all my constituents by holding community meetings to discuss the issues and gain consensus on how an issue should be handled. When holding these meetings, I ask that politics be left at the door, and we all come together with our divergent opinions to decide what is best for our community. It has worked in my present district and I will continue this practice in the 64th if elected. My personal opinion does not matter as I am only one citizen, but I will briefly state it here. As a farm kid who grew up hunting, I am okay with the individual freedom to own guns. However, I would like to find a way to keep guns out of the hands of ill people who shot our citizens at schools, churches, etc.
- During the 2021 session, the state Senate voted 31-8 on a bill that would have added Isle of Wight County to the list of localities permitted to raise their sales tax by 1% for the purpose of funding school construction projects, but the bill stalled in a House of Delegates finance subcommittee. What is your position on the sales tax option in lieu of the county’s plans to enact a 4-cent real estate tax increase to pay for replacing Hardy and Westside elementary schools?
As I have stated, I believe strongly in holding community meetings to gain the insight and consensus on how a majority of the citizens want an issue handled. If elected, I would hold such meetings for Isle of Wight citizens and elected officials and handle the matter in accordance with local consensus.
- Last year, the General Assembly enacted a law requiring local school boards to adopt transgender-inclusive policies pertaining to the use of bathrooms and locker rooms, student privacy, bullying and harassment, sex-based dress codes and sex-specific school activities that were “consistent with” or “more comprehensive than” a series of model policies developed by the Virginia Department of Education. Per the VDOE guidance, schools should not “out” transgender students to their parents and teachers should address students using their preferred names and pronouns. A number of parents and school boards have taken issue with the law. What’s your take on it?
My personal opinion is that I believe in personal equality and freedom for all of us, as long as we do not harm others or take away their personal freedoms. However, I am not representing the district of Michael Drewry. If elected, I will be representing all the citizens of the 64th District. If this is an important topic for citizens, it would be discussed in community meetings to gain consensus as to how it should be handled.
- During the 2021 session, the General Assembly added a “cultural competency” performance standard to teacher, principal and superintendent evaluations, with the Virginia Department of Education defining the term as demonstrating “a commitment to equity.” The VDOE further defines “equity” in education to mean “eliminating the predictability of student outcomes based on race, gender, zip code, ability, socioeconomic status or language spoken at home. Will an equity focus help schools lessen their demographic disparities in student performance, or is this focus on equity and race relations “divisive” as some parents have claimed?
I personally enjoy continually learning about cultures different from my own. There are different cultural differences between nationalities, race, religions and even between husbands and wives. I think all of us married folks have experienced such. I also believe in providing equal opportunities for all people and protecting the rights of all people. I believe it is the only way we can economically prosper as a society. How we as a society achieve these goals is a conversation for our community. If elected, I will represent all citizens in the 64th and follow consensus in such representation. If I disagree personally… I will lecture you!
- At present, there are several thousand Afghan refugees at Fort Lee at the western edge of the 64th District. Do you hope they will stay in Virginia? If so, what can Virginia’s General Assembly do for them?
I am currently involved in politics as an elected official because I am very empathetic for the well being of others. I get great pleasure out of seeing other people succeed and living a happy life. I hope that the citizens of Virginia will assist the Afghan refugees with donated personal items they need and our government will assist them in finding communities in which they will feel at home.