Analyst to farmers: Emphasize to legislators the economic importance of Va. agriculture

BobHolsworthWith Democrats in control of Virginia’s government for the first time in a quarter of a century, political analyst Dr. Robert Holsworth told farmers they need to educate legislators about the importance of agriculture.

“The education of legislators is going to a be a critical issue both during the General Assembly session and outside of it,” Holsworth said Dec. 4 at the 2019 Virginia Farm Bureau Federation Annual Meeting in Norfolk. “You need to impress upon them the absolute economic contributions that agriculture makes to Virginia.”

Holsworth is a managing partner of DecideSmart LLC and team lead for higher education and civic engagement projects. He is former director of the Center for Public Policy and the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University and served as executive director of the Governor’s Commission on Efficiency and Effectiveness.

Forty years ago, he noted, half of Virginia voters were Democrats and half were Republicans, and the parties were mixed around the state. Today, he said, the majority of Republicans live in rural areas.

Urban Virginia voters skewed Democrat 40 years ago, and today they are even more so, Holsworth said. He added that, until the mid-‘90s, most suburban voters were Republicans. Today, the “politics of the suburbs have moved significantly,” he said, with most suburban voters identifying as Democrats.

This switch occurred due to changing demographics and what Holsworth called the “negative Trump effect,” in which the president’s messages didn’t resonate with urban voters like they did with rural ones. The results of last month’s Virginia elections mirrored those changes, he said.

Speculating on legislation that could be introduced in the 2020 General Assembly, Holsworth listed “some things you can take to the bank.”

Democratic legislators, he predicted, will implement “a whole list of gun control and gun safety” laws, enact environmental legislation and propose bills related to voting rights. He also said they may introduce legislation to approve in-state tuition for children of immigrants who are under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, as well as higher salaries for public school teachers.

“It’s a sea of change that’s occurred, and it’s very important for everyone to get involved,” he concluded.

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