Washington Post Endorses Dan Helmer and John Bell

With four days until the election, the Washington Post has weighed in on several of the crucial General Assembly races here in Northern Virginia. After calling out the “vitriolic” and “poisonous tone” resulting from the Republicans taking “a page from President Trump’s playbook of trafficking in fear, misinformation and demonization” while making its endorsements for the Fairfax County School Board last week, the Post has now endorsed Dan Helmer for the House of Delegates in the 40th District.

While announcing their endorsement, the Post highlighted how Tim Hugo’s opposed reasonable measures to curb gun violence, personally profited from campaign donations, and stood in the way of efforts to address traffic in Northern Virginia.

Mr. Hugo, who chairs the House GOP caucus, has systematically opposed exactly the sort of gun-safety measures that have broad support among Virginians, including requiring background checks for private firearms purchases. In the past, he also gained notoriety, including among fellow Republicans, for using campaign funds (read: special interest cash) to pay for daily expenses such as groceries, snacks and gas fill-ups. In addition, he impeded efforts to raise revenue to pay for road and other transportation improvements that would ease commutes for many of his own constituents.

In sharp contrast to Hugo’s record, the Post highlighted Helmer’s history of service and focused in on his support for reasonable measures to move forward on issues like gun violence.

Dan Helmer, a West Point graduate who had a meteoric career as an Army officer, serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, would be a major upgrade. Mr. Helmer, a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve and a former Rhodes Scholar, has stressed non-extreme gun-control measures such as universal background checks and red-flag laws that empower police, with approval from judges, to confiscate weapons from individuals who pose an imminent risk to themselves and others.

As someone who grew up in the 40th District, I strongly support the Post’s endorsement and truly believe my childhood district would be well represented by Dan Helmer.

The Post also weighed in on the race in the 13th state Senate district, which is another district that I lived in for several years. In that race, the Post endorsed Delegate John Bell. They highlighted how Bell’s “a two-term member of the House of Delegates and former Air Force officer respected in Richmond for his even temper and smarts.” He stands in sharp contrast to and “would reflect the district’s views far better than Geary Higgins, the Republican candidate, a member of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, who opposed the mere study of new local gun regulations.”

It’s worth noting that efforts to address the country’s gun violence epidemic was highlighted as a major factor in both endorsements. Republicans have been so opposed to even discussing the issue that they shut down a special session of the General Assembly after 90 minutes when the Virginia Beach shooting prompted calls for action. This likely means the only way we’ll see movement on reform will be if Democrats gain control of the General Assembly and the Post highlighted how specific Republican candidates would try to block action if they win on Tuesday.

Coming so close to the election, it’ll be interesting to see if the campaigns are able to use the endorsements effectively. There are massive Get Out the Vote (GOTV) efforts this weekend where volunteers will be talking with thousands of voters and the campaigns can obviously run digital ads, but there’s obviously not enough time to drop mail pieces highlighting the endorsement. That being said, the endorsements still carry weight with voters who might still be making up their mind and looking for information.

About Bryan J. Scrafford

Bryan Scrafford grew up in the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC and stayed in the region for both college and his professional life. An avid baseball and hockey fan, Bryan's also involved with several advocacy organizations fighting for economic justice, LGBT rights, and other issues. You can follow him on twitter at @bscrafford and Instagram at @bjscrafford
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