In Richmond-area Senate District 16, Democratic Del. Schuyler VanValkenburg is challenging incumbent Republican Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant.
Dunnavant is a practicing obstetrician-gynecologist who has repeatedly pushed for abortion bans during her term in the Senate. During this year’s election-year legislative session, she attempted to mitigate her opposition to reproductive rights somewhat, but in an ad she released this summer, Dunnavant echoed Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s push for a ban on abortion after 15 weeks. She’s also previously been recorded saying that she’d like to ban abortion after 12 weeks.
Additionally, despite running online ads presenting herself as a physician who’s worked to make prescription drugs more affordable, she’s repeatedly voted against measures that would help reduce the cost of medication and health care for Virginians.
VanValkenburg, who’s served in the state House since 2017, co-sponsored a measure earlier this year to establish a prescription drug affordability board, which would have the power to impose cost limits on certain drugs that are unaffordable or have high out-of-pocket costs.
Dunnavant voted against the Senate version of the bill, which passed with bipartisan support before dying in the GOP-controlled House.
In addition to his consistently strong support for reproductive rights, VanValkenburg has relied on his years of experience as a public school teacher to effectively advocate for improved education opportunities and better school funding.
SD-16 went 57-41 for Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election and 52-47 for Democrat Terry McAuliffe in the 2021 gubernatorial race.
Dogwood recently connected with VanValkenburg about what motivates him on and off the campaign trail and what’s on his mind in the waning days of the 2023 election.
What’s your closing pitch to voters as to why they should vote for you in November?
There is too much on the line to sit this election out. We need to protect a woman’s right to make her own healthcare decisions, increase funding for our public schools, fight for gun safety reforms, and so much more. I’d be honored to represent SD-16 in the State Senate and continue to work for Henricians.
What’s been your favorite part of running for office this year? Least favorite?
I love hearing from folks on the doors about the issues that matter most to them and their families. My least favorite thing about campaign season is that even after six years in public office, I’m still not used to seeing my face on television!
What’s something most people wouldn’t know about you?
I am an avid runner and I love to be active! I’m also a diehard Liverpool soccer fan.
If you could change one thing about Virginia, what would it be?
Virginia’s [lax] laws around safe storage requirements for firearms.
What’s your favorite thing to do/place to go in Virginia when you need a break from the campaign trail?
I like to hang out with friends for a beer at Final Gravity Brewing in Lakeside and dinner next door at Hobnob and hang out with my kids at any number of Henrico’s parks and public spaces.
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