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Better choices on Tuesday’s ballot

Voters go to the polls Tuesday to cast ballots for Congress and for local offices, to decide whether to amend the state constitution, to determine whether School Board members in Norfolk should be elected. In three South Hampton Roads cities – Portsmouth, Suffolk and Virginia Beach – ballots are crowded with candidates for city council and school board.

The Editorial Board has endorsed candidates in most contested races.

For U.S. Senate, we recommend a second term for the Democratic incumbent, Mark Warner. The former governor has forged relationships with senators from both major parties, identifying common ground and trying to solve structural problems within the federal budget.

He has focused on ways to reduce the deficit. He supports the Marketplace Fairness Act to treat online retailers the same as brick-and-mortar stores. He has backed the Keystone XL pipeline to pipe Canadian tar sands oil to U.S. refineries. Warner voted for the Affordable Care Act but acknowledges its significant problems and has pushed to fix them rather than repeal the law.

In the 2nd Congressional District, we support a third term for U.S. Rep. Scott Rigell, a Republican who has worked with Democrats to pass federal regulations for drywall and helped to arrange an alternate airfield to relieve congestion at Fentress Naval Auxiliary Landing Field. He, too, has worked to build bipartisan coalitions. He has cut his own pay, declined federal benefits and argued against recessing Congress when so many issues remain unsettled. Rigell supports the Marketplace Fairness Act and indexing the federal gas tax to inflation, as Virginia did last year with its state gas tax.

Sadly, in the 4th District, we cannot endorse a candidate. U.S. Rep. Randy Forbes has been in office 13 years, but rather than building connections with lawmakers outside his Republican party and finding common ground, he has mostly been a voice for divisive, ideological issues. His district is so reliably Republican, however, that he stands little chance of losing his job.

At the state level, a proposed amendment to Virginia’s constitution would allow a property tax exemption for residents whose spouse, while serving in the armed forces, was killed in action. It’s a worthwhile cause recommended by state lawmakers at the expense of local governments.

In Portsmouth, two incumbents and four challengers are vying for three seats on the City Council. We recommend Bill Moody for a fifth term, Paige Cherry for a second term and newcomer Nathan Clark. Moody brings business and common sense to the council and has pushed to fire the city auditor, who hasn’t completed an audit in 18 months. Cherry, a former member of the city Planning Commission, knows city issues and works collaboratively. Clark, a Virginia Marine Police officer, is a former city police officer, sheriff’s deputy and firefighter. He brings a valuable perspective on public safety, as well as a professional demeanor.

For Portsmouth School Board, we endorse incumbents Claude C. Parent Jr., Linda Ridenour and Joseph A. Fleming, along with Laural J. Armstrong, a retired educator who was appointed in June, and Cardell Patillo Jr., a youth pastor with extensive involvement in the schools.

In Suffolk, the City Council needs an overhaul. After an outcry in early 2012 over huge raises for the city’s highest paid workers, the council backed down. Shortly after city elections, and with no public notice, the council granted the raises – while ignoring teachers, who can work in almost any other school division and make more money. The best chances to right the city rest in Tim Johnson in Holy Neck, a businessman and fiscal hawk; Don Goldberg in the Suffolk Borough, a former economic development officer; and Leroy Bennett in Cypress, a smart, thoughtful councilman who was redistricted out of his old seat in 2011.

For Suffolk School Board, three seats are contested. We recommend incumbents Mike Debranski in the Suffolk Borough and Linda Bouchard in Chuckatuck, as well as Jim Perkinson in Sleepy Hole.

In Virginia Beach, seven City Council seats are open, but only four are contested. Of those candidates, we endorse incumbent Barbara Henley in Princess Anne. Henley, a Pungo farmer who has spent 28 of the past 36 years on the council, is a voice for a clean environment, historic preservation, open space and cautious, smart growth. In Rose Hall, Shannon Kane was appointed in December and deserves a full term. Kane, who owns an event-planning business, wants to create jobs for new graduates and people coming out of the military. She proposes apprenticeships and certification programs to foster partnerships between schools and businesses and says she will work to improve infrastructure and stem flooding.

For the at-large seats, we recommend Brad Martin, who also was appointed to the council in December, and Ben Davenport, a young real estate broker. Martin, a civil engineer, will be valuable as the city develops transit plans and stormwater regulations. He’s a problem-solver and works collaboratively. Davenport’s priority is bringing ultra high-speed Internet service to attract research and development jobs. He’s creative and energetic and promises to work to improve the city’s transportation network.

For Beach School Board, six seats are open. Of the 16 candidates, we recommend incumbents Carolyn Weems from Bayside, Bill Brunke from Princess Anne and Bobby Melatti for an at-large seat. We also endorse challengers Osmay Torres, a professional troubleshooter with experience in vocational education, for an at-large seat; Mike Kelly, a professor, former math teacher and principal with expertise in school law and finance, for Lynnhaven; and Sharon Felton, a community leader and volunteer, in the Beach district.

And in Norfolk, voters should say yes to an elected School Board. Currently, the City Council appoints members.

But the council has failed to hold School Board members accountable for the troubled division’s declining performance, organizational dysfunction and damage to the city’s reputation. It’s time for voters to take the reins.


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