Del. Aird and Independent Challenger Haake Face Off in Petersburg

by Brandon Jarvis

Candidates for the 63rd House of Delegates district Lacheresce Aird (D), and Larry Haake (I), shared the stage together in Petersburg on Tuesday night. The event was co-hosted by VPM and The Petersburg Chamber of Commerce.

Aird, the incumbent and a higher-education administrator, and Haake, a former Richmond police officer and Chesterfield Registrar, each tried to make their case to the audience as to why they are the best person for the job. 

Aird often referenced her ties to the heart of the district in Petersburg and the importance of that experience when governing. However, Haake tried to hurt that argument during his opening statement by saying that sometimes people get elected and “forget where they come from”. 

In her opening statement, Aird Spoke on her previous work and touted bipartisanship by stating that she has been effective in working with both parties to help the community. The Delegate then rebuffed her opponents jab when she referred to him as someone with “no vested interest in our community”.

Independents often fall on both sides of the gun debate, but it seems that Haake sides with the left. Tuesday night he stated that as a former police officer, he believes gun laws should be changed. Haake also called for an assault weapon ban, universal background checks, red flag laws and limiting high capacity magazines. 

Haake often used his status as an independent candidate to say that Democrats and Republicans are in a constant “Hissing Match”, that limits governing productivity.

While they have been in the minority in both chambers during her time in office, Del. Aird said that “Democrats have been trying to pass meaningful legislation”. She referenced the July special session where the special session was called by Democratic Governor Ralph Northam to address gun violence after the tragedy in Virginia Beach. GOP leadership in the House and Senate shutdown the session in less than 2 hours.

The final question about campaign finance reform was Haake’s last chance to try and gain some ground in this race. The candidates were asked about what they would do in regards to the extremely relaxed campaign finance laws in Virginia.

Del. Aird said that there is “plenty of opportunity” to reform campaign finance laws and that she would be “willing to look at any array of proposals” to reign in the very loose system.

Aird’s opponent found this as an opening to try and paint her as big money and ambitious by calling out a large donation from mega-donor Michael Bills. Haaake then alluded to his disbelief that she she would support for campaign finance reform in the future because it would “keep her from getting that $60,000 she got from that couple in Charlottesville.”

Michael Bills and his wife Sonia Smith are the largest Democratic donors in Virginia give large sums of money to Democrats. They also give money through their organization “Clean Virginia”, which according to their website. is working to lead Virginia to a “clean energy future” 

Aird pushed back at the accusations from Haake, telling him that she is using the money to donate to Democrats across Virginia in order to help her party “take the majority” in the General Assembly.

Several candidates on both sides of the aisle are throwing money at races to try and have the majority next year.

According to VPAP, Bills has given Aird $50,000 while Clean Virginia has given her $2,500. Haake has raised $5,600 and received a $5,000 loan putting him at just over $11,000 raised for this race.

Haake closed out the night by telling the crowd that he wants to get the state to do more for the people, then he called out Aird for being a part of the state government that he believes is not doing enough for the people. “

Haake also called Aird out for what he believes is her ambition to seek higher office after she stated int the previous question that she was donating to Democrats across the state. “All I want to do is represent you, and your interests, and improve your quality of life.” said Haake.

Aird closed by stating that she has lived in the community for over 10 years. She said that she sees the challenges that the citizens of the district face and she takes those experiences to the General Assembly to fight for positive change. She said she will not let up on working with her Democratic colleagues and across party lines to produce positive legislation for her district.

The election is on November 5th