By Brandon Martin
Incumbent Del. Charles Poindexter, R-Glade Hill, is leaning on his leadership experience in the General Assembly to edge out his challenger Wren Williams amongst Ninth District voters in the June 8 Republican primary.
Poindexter, 79, was first elected to the seat in 2007 and has amassed a number of leadership posts during his tenure.
“I have a very broad background,” he said. “I have a background in business, computers, agriculture and forestry, water quality, and education. I serve on two or three education boards. I bring a background, I think, that is superior.”
Part of that background includes fighting for key issues on committees and subcommittees.
“That is where bills are passed, vetted, killed and approved,” Poindexter said. “I have served in positions of leadership for various subcommittees, and I’ve been the vice-chair of committees.”
During his tenure on committees like the Finance Committee and the Agriculture and Natural Resources and Chesapeake Committee, Poindexter said he set out to pass policies beneficial to rural Virginia.
“What we did from 2010-2019 is move money to rural Virginia for economic development, education, and everything else, to the point where we were much better treated,” he said.
Poindexter cited a legislation that allocated money for the expansion of U.S. 58 through Patrick County as a recent example.
“As far as roads are concerned, I’ve already taken that major step to get 58 to four lanes from Stuart up to (I-77) and I-81,” Poindexter said. “The segment between Stuart and Vesta is under contract. That is going to take 3- to 4-years to build, but that is infrastructure that would open the door for Patrick County.”
By improving the road, Poindexter said more businesses will flock to the area to take advantage of the route’s position between the coast and the rest of the United States.
“Also of importance is the Port of Virginia,” he said. “That gives a community evacuation route for the cities down there, but for the port, it means greater imports can flow out to I-77 and further through the United States west. It also means the products from Patrick and Carroll (counties) can flow to the port a lot better.”
Poindexter said his bill will provide full funding for the expansion all the way to I-77.
“It’s just that it (road) is going to be built in pieces, but the bill covers the whole road,” he said. “It’s $592 million of General Fund money. This is the only road that I know of in the state of Virginia that is funded by General Fund money.
He explained the expansion competed for funding “with schools, higher education, health and human resources, public safety and everything that Virginia spends money on. It’s not paid for by the roads and gas tax, diesel tax and car tax.”
Poindexter said the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) will schedule the construction of the four-lane road up and over the mountain in segments, beginning with the portion up to Lover’s Leap.
“You’ll see the others come along in 2023, 2024, 2025 and 2026,” he said. “Then we will start contracting out the others, but the money is in the bank.”
In addition to infrastructure, Poindexter said he is also working on plans to provide hospital access to Patrick County residents.
“I have two initiatives currently, with two different hospitals, to get them interested in opening an acute care hospital in Patrick County,” he said. “One of them right now doesn’t look too good. The other is still under discussion.”
Poindexter said he intends to use some of the federal COVID-19 funds to apply to the opening of a new hospital.
“That will be a very difficult task maybe, but if that fits the definition of how you can use the federal money, then I’ll make a run for that, if not this summer, then in the next session,” Poindexter added.
Regarding issues that go beyond Patrick County, Poindexter said he is concerned about the direction the state is taking towards revamping the economy towards renewable energy.
“Our electricity rates are going to skyrocket as a result of legislation passed in 2020 and 2021,” he said. “There is another proposal called TCI (transportation climate initiative) which will force all of our cars off of gasoline and raise the price of it. So, they are trying to force us into electric vehicles, which is going to destroy our economy as well as our standard of living. We just can’t run everything off of solar and wind. It’s just not going to happen.”
One way Poindexter intends to shape the local economy is through changes to promote more trade jobs.
“What we need is more trade jobs with apprentices and licenses in the different trades of advanced manufacturing, computer science and so forth,” Poindexter said.
This has been an interest of Poindexter’s in working with partners like New College Institute and Patrick Henry Community College.
“My concern here is that we need to align the high school career and technology programs with the community colleges, or even four-year colleges, so they are taking the right courses in high school and feeding into the two-year colleges, and/or four-years,” Poindexter said.
To keep the ball rolling on such initiatives, Poindexter said Republicans like himself need to be elected to the General Assembly. This won’t happen without secure elections, he added.
“I helped Gov. (Bob) McDonnell to pass the photo ID bill back in 2012-2013 to require photo ID at the polls. I want to totally reform Virginia’s election apparatus,” Poindexter said. “Right now, it gives a 2-1 rule to the governor. It should be even steven and bi-partisan.”
If he is reelected, Poindexter said there are certain steps to accomplish that he will support in his next term.
“We’ve got to get the voter purge going on rolls, looking at deaths and checking on deaths,” he said. “Very importantly, the state board of elections needs to cross check voters on the e-verify Homeland Security database for illegal aliens and criminals.”
These issues weren’t always a problem, according to Poindexter.
“It was fair before 2020, when Democrats totally dismantled it, but I think the right thing to do is to revamp the major things,” he said. “There are things that you look at and say ‘well, it shouldn’t be that way.’”
Poindexter said there are underlying issues behind simply finding instances of actual fraud.
“I haven’t seen any documented evidence of what you may call fraud or something like that,” he said. “The issue is there is a public perception that there could have been or that there was. With a close election, where half of the people feel one way and the other, I believe it is the duty of legislators to take on the issue and restore confidence in the elections.”
Another way of doing this could be instituting term limits, but Poindexter said the concept is more complicated than it seems at face value.
“At the federal level, I would definitely go for, support and have supported, term limits,” he said. “There is a big difference in terms of the structure of state and federal government. Federal government does not have to have a balanced budget. If we do term limits, then we ought to probably do a balanced budget at the same time. At the Virginia level, we have a requirement for balanced budgets, so if one is in office for a long time, you can’t just keep borrowing money.”
Poindexter said the General Assembly already does a fair amount of self-correcting against long-serving politicians.
“We have a lot of turnover in the state government, especially the House of Delegates,” Poindexter said. “I started in seniority 90 out of 100. Today, I’m 17 out of 100. That happened over the course of 12 years, so that is a huge turnover. There are retirements, there are people that find that they can’t afford to serve as delegates, people have to work. There are many different reasons that people have to leave the house. The turnover in the House of Delegates, at least to me, is not an issue because of the turnover. I’m open for discussion on term limits in Virginia, but when I look at the actual turnover, I don’t really see that it is a real urgent matter at this time.”
In the meantime, Poindexter said he will continue to work to find common ground with Democrats.
“I have worked across party lines,” he said. “I obviously worked across party lines to get the 58 bill through” and secure funds for the project. “If you look at the votes on the House floor, you see good bills pass 100-0, 98-2 or 90-10. I already work across the aisle. All legislators do.”
This doesn’t mean that Poindexter won’t stand his ground on some key issues, he said.
“I will not agree to gutting the Second Amendment and I will not agree to any more gun control,” Poindexter said. “I have fought those in existence. I am pro-life. I do not agree with the governor standing up and saying ‘well, we are going to deliver the baby and then have a discussion on what we are going to do with it.’ That is unconscionable.”
Poindexter is a native of Franklin County. He and his wife, Janet, have six children and 10 grandchildren. Poindexter holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics from Lynchburg College and a Master of Science in Computers and Management from George Washington University. His hobbies include hunting and reading.