Degner to announce in 26th

Story by Chris Graham

Harrisonburg Mayor Kai Degner is throwing his hat into the ring for the soon-to-be-open 26th District seat in the Virginia House of Delegates.

“At a time when the General Assembly’s decisions are so severely impacting local government budgets, be it in education, transportation, law enforcement, environmental security, social services and more, we need a delegate from the Shenandoah Valley that will stand and represent the people, services, and local businesses who stand to lose,” said Degner, who was elected to Harrisonburg City Council in 2008 in a Democratic sweep of the three open seats on City Council that year.

Harrisonburg represents roughly half the population of the 26th District, which has been represented by Republican Matt Lohr in Richmond for the past five years. Lohr will step down from the seat this spring to take on the job of commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Lohr’s tenure in VDACS begins May 1.

A special election in the 26th, which also represents western Rockingham County, is expected to be called for the November general election.

Degner was the top vote-getter in the ’08 City Council elections in Harrisonburg, receiving 6,063 votes to lead the eight-candidate field. That’s nearly 2,000 votes more than 26th District Democratic Party nominee Gene Hart was able to get in his 2009 race against Lohr.

The district has been of a more purplish hue in the recent past, though. Democrat Lowell Fulk ran neck-and-neck races with Lohr and his predecessor in the General Assembly, Glenn Weatherholtz, in 2005 and 2003, respectively.

The Degner news was broken with the unveiling of a Degner for Delegate campaign website today. An announcement on the website reports that Degner will make his candidacy official with a public event early next week.

“As mayor in Harrisonburg, I have had a front row seat to the impact of the General Assembly’s priorities and seeming inattention to local government needs and the central Shenandoah Valley’s needs,” Degner said in the website announcement.

“Our district deserves representation in Richmond that is not beholden to far away political party leaders pushing an activist social agenda. We need progress, not political scorekeeping, to create jobs and build the economy. We need collaboration, not political positioning, to reduce redundancies, make government more efficient, and best leverage limited financial resources. It’s time to put practicality and collaboration above ideology and politics,” Degner said.

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