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Erik Curren | We’re in this together

Editor’s Note: The following is the op-ed in its entirety written by 20th District Democratic Party nominee Erik Curren on the unemployment stimulus vote in the House of Delegates that was excerpted as a letter to the editor in today’s News Leader. You can read it as well on the Curren campaign website here.

As Senator Mark Warner said when he was in Staunton last week, today’s economic crisis is like a hundred year flood, a storm like no other.
To borrow from Warner’s view, when a once-a-century flood overtakes the banks of a river, threatening to destroy people, towns and livelihoods, the community bands together ahead of the waters with stacks of sandbags ready to beat back the tide and save their homes. The hard work and sacrifices are worth it, the people think, because to do nothing would be far worse, destroying hope and sweeping the town away.

No, the sandbags aren’t pretty. No, the work isn’t easy. But when the waters recede and the sandbags come down, the town is saved, people are secure, and livelihoods are protected, enabling a quick recovery for getting back to business. There is enduring pride in knowing that the community was in it together.

America’s brutal recession is like that ominous flood–rare, but potentially deadly. We’re in the worst economy since the Great Depression. The rising tide of unemployment and the stalled economy in its wake continually threaten to break through the levee of our vigilance and resolve, moving us into a disaster lasting for years. To stop it, we must stand together.

That’s why when the Republican-dominated Virginia House of Delegates voted to refuse federal stimulus money and deny extended unemployment benefits to Virginia’s workers, they voted to put a crack in the flood wall protecting us all, including Virginia’s businesses.

When our area’s current delegate, Chris Saxman, voted along party lines to stand with Republicans against Virginia workers, I saw a distinct difference between how he does business, and how, if elected, I would work for both business and workers to help all Virginians. When he chose to ignore the struggle more and more Virginians face, I saw a distinct difference in how he and I approach practical matters of compassion and the limited but meaningful role government can sometimes take in the lives of people, particularly during a crisis.

Virginia’s pro-business economy offers all Virginians great strength. We should be thankful. We have one of the best states for doing business, with policies that encourage businesses to locate here and allow them to weather storms with more room and flexibility than other states. But it would be unwise to treat Virginia businesses like a “Titanic,” so strong that they’re immune to danger, or can do it all alone. We still must navigate together through rough waters in the face of an unprecedented national and international economic crisis.

Virginia business is not isolated. Just as Virginia’s citizens rely on strong businesses, those same businesses rely on strong Virginians. Out of work Virginians can’t buy many things. Out of work Virginians have fewer choices. Out of work Virginians risk losing homes, cars, health insurance and basic amenities, leading to magnified problems. Out of work Virginians, even after trying to hold on alone, and facing crisis through no fault of their own, will increasingly turn to Social Services to shore up their lives against those same ravenous flood waters. The crisis then swells, spilling out further and further into our communities. When that happens, none of us is safe, and all of us pay.

While crisis is at this rare level, we shouldn’t get lost in debates about procedural rules and sunset provisions and how we can or can’t change our minds the next time the House convenes and so on and so on. The problem is now and its serious. Too serious for political games.

As I said at the launch of my House of Delegates campaign, we can do better. What Virginia workers and Virginia businesses need now are solutions that shore us all up so that we stand together for a strong and united Virginia in a world of dangerous and deadly flood waters.

I am glad that our current delegate has listened to my call and heard the concerns of families and businesses in our area to put aside partisan ideology in favor of solutions to help people weather this storm. I hope he will change his wrongheaded vote on extended unemployment benefits and deal with this once-a-century flood by protecting Virginia’s workers, families and businesses when (or if) the Governor calls the delegates back to Richmond.

Right now, put the sand bags up. Not all of it will be pretty. But when the threat is past, as we know it will be—this too shall pass–then let us praise our will, faith and blessings that we battled this threat together, creating a stronger Virginia in the process. Then we’ll take those sandbags down, ready to enjoy a much quicker recovery and the glad tidings that follow.


– Erik Curren is the Democratic Party nominee in the 20th House District. He will be challenging Republican incumbent Chris Saxman in the November election.