Home Chris Graham: Who I’m voting for in the 20th House

Chris Graham: Who I’m voting for in the 20th House


I’ve known Dickie Bell for more than a decade. And the Dickie Bell that I know, I like a lot.

This other Dickie Bell, the one who comes across as a hard-core social and fiscal conservative, I don’t know him that well, but I understand what’s going on there. Back when Dickie first got the nomination to run as the Republican nominee for the 20th House District seat in 2009, he was about as close to the political center of the long list of candidates as you could be and still be considered a Republican.

He could have viewed his ultimate blessing by the party hierarchy as an endorsement of his approach to politics, but decided instead to run to the right after having secured the nomination. A curious move, indeed, but it’s hard to criticize – he won the November 2009 election with more than 70 percent of the vote in a district that includes Democratic-leaning Staunton.

Now with the borders of the 20th redrawn to include Waynesboro and Nelson County, Bell could very well face a challenge at some point down the road in a district that is tilting back toward the political middle. This is where the old Dickie, the one that I like, would do well to re-emerge.

He doesn’t have anything to worry about in 2011. Laura Kleiner, God bless her for trying, but it’s hard to imagine a lot of people, even diehard Democrats, being able to justify pulling the lever for her given her age (22) and lack of experience (she’s a recent college graduate with no meaningful political or business qualifications). Bell, for his part, has plenty to call upon – four terms on Staunton City Council, for starters, plus a long run as a teacher and coach in the Augusta County school system.

And he has a history of reaching across the aisle to get things done. I know this personally, having worked with Bell for more than a year in the early 2000s on an effort to develop a public skateboard park in Staunton. Through an orchestrated series of public meetings and private one-on-ones, Bell was able to methodically gain support for the effort, and the results are what we’d both said they’d be when he first brought the idea up and I first began to write in support of it – it’s a rare day to drive by the park on Lake Tams and not see it teeming with skateboarders.

I still have issues sometimes reconciling the Dickie Bell that I’ve known and worked with over the years with some of the public pronouncements I see being made in his name on some issues of the day. In the end, I get it, that’s politics, and when the politics are accounted for, the Dickie that can get a skateboard park built in the face of initial opposition from City Council and the local newspaper is the Dickie that can get things done in Richmond.

That’s why I’ll be pulling the lever for Dickie Bell on Nov. 8.

More from Chris at www.TheWorldAccordingToChrisGraham.com.



Have a guest column, letter to the editor, story idea or a news tip? Email editor Chris Graham at [email protected]. Subscribe to AFP podcasts on Apple PodcastsSpotifyPandora and YouTube.