Sime happy as independent

Story by Chris Graham

The headlines last summer had Arin Sime working hard behind the scenes to try to convince local Republican leaders that he could be the man to unseat incumbent Republican Sen. Emmett Hanger.

And there was what was actually taking place.

“That whole episode was interesting,” said Sime, a Crozet businessman who is planning to run against Hanger in the November election, but not as a Republican.

“I’ll definitely be running as a Libertarian,” Sime told me this week in an interview.

An article in The News Leader last year had him claiming that local GOP leaders were courting him for a run against Hanger for the Republican Party nomination. Sime said “the reality of what happened” was that as he made the rounds of the 24th Senate District early last year to begin to drum up support for his candidacy, “I ran into a lot of activists and rank-and-file members of the Republican Party who would say, Well, looking at the issues that you’re running on, you sound more like a real Republican than some of the Republicans in office. Why don’t you consider running for the Republican nomination?”

“I gave them a fair hearing – but it’s not accurate to say that the Republican Party leadership at any time was courting me to run, nor is it accurate to say that at any point I was courting them trying to run in the primary myself,” Sime said.

Fiscal issues are at the heart of Sime’s focus as a candidate in the 24th – which stretches from Rockingham County to Augusta and Rockbridge and over the Blue Ridge into Albemarle and Greene.

Money matters are also hot and heavy right now in Richmond – as state leaders debate what to do to come up with more money for core services like transportation, in particular.

Sime has a simple solution to the funding dilemma: “I think you’ve got to look at the core services first – what do we need to spend on transportation to get it right, for example, and then what do we have left over for everything else?”

“I really think that we need to flip that argument around – and when you do that, then people’s priorities are naturally just going to shake out,” Sime said. “I think that there’s a lot of room as well just looking at the growth – let’s say we’re just not going to grow anything else right now, and let’s just take the additional revenues and put them to transportation and say everybody else needs to cool off for one year.

“This isn’t just about cutting the programs themselves. Let’s cut the rate of growth – and that would be a big step from where we’re going now. Where we’re going now is everybody wants to put a big rate of growth on all their favorite programs, and then talk about transportation.

“I think that’s the biggest problem – transportation is done last. Everything else is funded, and then we talk about transportation. Transportation ought to be first,” Sime said.

Sime is closely following a proposed constitutional amendment making its way through the General Assembly this session – House Joint Resolution 559, introduced by Del. Jeffrey Frederick, R-Woodbridge – that would provide that local property assessments not increase annually by more than 1 percent plus the percentage increase, if any, in the rate of inflation, and limit increases in real-estate taxes to 1 percent per year as well.

“I think that’s a big issue throughout the state – it’s definitely a big issue in this part of the state as well,” Sime said. “You’ve got a lot of long-time landowners, people on fixed incomes, in areas that are growing rapidly, their assessments are going up, and therefore their taxes are going up dramatically. And because they’re on a fixed income, or just because they’ve been where they are for a long time, their taxes are going up, and they’re becoming more and more of a burden.

“That sounds like a local issue – and perhaps it should be. But the fact of the matter is that how taxes are assessed at the local level is governed by the state constitution. So what this is proposing to do is change it from an assessment-based taxation system to one that is based on the purchase price – your assessment for tax purposes from the point you purchased your property cannot go up more than 1 percent per year plus any increase in inflation,” Sime said.

“This gives people with fixed incomes something that they can budget what they pay in taxes from year to year. If you could change that taxation system to something that helps those long-time landowners with fixed incomes, the elderly and others, that benefits everybody,” Sime said.

Sime has been actively letting 24th District voters know his stance on tax and spending issues – even as his hit-the-pavement campaign has resulted in some confusion in the local media.

“It’s been positive and negative,” Sime said of the issue with party labels. “It’s positive in the sense in that it probably helped fuel some introspection on the Republican side about what their candidates and incumbents represent – and I hope that that will be a good thing in the long term for the district. But there have been some negatives in that it seems to have created some confusion – and that was certainly something that I wasn’t trying to create.

“To me, what I was hoping to achieve was the opportunity to meet a lot of people and learn what their concerns are and talk to them early about my ideas and get feedback – which is important to me as a candidate, but also doing it without the pretense of a listening tour or something like that. It’s just getting out there and saying, I’m interested in running for this office. This is what I believe. What do you believe? And by getting out there that early, of course that gives us an opportunity to talk about what we believe before you really get into the heat of a campaign,” Sime said.

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