Aneesh Chopra, one of two Democrats running for Virginia's Lt. Gov. seat, wants to reverse controversial legislation backed by Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli - the Republican gubernatorial nominee for Governor.
"We would turn back on the ultrasound bill, on the TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) regulations, the voter ID Bills," said Chopra in an interview with Patch Thursday.
"I would actively work with the Governor and Attorney General to institute the executive order on anti discrimination at the workplace based on a whole range of issues, including your sexual orientation," he said.
Chopra spoke with Patch for about 20 minutes after making a campaign appearance at the Grenspring Retirement Community in Springfield.
- See Virginia's Abortion Legislation and Insurance: Restrictive or Financially Prudent?
Chopra has $919,815 cash on hand, according to the Virginia Public Access Project. Most of his campaign donors are in-state, but out-of-state donors are giving more to the campaign. Sen. Ralph Northam (D-Norfolk), his primary opponent, has $307,029 in the bank.
Chopra and Northam square off in the Democratic primary on June 11.
Chopra lives in Arlington with his wife and two children, and has a B.A. from Johns Hopkins University and a Master of public policy from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He was the first chief technology officer at the White House from 2009-12, served as the fourth Virginia secretary of Technology (appointed by former Gov. Tim Kaine) from 2006-09 and is the former director of the Advisory Board Company.
Patch: Where did you grow up?
Chopra: I grew up in New Jersey. I went to West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South.
Patch: Were you in student government?
Chopra: I was. I was vice president of my student council in high school, and I was class president for a year in my class at Johns Hopkins.
Patch: When did you know you wanted to be a politician?
Chopra: When I was 12 years old, my dad took me to a town hall meeting with Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ). I was fascinated that I could be in direct sight and could ask questions to a member of Congress.
Patch: Who are your political idols?
Chopra: In the contemporary world, (former Virginia) Governors Kaine and Warner and definitely President Barack Obama. I have historical affection for Thomas Jefferson, and have a lot of respect and admiration for Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Patch: Who are your political mentors?
Chopra: My mentors, really, are Governors Warner and Kaine. I've spent a lot of time with both of them and I have very close relations with them.
Patch: President Obama?
Chopra: I reported directly to President Obama every morning, I attended the senior staff meeting every single morning in the West Wing. But I saw the President once every few weeks in tightly defined circumstances - pitching the presentation of an idea, attending events with him, briefing him on various matters. We didn't go out and have a beer together, I suppose you could say.
Patch: What did you learn from his campaigns?
Chopra: I would say I learned three things from the political process from the president.
- First and foremost is the power of a grassroots campaign, that's why we were able to organize a phenomenally successful volunteer network and organizing staff, and they got over 20,000 signatures to get me on the ballot.
- The second thing I learned is that you have to remain very focused on the goal you want to achieve. The President's focus on strengthening the middle class is something I share.
- Third, we are harnessing all of the newer tools to connect and engage people in far more creative ways. In addition to fundraising and phone calls and giving speeches in neighborhoods, we've got a whole digital canvassing network.
Patch: Corey Stewart, one of your Republican opponents, called you a carpetbagger for having more campaign cash from donors outside the state. What do you think about that?
Chopra: I have more Virginia donors than I have out-of-state donors. My donor base reflects Virginia, and the latest statistics show 60 percent of the donors are Virginians.
As to the investment in dollars, half a dozen, maybe a dozen people have contributed significantly, and many of them I consider to be personal friends. And I would argue that in a Democratic primary, most of what we do is attract support from friends and family. And that's a good thing.
Patch: This is going to be a close race for Governor…
Chopra: Yes. It shouldn't be, but it is.
Patch: How successful would you be if you were elected Lt. Governor and Cuccinelli beats McAuliffe and is elected Governor?
Chopra: Let me begin by saying that I shudder at the thought of that prospect. But Don Beyer was a very successful Lt. Governor under George Allen.
Much of what I describe and hope to accomplish as Lt. Governor I can do with the powers associated with the position in statute and in constitution. And a big source of my support would be engaging more elaborately and effectively with the Obama administration.
Patch: What do you think about Ken Cuccinelli?
Chopra: I think he's wrong for Virginia. His primary focus as best I can tell is a socially divisive agenda. He's about suing scientists. I'm about working with Virginia researchers to create the jobs and businesses of the future. He's about suing the president and blocking Obamacare. I'm about working together with public and private sector interests in the health care system and to make it work better using all the tools that Obamacare offers. And I think his focus, which divides us, is all about divvying up a fixed pie, and that's the wrong attitude to lead the Commonwealth.
Patch: And abortion?
Chopra: That's what I mean, these divisive issues that pit us against each other. It's just the wrong way to go… We are not going to turn back the clock pre-1970s and go back to the world of unsafe access to illegal procedures. I think we've moved a long way from that. I want to keep moving forward.
Patch: What bills would you like to see reversed during your term?
Chopra: Let's just start with the most obvious: We would turn back on the ultrasound bill, on the TRAP regulations, the voter ID Bills. I would actively work with the Governor and Attorney General to institute the executive order on anti discrimination at the workplace based on a whole range of issues, including your sexual orientation.
On the socially divisive issues, I would make sure that we block any further erosion of basic rights for all so that everyone has a shot at the American dream.
Patch: Should gay marriage be legalized in Virginia?
Chopra: I support that.
Patch: Do you support the legalization of marijuana in Virginia?
Chopra: I don't have a position on that…I don't view that as an ideological issue based on values. I think the Virginia taxpayers, if they have an interest in this, that the legislature will bring it up and I'm happy to engage. But I have no position on it.
Patch: The Virginia Governor is not allowed to serve consecutive terms. If you win this race, you'll be in a prime position to run for Governor four years from now. Do you see yourself doing that?
Chopra: My hope is to serve through the year 2020 in whatever capacity. By the year 2020, will Virginia have created more middle class jobs? If I'm elected from 2014-2018 I'll have the role of Lt. Governor, and I may just continue that role as a second term like Lt. Governor like Bill Bolling, or I may want to run for Governor. But I want to make sure that we see this thing through the year 2020.
The Republican Convention
There are seven Republican candidates vying for Lt. Governor. The candidate will not be chosen in a primary, but instead at the Republican State Convention this week.
The Republican Candidates
- Corey Stewart (chair, Prince William County Board of Supervisors)
- Del. Scott Lingamfelter (R-31st)
- Tech businessman Pete Snyder
- State Sen. Steve Martin (R-11th)
- Former State Sen. Jeannemarie Devolites-Davis
- Susan Stimpson, chair of the Stafford County Board of Supervisors
- E.W. Jackson Sr., minister and former U.S. Senate candidate