Virginia 21st District candidates talk about gun control, education


ROANOKE (WSLS) – The clock is winding down to next week’s election. Virginia’s 21st District Senate race between incumbent John Edwards, Republican Nancy Dye and Independent Don Caldwell have attracted a lot of attention.

In recent days, we’ve seen political ads and fliers, some by outside groups, taking political jabs at candidates. It’s been an intense campaign cycle for the three candidates. Each agrees education and workforce training are key issues in this race.

“Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute is producing innovation, and innovation is what creates jobs along with the infrastructure of good schools, good roads, good quality of life and good higher educational opportunities,” said Senator John Edwards. “We have workforce training, we need to do more but we are doing a lot and looking forward to continuing that progress.”

Don Caldwell says the district needs to have more of an emphasis on vocational training as opposed to a 4 year academic degree.

“The key is to put more emphasis on vocational and that is going to require funding from the General Assembly” Caldwell said. “In order to have the funding we are going to have to talk about how we are going to be funded and that’s going to have to be blunt talk on increasing taxation or reducing the current programs we have.”

Dye said increasing funding for schools is needed.

“First we have to restore funding that has fallen over the past 20 years for both K thru 12 and higher education” said Dye. “We need to make sure our teachers are supported financially in order to keep our class sizes the same and use our money here locally in our schools.”

Guns are also an important topic to voters. Tragedies at Virginia Tech and, most recently, at Smith Mountain Lake with the shooting death of two jounalists, put our area into the national debate over the right to bear arms. State candidates said they support the 2nd amendment and believe there are other solutions to gun violence.

“I sponsored a bill at the request of the parents and victims at Virginia Tech that created the “threat assessments” – this is a team of administrators that follow students that are having problems whether it be mental health issues or academic issues or disciplinary problems” said Edwards. “And following them so they don’t escalate to the point where there is violence.”

Dye said there needs to be a focus of mental health issues and addressing a shortage of psychiatrists.

“I’m a strong supporter of the 2nd amendment as are the other candidates in the race” said Dye. “My approach is to really look at our culture. We have a culture seeped in violence whether it is violent movies or television shows or video games where children and young people are rewarded for violence and they grow up without realizing the consequences.”

Caldwell said he wants to keep guns away from dangerous criminals.

“I would be perfectly willing to sit down and discuss any options” Caldwell said. “Many of the options put forth at this time our illusionary, not practical in nature and don’t solve the problem. When they don’t solve the problem then people will say we have to do something more.”

Election day is November 3rd.

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