Staunton NAACP hosts candidate forum

Published: Oct. 19, 2021 at 11:00 AM EDT
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STAUNTON, Va. (WHSV) - The Staunton branch of the NAACP hosted a forum Monday, October 18, giving candidates a chance to weigh in on several topics.

Dozens filled the Booker T. Washington Community Center gymnasium to hear candidates for the House of Delegates, 20th District, and for sheriff.

20th District Delegate John Avoli and challenger Democrat Randall Wolf were asked about their views on the Interstate-81 corridor. Both talked about the existing expansion plan, but also their anticipation of transportation being different in the future.

“There’s a lot of work now being done to look at alternatives, whether it’s rail, whether it’s additional forms of transportation, but all those these take time,” Avoli said. “In immediacy, right now, to deal with 81′s situation, the top priority right now is speed.”

All candidates were asked about plans for diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives in institutions.

“I think we need commissions of citizens that are oversight of all these different for housing, for police, law enforcement, mental health care, our Middle River Regional Jail. We need citizen committees to hold them accountable,” Wolf said.

Sheriff’s candidates were asked about alternatives to incarcerations.

Incumbent Sheriff Matt Robertson talked about the need for better mental health systems.

“Our mental health system is broken. We need better mental health treatment options and facilities. We need better places for people with mental health illnesses and jail is not the place for that,” he said.

Sheriff’s candidate Chris Hartless agreed about the need for mental health facilities, but added that home electronic monitoring is underutilized.

“As sitting sheriff, as a board member for Middle River Regional Jail, I would look into how can we safely and effectively enhance that program. To get folks out, get them back into the community, to get them working,” Hartless said.

Candidates answered several questions before taking some from the audience.

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