Del. Chris Runion and Jennifer Kitchen run for 25th District seat
HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - Democrat Jennifer Kitchen will be facing incumbent Republican Chris Runion to represent Virginia’s 25th district.
Kitchen is a community organizer who started her work in 2016. Through her organizing, Kitchen spoke with a lot of community members who felt rural Virginians were not being prioritized in Richmond in a way that mattered to their day to day lives.
So, in 2019, Kitchen ran for the 25th District seat to try to make some changes.
“I got 40 percent of the vote, which is more than any democrat had ever done in an off-off year election in this district, so I decided to do it again,” Kitchen said.
Right before everything shut down due to the pandemic, Kitchen was diagnosed with cancer and doctors found an unruptured brain aneurism. Navigating the health care system herself, Kitchen said she’s motivated to help rural Virginians gain better access to health care.
Another priority for Kitchen is to expand broadband access to our rural communities. She noted that improving broadband is something that can help in other areas as well.
“It’s one thing that we can immediately effect that immediately helps the disability community, it helps everyone access health care. If you live in a rural community, you can access telehealth, telemedicine and your life becomes a lot easier,” Kitchen said.
Some of her other priorities include addressing issues on Interstate 81 as well as education.
“How we fund our education system. Everything relies now on a formula that very heavily that looks at property taxes. In a rural community, you start behind. You can’t tax something that doesn’t exist. We need to look at a funding model that creates equity, so no matter what zip code you live in you’re getting quality education,” Kitchen said.
Kitchen noted that she would be the best person to represent the 25th District because her experience has helped her learn how to hear many different perspectives and come up with a creative solution.
“I am a Democrat, but I’m running to represent all of the people of the 25th District. I am not running to represent the Democratic Party,” she said.
Delegate Chris Runion has been serving the 25th District in the House of Delegates since 2020.
If he gets re-elected, Del. Runion said is looking forward to continuing to represent the traditional values of the people in this area.
Some of the things Del. Runion said he hears a lot when talking with community members is that they’re concerned about the economy and the direction of education.
“I think as a legislator, we’ve got an obligation to listen to folks and then move forward to do the right things that’ll benefit the economy in the Commonwealth,” Del. Runion said.
He also plans to address concerns about making sure law enforcement is protected and respected.
One of the things that Del. Runion said is most concerning to him is the mental health system.
“The Commonwealth needs to improve the way we fund the disability waiver program... We’ve got to address the resources committed to that community . These are some of our most vulnerable folks in our society, and there’s various levels of needs that they have,” Del. Runion said.
Another priority for Runion is improving the functionality of state programs like the DMV and the Virginia Employment Commission.
“You’ve got great people on the frontlines. I’ve been impressed from whether it’s a state trooper, a deputy sheriff, whether it’s a DMV employee, whether it’s a DEQ employee, I’ve been really impressed with the quality and commitment,” Del. Runion said. “Those are the folks who are getting done everyday. Where I think we’re challenged is at that senior leadership level not recognizing the world is what the world is.”
Del. Runion also plans to prioritize expanding broadband access to rural areas of Virginia.
Del. Runion said he’s the best person to represent the 25th district because he grew up in the Valley and because of his experience as a business owner.
“As a small business owner, you learn that you’re going to deal with all kinds of folks, and those folks may have different values than you, they may have different opinions than you, they have different lifestyles, but you’ve got to be able to figure out how to do business with them without compromising your values,” Del. Runion said. “How can we come together from different perspectives without either of us compromising our values and achieve what’s important to the citizens of the Commonwealth. I’m the least important person in that process. The citizen is the most important person in that process.”
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