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Armstrong to run in the 9th District
Friday, June 3, 2011
By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer
Del. Ward Armstrong, D-Collinsville, announced Thursday that he will run for the 9th District state House seat in the Nov. 8 election.
To do that, he plans to move to the newly redrawn district, he said following his announcement at the Bassett Historical Center.
The district now is to include western parts of Henry County, all of Patrick County and most of Franklin County, according to Armstrong.
Armstrong, the House minority leader and a 10-term incumbent, currently represents the 10th District. That district is moving to Northern Virginia as part of a redistricting plan recently approved by the General Assembly and awaiting U.S. Department of Justice approval.
His Collinsville home now will be in the 16th District, which is represented by Del. Don Merricks, R-Pittsylvania County. Merricks is seeking re-election.
As a result of redistricting, "the 9th now has so many of my constituents in it, and I didn't want to lose them," Armstrong said, explaining why he plans to move to that district and run for its House seat.
Unlike members of Congress, state lawmakers are required to live in districts they represent, he said. Del. Charles Poindexter, R-Glade Hill, has represented the current 9th District for four years. He also is running for the newly drawn district's House seat.
Armstrong said he knows of nobody else running for the seat, and he is confident that he will be elected as the district's next delegate.
The way he looks at it, he said, "Poindexter has to beat me. I'm senior to Charles" in the House.
Armstrong thinks his positions on issues will convince past Poindexter supporters to support him now.
For instance, "I've been fighting high electric bills" and for laws related to utility rate hike requests to be reformed, Armstrong said, while Poindexter "has been blaming everyone but Appalachian" Power Co. (APCo) for rising electricity rates.
APCo sought 15 rate increases during the past four years, Armstrong said, calling it "unfair, bordering on unethical ... at a time when families here are struggling with double digit unemployment."�
Utility companies do not like that he has spoken against rate hikes, he said.
"But I don't work for them," he said, emphasizing that he works for people he represents, not special interests. "I will continue to fight until the cows come home for a fair shake for hard-working families in our area."�
Armstrong noted he sponsored legislation that established the New College Institute in Martinsville. Efforts are under way to make the institute a branch campus of a state-supported university.
"The New College must be supported and expanded to provide our area the college graduates we will need to attract" businesses, he said. He added that he wants to help get further legislation enacted that will enable the institute to become a university branch campus.
He said he also will continue pushing to start construction on Interstate 73 and finish the widening of U.S. 58 between Stuart and Hillsville, "particularly the stretch up Lover's Leap." Those projects also will help spur economic development, he said.
"Job creation must be the No. 1 priority of business, community and government leaders in our area," said Armstrong.
Armstrong, who celebrated his 55th birthday on Thursday, said he looks forward to campaigning and "a full discussion of our challenges and the solutions I can provide to meet those challenges" through experience.
Joining Armstrong for his candidacy announcement were his wife, Pam, and mother, Susan Armstrong. He said he chose the historical center as the place to make his local announcement because he lived in Bassett while growing up and has fond memories of the town.
Armstrong also announced his candidacy during stops in Stuart and Ferrum.
He recalled that his parents taught him "to always stand up for what is right."�
That is "why I have been an outspoken advocate for" area residents, he said. "We've taken some knocks in the last few years, with a bad economy made worse by greedy special interests who prey on us when we're down, which is why it's so important for folks here to have a forceful voice in Richmond."�
Armstrong did not rule out the possibility of seeking statewide office in the future. However, he said he has not given it much thought recently and does not know which office he might seek.
He said he may need to hold statewide office eventually to achieve some of his goals, such as reducing electricity rates.
"Unfortunately," he said, "too many politicians in Richmond want to turn a blind eye to the problem and blame high electric bills on reasons other than themselves."�