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Adams, Bowman debate issues
Economic development hot topic for localities

Friday, May 24, 2013

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

CHATHAM — The two Republicans vying for their party’s nomination for the 16th District House of Delegates seat in the June 11 primary have different perspectives on how they can help rejuvenate Southside’s economy.

During a debate at the Pittsylvania County Courthouse on Thursday night, Les Adams and Ken Bowman agreed that the biggest issue in the House race is the need for jobs in the region, including Henry County and Martinsville.

Rather than offer companies incentive money to create jobs, governments should strive to help firms grow and prosper, such as by reducing tax rates, according to Adams, a Chatham lawyer.

Adams said that as a small business owner, he has created jobs in his law firm and understands the hardships business owners go through to try and keep their businesses successful.

Bowman, of Dry Fork, was Pittsylvania’s economic development director for four years until the county’s board of supervisors voted in March to disband the department and give its duties to the county administrator’s office.

Bowman said if he is elected in November, he would be “the only economic development director in the General Assembly” and the only state lawmaker who could talk about economic development “without giving it lip service.”

“The philosophical stuff doesn’t put food on the table,” he said.

He has experience in persuading companies to locate in Pittsylvania County, he said, adding that he wants to help Henry County and Martinsville attract companies, too. He pledged to work with local and state officials and the Virginia Economic Development Partnership in doing that.

Bowman also said that if he is elected, he will ask the governor to appoint him to the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission, which strives to help revitalize and diversify the economy of areas in the state where the tobacco industry has waned.

The winner of the primary will be the Republican contender for the House seat in the Nov. 5 general election. No Democrat is in the race so far.

A former prosecutor, Adams noted he is the only candidate in the 16th District race with law-enforcement experience.

Adams has not held an elected public office before. Bowman served on the York County Board of Supervisors before moving to Pittsylvania in 2008 so his wife, Brenda, who is from Danville, could be closer to her family.

Del. Don Merricks, R-Pittsylvania, is the current 16th District delegate. He is not seeking re-election and did not attend the debate.

Media representatives posed questions to the candidates during the debate, which was sponsored by the Pittsylvania County Republican Committee and attracted about 100 people, mostly from that county.

Adams and Bowman both said they do not support lifting the statewide ban on uranium mining and milling. Virginia Uranium Inc. is lobbying the legislature to repeal the ban so the company can develop a mine at a site near Chatham that is thought to be the nation’s largest deposit of the radioactive ore.

The candidates alluded to a lack of studies showing that uranium could be mined without potentially harming the environment or public health.

People have a right to do what they want with property they own, Adams said.

However, “when use of those rights affect health safety,” it is time for the government to step in, he said.

The candidates then were asked if there might be a scenario in which they would change their opinions on the uranium issue.

There is no sufficient evidence that uranium “tailings” can be stored safely, Adams responded.

Who knows what information might be presented in the future, he said. But any decision on whether uranium should be mined in Southside ultimately should be made by the region’s residents, and state officials — especially those from other areas — should recognize that, he emphasized.

Any mining regulations that might be proposed in the future should “have teeth,” Bowman said.

He said, though, that any decision he might make on uranium mining would take into account facts and the wishes of Southside residents.

On other issues, Adams and Bowman both said they oppose expanding Medicaid in Virginia due to the expense.

They said they support a new law requiring voters to present a photo ID at the polls to reduce fraud. They also said they support efforts to prevent the federal government from overstepping its authority, plus the constitutional amendment that gives people the right to own guns.

Bowman, 62, said he has visited Henry County and Martinsville “at least two dozen times” since announcing his candidacy. He visited Forest Park Country Club earlier Thursday to attend a school athletic booster’s program fundraiser.

Being a delegate “would be my full-time job,” he said. “I’m not going back to work” at another regular job.

Asked how many times he had visited the community since announcing his candidacy, Adams, 38, said he had not kept count. When pressed for an estimate, he said “several times over the past several months.”

Adams said those occasions included “meet-and-greets” with the public, business owners and local officials, as well as visits to Martinsville Family Pharmacy, where his wife, Melanie, works.


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