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House hopefuls: Keep Va. ban on uranium mining
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Taking part in Friday’s ribbon-cutting to open the Martinsville-Henry County Democratic Party headquarters were (from left) Kim Adkins, House candidates Gary Miller and Elizabeth Jones, and Jeff Adkins, chairman of the local Democratic Party. (Bulletin photos by Mike Wray)
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Sunday, September 15, 2013

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Uranium mining cannot be allowed in Virginia, the area’s two Democratic House of Delegates hopefuls declared Friday night.

Speaking at the opening of the Martinsville-Henry County Democratic Party Headquarters on Main Street uptown, 14th District candidate Gary Miller and 16th District candidate Elizabeth Jones vowed to fight attempts to repeal a statewide ban on the mining if they are elected on Nov. 5.

Virginia Uranium Inc. wants to mine the radioactive element at a site near Chatham. Opponents, including the candidates, say it would be too risky.

Already, controversy over the issue is “keeping our economy from growing” by discouraging companies from coming to Southside, Jones said.

“We’d hurt our economic recovery,” Miller said. He also raised environmental concerns with uranium mining.

Then no other political issue would really matter, he indicated.

Jones said most of the jobs that uranium mining would create would be for people already in that business who would be brought into the area.

In talking with voters, Miller said, he has found that about 8 or 9 out of every 10 people oppose uranium mining.

Miller is a cardiologist from Danville. Jones is a retired educator in the New York City schools who moved to Chatham in 2002. Following her move, she was Pittsylvania County’s assistant voter registrar for about five years.

They are vying for the General Assembly seats against Republicans Danny Marshall of Danville, the incumbent 14th District delegate; Mary Martin of Henry County, running as an independent in the 14th District; and Les Adams, a Chatham lawyer running for the 16th District seat. The 16th District’s incumbent delegate, Don Merricks, is not seeking re-election.

Jones described herself and Miller as being partners in efforts to help revive the region’s economy. Although they from neighboring communities, both voiced the desire to help Henry County and Martinsville prosper again.

Despite opposition to uranium mining, the Democratic candidates said the most important issue to voters with whom they have talked is creating jobs.

“People have to be able to earn a living,” with salaries they can live on, health insurance and other benefits to support their families, Jones said.

Having health insurance especially is important to people, Miller said. Those without it have trouble staying healthy because they cannot afford medical care and medicines when they get sick, he said.

Both candidates mentioned the need to improve educational opportunities as part of efforts to boost economic development.

Yet no matter how much education people have, Miller said, “without jobs, people will continue to leave” the area.

Republican gubernatorial hopeful Ken Cuccinelli has said his Democratic opponent, Terry McAuliffe, considered building a Green Tech Automotive plant in Henry County but opted for a Mississippi site instead.

Jones said Friday she thinks “red tape and bureaucracy” hindered McAuliffe in considering Virginia for the plant.

She said that if she is elected, she will work to reform business-related laws.

“We must have opportunities for entrepreneurs” and other business people to establish and grow firms without facing too many restrictions, she added.

Miller and Jones agree that campaign finance laws should be reformed in the wake of a scandal involving gifts, loans and political contributions that Gov. Bob McDonnell and members of his family received from Star Scientific chief executive Jonnie Williams, as well as gifts that Cuccinelli, who is the state attorney general, received from Williams.

State officials “work for people, not the lobbyists,” Jones said.

An expensive gift “does influence people” making decisions, Miller said.

He added that lawmakers who accept a gift valued at more than $100 should be required to report it.

Both candidates encouraged local Democratic voters to go door-to-door and encourage people to vote for the party’s candidates. They said Democrats, not Republicans, have the solutions to local economic troubles.

“When I grew up,” said local party Chairman Jeff Adkins, “Democrats were in charge (of state government) ... and Martinsville-Henry County was booming.”


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