After a career of political advocacy and campaign work for state-level legislators, Greene County resident Sara Ratcliffe is seeking to represent Virginia’s 58th district in the House of Delegates.
In challenging longtime Republican incumbent, Del. Rob Bell, Ratcliffe, a democrat, explained that she has her own political experience she can bring to the table.
After about three decades of working with and for legislators at the state, local and federal levels, she says she understands the pressures, challenges and benefits of the work and is prepared to represent central Virginia come January of next year.
Her passion for politics, she says, stems from her own upbringing and belief that the government should help people. Having grown up the daughter of “a single mother who struggled with mental health challenges,” Ratcliffe saw the benefit of government aid to her family and others who experience hardship. There were times, she says her mother benefited from public housing or food stamps.
My belief has always been that the government is always supposed to be a force for good, that the government is supposed to be an entity that helps us take care of ourselves and each other,” Ratcliffe said.
As such, healthcare access is a large part of her campaign. If elected, Ratcliffe will protect Virginia’s 2018 vote to expand Medicaid coverage. She also plans to support other public healthcare options and telehealth opportunities.
“Navigating the healthcare system is a really complicated and difficult thing,” Ratcliffe said. “People are often forced to make decisions and find care at the worst time of their lives without much support.”
Additionally, Ratcliffe would like to support statewide efforts to enhance mental health care — something very personal to her.
“The stigma for people seeking care and lack of options is really abysmal,” Ratcliffe said, reflecting on watching her mother’s experience with mental health issues.
Ratcliffe says she is excited about the implementation of the Virginia Clean Economy Act and its possible role as an economic driver in the state.
Ratcliffe says the VCEA is an “opportunity to build an infrastructure of jobs across the spectrum — whether they be blue collar or research and development or other kinds of jobs.”
“I think that’s a really strong opportunity for us to come back from the downside that COVID has made on the economy while at the same time taking advantage of new technologies and a new way to make our ecological footprint better,” she added.
On other green matters, Ratcliffe asserts that she will help ensure the rollout of the legalized cannabis industry in the state is equitable.
“It’s going to be important as we set up that industry, we ensure that the opportunities are diverse,” she said.
Ratcliffe said the forthcoming industry may bring a variety of business opportunities, from small shop ownership to farmers introducing new partnerships. Virginia, she said, should focus on: “How do we get as many people involved as want to be and create that boon for both private industry and the public?”
Rural broadband expansion is another issue Ratcliffe says she will champion, adding it is “a utility and we need to treat it that way.”
Efforts to enhance broadband infrastructure have gained momentum in recent years, but she notes that continued efforts must be pursued and that the pandemic further highlighted the disparate access around the state and the 58th district.
Other priorities for Ratcliffe include bolstering funding for education and criminal justice reform.
Ratcliffe plans to advocate for raising teacher salaries around the state and funding for early childhood education. From a state seat, she plans to support local school boards as they work to address the needs of their local communities.
She also supports reforms to law enforcement training and emergency screening for instances where armed officers may not be the best responders or primary responders to calls.
From her own lived experiences to the experiences and needs of people she has come to know in Virginia, Ratcliffe says a seat in the General Assembly is a way for her to give back to communities.
“The reason I’m running for House of Delegates is that I’ve had the experiences that many people have had,” she said. “Life brings challenges for everyone. I don’t think many people are looking for a handout or to be absolved of responsibility, but life doesn’t have to be quite as hard.”