Democrat Dr. Doug Ward, an infectious disease specialist residing in Sperryville, is challenging incumbent state Del. Michael Webert for a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates, saying he wants to protect the rural lifestyle while still providing the benefits of an urban society.
“I love the rural lifestyle, I want to protect that,” Ward said. “But I also want to make sure that residents of rural Virginia have access to the benefits of modern society — Internet, medical care, education — the same as urban residents.”
Ward is originally from New Jersey and has been living in Rappahannock for 12 years. After Ward graduated from college, he joined the Peace Corps, where he spent three years teaching junior high school in a small village in Liberia, along the coast of western Africa.
He then went to medical school and became a doctor specializing in HIV and AIDS during the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s. He also completed a fellowship in infectious diseases at the National Institutes of Health.
“After that went into private practice in D.C., specializing in AIDS, HIV. That was at the worst point of the AIDS epidemic — so very, very busy, emotionally exhausting,” Ward said.
Ward lives in Sperryville with his husband who is a retired chaplain.
Issues important to your campaign?
Ward said he’s passionate about protecting the environment and providing free community college and trade school tuition.
“Not everyone needs a college degree,” Ward said. “And we really have to promote trade schools, apprenticeships, to get appropriate training for our young citizens.”
Michael Webert, a five-term Republican incumbent in the Virginia House of Delegates’ 18th District, is running for re-election in a contested race to continue representing much of Rappahannock County and parts of Fauquier, Warren and Culpeper Counties.
He said he wants to invest in clean energy, such as wind, solar and possibly micronuclear. Last year, Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, signed the Virginia Clean Economy Act and joined the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
The legislation requires all coal-powered plants to close by 2024 and requires Dominion Energy to be 100% carbon-free by 2045 and Appalachian Power to be 100% carbon-free by 2050.
“Transitioning to solar and wind energy will create tens of thousands of jobs, which is something else we need in the rural areas,” Ward said.
How to address health care and abortion?
Ward, an infectious disease doctor with a specialty in HIV treatment, said access to affordable health care is one of his main priorities.
He said he was extremely pleased to see the Virginia General Assembly approve an expansion of Medicaid in 2018, which opened Medicaid to about 400,000 low-income adults.
“It's preventative health care — getting your mammograms, getting your colonoscopy, having a physical exam — that keeps people healthy, and it is well documented that preventative health care decreases the overall cost of health care,” Ward said. “Medicaid expansion also provides mental health funds, which are sort of ignored, but very important, and particularly in rural Virginia.”
As some state legislatures across the country pass restrictive abortion laws, Ward said he is “absolutely opposed to abortion restrictions.”
“I am not pro-abortion. No one is pro-abortion. No one likes the idea of an abortion, including women who get one,” Ward said. “Having an abortion is an extremely difficult decision for a woman. I don't think that I or the government should be telling a woman what to do with her body.”
He said rather than pass restrictive laws, lawmakers should try and take measures to prevent unwanted pregnancies, like investing in Planned Parenthood and providing free contraception, such as implants and IUDs.
“So if you want to prevent abortions, you go and march in the March for Life [in Washington D.C.] on January 21. I’ll go to the House of Delegates on January 21 and vote for funding Planned Parenthood, and I’ll prevent more abortions than you will,” Ward said.
Where to allocate stimulus funds?
Ward said he would like to see federal stimulus funding go toward broadband initiatives, raising teacher salaries and making repairs and improvements to physical school buildings.
“I think the legislature did a good job in budgeting those funds and still left us with a surplus, so that leaves open the possibility of reducing taxes,” Ward said. Virginia reached the end of its 2021 fiscal year with a $2.6 billion budget surplus, the largest in the Commonwealth’s history.
Why should voters elect you?
Ward said that voters should elect him because Webert has been in the General Assembly for 10 years “and hasn’t done anything significant.”
“You know, sort of jokingly, my campaign slogan when I first started was, ‘I'm not a Republican,’ Ward said. “The Republicans controlled the legislature for years and really did nothing.”
Ward said he will work to continue what the General Assembly did last session, including making health care more accessible to rural communities and promoting clean energy jobs.