One year ago yesterday, Virginia State Delegate Scott Garrett (R-Lynchburg) joined 18 other Republicans in voting with Democrats to expand Medicaid spending under Obamacare. Less than a year later, Garrett unsurprisingly announced that he would not run for reelection. District 23 is home to Lynchburg and Liberty University, as well as the rural areas of Bedford and Amherst Counties. It’s a deep red district. Needless to say, Garrett’s vote did not go over well.
As a long time political activist, 25-year Lynchburg-area resident, and passionate conservative, Ron Berman has considered running many times. Garrett’s betrayal was the last straw.
“Part of that [expansion] is millions and millions of dollars to organizations like Planned Parenthood,” Berman in an interview with The Resurgent. “We have these guys campaigning on being pro-life, these guys that pretended they cared about this, and then they all betrayed us. It was very crystallizing to a lot of folks.”
“We had 19 members of the House of Delegates which is almost 40 percent of the caucus, including our own Scott Garrett, cross over to vote for Medicaid expansion. They wanted those sweet federal dollars, essentially so they didn’t have to take care of anything at the state level, they could pretend like they weren’t raising taxes.”
Berman, 48, lives in Forest, VA with his wife, Aranka, and two children, Caleb and Ariana. The Bermans run a digital translation business which spawned from his wife’s love of language and Ron’s business experience in the restaurant management industry.
Competing with Berman for the State Delegate seat is Lynchburg City Council Member Turner Perrow, who recently switched his party affiliation from independent to Republican, and establishment favorite Wendell Walker who is chair of the Virginia 6th Congressional District Republican Committee.
Any Republican running in Delegate District 23 has to pay lip service to conservative ideas and policy objectives. Whereas the “Issues” sections of Perrow and Walker’s websites regurgitate conservative platitudes on various topics, Berman lays out the specific bills he will sponsor and policy objectives he will fight for in Richmond. The first three planks on Berman’s platform are the total abolition of abortion, the total abolition of the state wage tax, and the passing of a constitutional carry bill.
“I try to be very specific with my issues,” Berman said. “The other guys are vaguely in this direction, vaguely in that direction. For me, I really want to put up some goal posts and say ‘here’s what we’re driving towards.’ It’s important that people can see where I want to take us and see what my vision is… If we don’t get [these objectives] on day one, we’ll get them on day four. If we don’t get them on day four, we’ll get them on day eight. But we’re really going to push for these things.”
“Republicans in Virginia have been in retreat for so long that they’re basically just managing the decline… Everyone’s looking forward to the next check or the next cocktail party, and I don’t want to be that. I want to be a guy who calls us back to our values. I want to call us back to who we are.”
The most unique of Berman’s planks is the abolition of abortion. Pro-life politicians and lobbyists have been content to regulate abortion for years, never challenging the courts or writing legislation that treats abortion like what it is: murder. Beginning with OK SB1118 in 2016, a number of state legislators around the country have introduced bills to forgo the pro-life strategy of regulating abortion in favor of legislation that abolishes it by extending equal protection and justice to preborn boys and girls. It is on this platform that Berman is running.
“My plan is that my first bill will be for the abolition of abortion,” Berman said. “There are a lot of other things I want to do. I want to get taxes off the little guy. I want to do constitutional carry, I want to do all these things… But if I get up there and my first bills are to reduce taxes here, get a great road project done there, and whatever else, and then somehow never got around to [the abortion abolition bill], I would be ashamed for the rest of my life. That would be the great shame of my existence for the rest of my days… There are a lot of important functions of government, but that has to be first.”
The distinction between the abolitionist Berman and his pro-life opponents is stark. While Perrow and Walker profess to be for life like just about every Republican, as an abolitionist, Ron has staked out the position that abortion must be abolished. Anyone can claim to be pro-life. It’s a vague term that means different things to different people. It’s easy for Republican politicians to sweet talk Christian voters with promises of being pro-life without explaining what that means or what they intend to do about abortion. Most end up doing little to nothing. An abolitionist, on the other hand, by definition, is someone who is demanding abortion’s abolition.
“Pro-life as a term has become pablum in the mouths of republican leaders. They’ll raise money on it, they’ll campaign on it, they’ll try to whip up our emotions and our votes on it, and they never change anything. I want the utter abolition of abortion. I don’t want to compromise with it, I don’t want to diminish it – you know 20 weeks instead of 21 weeks. Those bills are just to Republicans some sort of cover to pretend they’re doing something. They like their scorecards. They like saying ‘I voted for 11 out of the 12 pro-life bills.’ But did they change anything really? ‘Well, we got a restriction that made them spend a few extra dollars to make the hallway wider at the abortion clinic.’ And that’s pro-life. You got a wider hallway at a clinic. That’s your big pro-life accomplishment.”
“I understand people want to compromise on certain things but you don’t compromise on the intrinsics. You don’t compromise on those moral issues where it is or it isn’t. God doesn’t give us a sliding scale where one day you can kill the child and another day you can’t. No. It is or it isn’t. That’s who we have to be. Even if we lose, let’s have a clear voice and make it known what this is, what’s actually being done. What is abortion? It’s murder.”
On wage taxes, Berman thinks Republicans need to improve their messaging and explain better exactly what tax increases mean for people.
“When they take money, they don’t take it from some random pot,” Berman said. “They take it from families. It’s coming out of your family’s well-being. That could be your family vacation or ability to live in a nicer neighborhood. Let’s be truthful. When we’re spending this money, where is it coming from? It doesn’t come out of the ether. It comes from families. And even if we lose, let’s make it clear and educate some people.”
Further, Berman sees taxing wages as a moral issue. “When there’s a man working all day on a farm, or breaking rocks in a mine, or flipping burgers, or whatever, and then you have that man paying the government for the privilege of working, I just think there’s a problem there. I think there are other ways to collect revenue for the state of Virginia. But there’s a moral issue with a guy paying for the privilege of working. I also think it’s a moral issue. It’s foolish to make someone pay the government to be able to work. I’d like to see that go away.”
Given the passage of constitutional carry laws in states across the country, Berman hopes that Virginia Republicans are able to do get on board with what even Democrats in other states have passed: “Why do the Democrats of Vermont trust their citizens more than the Republicans of Virginia trust ours?”
Given the event that inspired him to run, it’s appropriate that health care is also on Berman’s platform. He intends to undo the work of his predecessor regarding Obamacare and work to shift power in health care decision-making from government to families.
“When I talk about medical freedom, I talk about the idea that you get to make the medical decisions about your doctor and your insurance and your kids,” Berman said. “It’s not something that should be done by the government. As far as trusting parents or trusting government, I trust parents far more than government. I want to put things back into the hands of parents, families, and individuals to make those choices.”
Despite the conservative people of the Lynchburg area, VA Delegate District 23 hasn’t been well represented in Richmond for some time. Garrett’s predecessor was Shannon Valentine, a Democrat, and prior to Valentine was Preston Bryant who led the effort in the House for the second biggest tax increase in Virginia history in 2004 before going on to work in the cabinet of then-Governor, now-US Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA).
In Ron Berman, District 23 voters have an opportunity to redeem lost time and change the game in Virginia politics. They have a candidate before them with the skill to articulate the best of conservative ideas and the passion to fight for them. With the alternatives being an independent city council member who switched his party affiliation before the primary or the hand-picked establishment moderate, the decision is an easy one.
There’s a right choice and there are two wrong ones on the June 11 primary ballot. Vote Ron Berman.