The three incumbent members of the Arlington delegation to the House of Delegates facing the voters in November have won the endorsement of the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation’s political-action committee, called AgPAC.
They were among 81 House of Delegates candidates of both parties, mostly incumbents, who received support through a new endorsement process.
Previously, candidates were endorsed based on recommendations of local farmer committees, which worked well in agricultural districts but proved challenging in urban corridors.
“We noticed, two years ago, our members struggled with how to issue endorsements for someone we don’t really have a track record for,” said Martha Moore, vice president of governmental relations for the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation (VFBF).
The new model allows farmers to educate urban candidates on agricultural issues at a series of in-person roundtable events, officials with the organization said.
“Our main goal is establishing relationships, but if an urban candidate doesn’t have farm constituencies, they might not know anything about agriculture,” Moore said. “We looked at their committees and picked issues they could influence – agriculture, appropriations, natural resources. And there was a dialogue back and forth.”
A number of roundtable events were held for Democrat and Republican candidates in Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia in 2021. Following the roundtables, farmer participants were asked if they felt the candidates supported Farm Bureau’s positions. Based on that information, AgPAC made recommendations regarding urban endorsements.
“This grass-roots evaluation gives us a sense of candidates’ comprehension of the needs and challenges facing Virginia farmers,” said Wayne Pryor, VFBF president and chairman of the AgPAC board of trustees. “Our updated endorsement-designation process is a fresh opportunity to establish deeper connections with both supportive incumbents and urban candidates alike.”
Winning endorsement locally were incumbent Dels. Alfonso Lopez (D-Arlington-Fairfax), Rip Sullivan (D-Arlington-McLean) and Patrick Hope (D-Arlington). All are facing challenges from Republicans in November, while Lopez also faces an independent challenger.
The political-action committee also endorsed Elizabeth Bennett-Parker, who defeated incumbent Del. Mark Levine in a June Democratic primary and is facing Republican J.D. Maddox in the Nov. 2 election. The district includes a sliver of South Arlington and part of Mount Vernon, but is centered on Alexandria.
AgPAC was created by Farm Bureau in 1999 and is funded by contributions from members.