After Commencement next week, Laura Kleiner hopes to leave Mary Baldwin University with a political science degree and a path directly to Richmond.
<img src="http://www.marybaldwin.edu/images/news_mag/kleiner.jpg" alt="Laura Kleiner" align="right" />
The 22-year-old senior from Blacksburg recently announced that she will challenge Republican incumbent Del. Richard P. "Dickie" Bell in this year's general election for Virginia's 20th District seat in the House of Delegates. The Democrat, who now is an official Staunton resident and works at the YMCA, has the support of prominent party members such as state Sen. Creigh Deeds, who represents the neighboring 25th District, and Staunton City Councilman Bruce Elder.
As she prepares to graduate on May 22 and for Election Day on November 8, Kleiner took time to answer a few questions about her General Assembly bid:
Mary Baldwin NEWS: Why have you decided to take this bold step?
KLEINER: I know what Virginia needs for a better future. Our great state has grown stagnant and many of us have become disenfranchised by the government. Our voices have gone unheard and it is time we make that change. We need a delegate who will represent our values and is committed to making a difference; this is why I am seeking the Democratic nomination.
Mary Baldwin NEWS: What are the key points of your campaign?
KLEINER: I am well aware of the economic crisis with which we continue to struggle, but I also see room for expansion and improvement. In the 20th District there are spaces available for entrepreneurs and start-ups and room for established businesses to expand to create the local job opportunities we need. Also close to my heart is the issue of education. Virginia needs schools of the highest caliber, and I will protect those schools from budget cuts. I will advocate for disability rights. And I will keep Virginia great without putting undue costs on its citizens. I will cultivate a stronger sense of community and the strength of culture that comes with it.
Mary Baldwin NEWS: What’s it like to have the support of high-profile lawmakers, such as Creigh Deeds?
KLEINER: I respect Senator Deeds immensely. His leadership in the General Assembly is valuable for a better Virginia. I volunteered on Deeds’ campaign for governor, running the Staunton/Augusta headquarters. I am thankful for his support and plan to work alongside him and other legislators if I am elected as the next delegate.
Mary Baldwin NEWS: How did your experience as a Mary Baldwin student help influence your decision to run for public office?
KLEINER: Mary Baldwin shaped me into leader that I am today. In our Women in Politics class [taught by Laura van Assendelft, professor of political science], it was extremely evident that women can lead and that we need more women leaders. With my experience and new ideas, I know I can lead Virginia into a better tomorrow.