By Kinsey Grant
After running unopposed the last two election cycles, Republican Del. Ben Cline will face an opponent in his bid to continue representing area constituents this year — Ellen Arthur of Rockbridge County.
Cline was elected in 2002 and is in his seventh term representing the 24th District, which includes parts of Rockbridge, Amherst, Augusta and Bath counties and the cities of Lexington and Buena Vista. He last had an opponent in 2009.
He would not comment on Arthur’s entrance into the race.
“I’ve been hard at work these past several years on behalf of working families in the 24th District,” he said.
Arthur, a retired attorney and a Democrat, says the area is due for a change.
“What we’ve got now unfortunately are a lot of folks like Ben Cline who have made [politics] a career,” Arthur said. “It’s time for new blood.”
Cline, who is also a lawyer, hasn’t always found support from Lexingtonians, who tend to vote for Democrats. But most of Cline’s district reflects his conservative politics, said Doug Harwood, publisher of Rockbridge Advocate.
Cline and Arthur are the only two candidates in the race, according to election filing data.
Moved here in 1976
Arthur, 68, has lived and worked in the area since 1976. She moved to Lexington to attend Washington and Lee University Law School and graduated in 1979.
“It turns out that was one of the best things I ever did because I just fell in love with Lexington and Rockbridge County,” Arthur said of her move to the area.
In 1988, Arthur opened a family law practice in Lexington. She retired last year.
Arthur said she had planned to retire to her farm and learn to play the ukulele. But her plans changed once she realized she had the time to become involved in politics.
“I had been not involved in politics during my legal career .… I was interested in it and read about it and kept up with it but I didn’t get involved,” she said. “I really didn’t have the time.
“I began to ask myself if I should be more involved in what’s happening, especially concerned with the anti-woman stance of some of the proposals and bills that have been passed in the Virginia General Assembly,” she said.
She said she also hopes to address career politics and the role of big business in the House of Delegates.
Arthur also takes issue with healthcare policy in the state. She said Virginia lawmakers have neglected to use millions of federal dollars left in Washington and failed to extend healthcare to middle income families.
“That seems to be both mean-spirited and rather dumb, to leave federal money lying in Washington, which has been collected from Virginia taxpayers,” Arthur said. “It seems to have come strictly from partisan politics.”
“A local guy”
Rockbridge GOP Chairman Roger Jarrell said he’s looking to run a positive campaign on behalf of Cline.
“Ben is a local guy who can do the most in Richmond,” Jarrell said. “He’s done an effective job of standing up in Richmond against the Obama administration and now the McAuliffe administration.”
Cline would not comment specifically on the campaign, but he said he looks forward to continuing his work on keeping taxes low, streamlining government and fighting domestic violence.
“I look forward to continuing that work in Richmond,” Cline said.