District 18 in the Virginia House of Delegates includes parts of Culpeper, Fauquier and Warren counties and all of Rappahannock. Voters should check their registration to find their Districts and polling places.

Two Democratic candidates are vying for the party nomination in the June 11 Democratic Primary. The winner will run in November against incumbent Del. Michael Webert, R-Marshall, uncontested in the primary season.

The Democratic candidates are:

Laura Galante

Age: 34

Residence: Marshall

Education: J.D., Catholic University of America, 2011 B.A., Foreign Affairs and Italian, University of Virginia, 2006 James W. Robinson Jr. Secondary School (Fairfax), 2003

Experience: Founder, Galante Strategies (Cybersecurity Consultancy) 2017-Present; Director of Global Intelligence, FireEye & Mandiant, 2012-17; Senior Intelligence Lead at the Defense Intelligence Agency, Booz Allen Hamilton, 2008-2012; Board Member, Safeguard Cyber, Charlottesville; 4-H Leader, Piedmont Farmers Cloverbud Club; Senior Fellow, The Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center and Cyber Statecraft Initiative; Board Member, Northern Virginia 4-H Educational and Conference Center

Personal: My husband of 11 years and I live with our 6-year-old son on a farm in Marshall where she raises sheep and rides horses.

Why are you running for the House of Delegates?

I’ve always felt a very strong duty to serve, and I believe that investing our energy at the state level is the most effective way to shape a prosperous and inclusive rural future. We’re on the cusp of a moment when living in rural areas and small towns can mean locally-based opportunity and close knit communities--not a youth and skill drain to the cities and suburbs. It’s why my husband, son, and I choose to live here in hard-working Marshall, and it’s why I’m running to be your delegate. Growing up in Fairfax County, my brother and I, spent every free hour at the one working farm in the county, Frying Pan Farm Park. With a deep interest in agriculture and love of a good challenge I became the 4-Her to beat in poultry, livestock, and meat judging competitions for most of the late 90’s. I proudly represented Virginia and won the National Livestock Skillathon in 2000. Then 9/11 happened and my focus turned to international relations and national security issues, which I studied at the University of Virginia. That’s also where I met Tihomir, my husband of over ten years. After graduation we got married and lived in DC while we both studied law. While I worked towards my law degree, I led a team contracted to analyze Russian cyber capabilities at the Defense Intelligence Agency. In 2012, I joined one of the private sector’s first cyber intelligence teams at Mandiant, ultimately leading a 90-person intelligence team located on three continents. In 2017, I gave a TED Talk, joined the Atlantic Council as a Senior Fellow, and started a consulting practice. I’m passionate about giving back to my community. I’ve been unwinding hard security and policy problems for years--and it all starts with listening to the ground truth, building dedicated teams, and tirelessly getting the job done. I believe that our mission to build a dynamic American future starts here in. We’re smart and creative, we’re compassionate, we’re accountable, we’re entrepreneurial, and our representation in Richmond should be too.

If elected, what would be your No. 1 issue?

My primary issue is expanding real internet access. It sounds simple but it undergirds nearly every major challenge we face in the 18th district. For too long Richmond has failed to finish the job and finally bring real broadband and lay fiber optic cable across the district. McDonald’s Wi-Fi should not be the only spot for some kids to do their homework at night. Job applicants should be able to find new opportunities easily, further their careers, and not be restricted from family friendly work options like telecommuting. Real internet connectivity will allow us to expand our telehealth capacity and provide remote care for both mental and physical health. Real internet access will allow our small businesses and farms to compete, access new markets, and sell to a broader audience. Finally, in a time when yelling has replaced civil discourse, access to unbiased information is key to addressing the actual challenges face in our rural communities, our Commonwealth and our country.

Tristan Shields

Age: 36

Place of residence: Rixeyville

Education: B.A. degree College of Charleston

Experience: 2017 Democratic Candidate for House of Delegates District 18

Why are you running for the house of delegates?

To run as a Democrat in District 18, you have to be tough and realistic while still being a dreamer. That is who I am. In other areas in Virginia, it has been a blue wave, but here it’s more like a blue slog. I knew that when I stepped up in 2017. It’s even more true now.

In high school in Warrenton, I came from behind to win the Virginia State Equitation championship (show jumping). After college, in the middle of the Great Recession, I moved to Memphis to work in theatre and play guitar on Beale Street. I returned home to start a media/music business and had the opportunity to perform up and down the East Coast. This led to being cast on NBC’s The Voice, appearing after the Super Bowl for millions of viewers. Today, I live with my wife, Stephanie, on our family farm in Rixeyville.

We are a rich area that has the problems of a poor district. What do I mean when I say that? We have the 2nd most expensive commute in America but we can’t get Route 29 fixed. We have high property values, yet we have the poor education funding – our teachers make $25,000 less than Prince William County. We are epicenter of the opioid epidemic and have some of the highest rates of drug overdose deaths in America.

Why is this happening? Our current political leaders are not fighting for us! They spend their time and our money solving problems we don’t have. We need to solve the problems we have, not the ones Republican leaders or outsiders make up to avoid dealing with reality.

If elected, what would be your No. 1 issue?

Now is the time for rural Democrats to stop letting Republicans get an Easy Pass to doing nothing. To quote one of my favorite politicians, LBJ: What has Delegate Michael Webert ever done for Culpeper? For YOU? My No. 1 issue is getting our tax dollars back in our area to serve the people of this district.

You know me, I’m not afraid to speak up and take on hard issues. Today, we are poised to flip our District blue. Vote for me on June 11th and I promise I’ll do what it takes to fund our schools, fix Rt.29, ensure everyone has access to affordable healthcare, and be the first rural Democrat back in the Virginia House of Delegates.

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