Two Republicans from Chesapeake and one from Suffolk will be on the ballot Saturday for a special primary election in Virginia’s House of Delegates District 89 race.
Candidates include former NFL player and current Chesapeake City Council member Don Carey III; engineer Jason Wooldridge from Suffolk; and Baxter Ennis, who unsuccessfully sought a seat on the Chesapeake City Council last year. They’re seeking a seat in the newly redrawn District 89, which leans Republican and covers parts of Chesapeake and Suffolk.
Early voting for the 2023 primary election begins Friday and will run through June 17, with the primary election occurring June 20.
But the election for Virginia House District 89 takes place Saturday in what’s called a firehouse primary conducted by the two local Republican parties. Miki Miller, chair of the 89th District Republican Committee, said Republican voters can cast ballots at the following three locations between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.:
- Western Branch Community Center, located at 4437 Portsmouth Blvd. in Chesapeake (for Chesapeake voters in precincts 004, 019, 020, 021, 027, 028, 035, 038, 044 and 054)
- Grassfield Baptist Church, located at 1772 Cedar Road in Chesapeake (for Chesapeake voters in precincts 006, 014, 041, 046, 052 and 064)
- Whaleyville United Methodist Church, located at 6312 Whalevyille Blvd. in Suffolk (for all Suffolk precincts)
The winner will face Suffolk School Board member Karen Jenkins, a Democrat, in the November general election.
The three Republican candidates told The Virginian-Pilot that education, public safety and the state’s economy are at the top of mind.
Carey, 36, was first elected to the Chesapeake City Council in 2020. One of his priorities includes working to repeal legislation passed in 2020 that now prohibits law enforcement from stopping drivers solely for vehicle equipment violations — such as broken taillights, brake lights and expired tags and registration — or the smell of marijuana. The Chesapeake City Council previously signaled support for scrapping some of those changes in its 2023 legislative wish list, and Carey told The Pilot he believes such efforts will increase safety and allow officers to seize more illegal guns and drugs.
“I want to protect our communities,” Carey said. “(When) legislation comes through that makes the job of an officer even more difficult, it makes the lives of our citizens and our community even more dangerous, then I think we need to have the right people in the General Assembly to fix that.”
Other priorities for Carey include protecting religious freedoms, supplying schools with armed professionals to protect students and cutting taxes for Virginians by relying on the billions of dollars of surplus revenue. He added that teachers shouldn’t be paying out of pocket for expenses and that state funding for schools should be more targeted.
The Norfolk native spent a 10-year career in the NFL, playing two seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars and eight with the Detroit Lions. He founded the Don Carey Reech Foundation, a nonprofit that provides youth football camps and focuses on supporting children’s participation in STEM and arts fields. He also serves on the State Board of Social Services.
Carey told The Pilot working with his nonprofit, passing policies as a city council member and studying crime in the Campostella Square area of the city as part of a task force shows he has relevant experience for the job if elected. He lives in Chesapeake with his wife, Lakeisha, and their three children. Carey earned a Bachelor of Science in building construction from Norfolk State University in 2010 and is currently working toward a master’s degree in strategic management from Indiana University.
Ennis, 70, finished short of securing the fifth seat up for grabs on the Chesapeake City Council in November. He told The Pilot education is the biggest concern for the district and that he would like to see more emphasis on career and technical education and training for students who aren’t interested in attending college upon graduation. Ennis also supports ensuring all schools have funding to pay for a full-time armed school resource officer.
“Our children are our most valuable asset,” Ennis said. “The most valuable possession we have and we need to make sure they are protected.”
Ennis served more than 20 years in the U.S. Army and has been involved with various leadership programs, including the Executive Leadership Series at Regent University. He’s also authored a book called “When Leadership Mattered.” He obtained a Bachelor of Science in history from Campbell University and a master’s degree in journalism from University of Georgia.
Ennis and his wife, Glenda, live in Chesapeake and have three adult children and four grandchildren.
Wooldridge, 49, is a political newcomer who told The Pilot constituents in District 89 don’t get enough representation from any “run of the mill” politician. He said speaking on gun rights years ago at a Suffolk City Council meeting prompted him to get involved with the local Republican party.
Wooldridge said he’s in favor of working to reinstate ultrasound requirements for all those seeking an abortion in Virginia. He also supports “school choice” proposals to fully fund alternative schooling options for students, and ensuring Virginia students are being trained and connected to the numerous technological industries available across the commonwealth.
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“The people that are here in the state of Virginia deserve a fair shake at the economic opportunities that are here,” he said.
The engineer said his ability to solve complex problems would make him ideal for solving problems in Richmond as well, such as lowering taxes.
Wooldridge served in the U.S. Navy for several years and previously worked for Newport News Shipbuilding. He received a bachelor’s degree in electronics engineering from Excelsior University, along with a bachelor’s in project management from the now closed IT Technical Institute Norfolk. He lives in Suffolk with his wife, Stefanie.
To date, Carey has raised the most for his election. He’s received almost $95,000 in donations as of March 31, including a $50,000 loan to himself, leaving him with $82,752 cash on hand, according to campaign finance data from the Virginia Public Access Project.
Ennis follows behind with $42,466 in donations as of March 31, including about $13,000 rolled over from a previous campaign committee, leaving him with $15,495 cash on hand, according to VPAP.
Wooldridge has raised $10,018, including a small loan to himself, leaving him with around $1,200 cash on hand.
Natalie Anderson, 757-732-1133, firstname.lastname@example.org