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For Brenda Pogge, a fourth-grade class trip to the House of Burgesses sparked an interest in public policy and the philosophies of the Founding Fathers.
In the decades to come, Pogge would discover her faith, political views and principles that would lead her to the House of Delegates and a goal to continue Virginia on a center-right political track.
“I’m not afraid to get out there and work, and fight if I have to, for my constituents back home or for principles and philosophies I feel are right,” Pogge said. “I will be a voice.”
Del. Pogge (R), 58, moved to Norge in James City County 11 years ago but has lived in the Hampton Roads area her entire life. She first volunteered with a grassroots political campaign in 1993, but while she enjoyed the adrenaline rush of a campaign and being “behind the scenes,” she never thought she would run for public office herself.
After taking a break from campaigning to care for her mother- and father-in-law, she said she “got her arm twisted” in 2007 to run for the 96th District seat.
“I did not want to do it,” Pogge said. “I was ready for a little bit of a break for a while, but I couldn’t walk away from the work I had been doing, at that point, for close to 15 years. I had to do it.”
The 96th District includes parts of James City County and York County.
She said her principles are inspired by a conservative worldview and informed by the philosophies of the Founding Fathers, especially the Jeffersonian principles of small government and less intrusion in the lives of private citizens. Her priorities in the House of Delegates range from education reform to mental health to workforce development.
Pogge said she opposes Medicaid expansion in Virginia and encourages efforts to explore alternatives, such as creating Medicaid health savings accounts or establishing “Doc-In-A-Box” offices near hospitals to assist those with minor ailments that would otherwise go to the emergency room.
She said her principles and philosophies help her determine how to vote, but her Christian faith, which she adopted when she was 20 years old, also plays a role in her worldview. She said she prayed on her decision to run for a fifth term and will revisit re-election efforts every two years through prayer.
In response to constituents who think her faith should not influence her votes, she said it’s her constitutional right to express her viewpoint and the voters can decide if she’s unfit for office because of her beliefs.
“My faith is part of who I am and I am who I am,” Pogge said. “I’m not ashamed to express that I believe in God.”
Pogge’s opponent, newcomer Brandon Waltrip (I), is her first in a general election since she was originally elected to the 96th District in 2007. Since then, she has run unopposed every two years.
“I have been hired by the people. My contract is up every two years and they are the ones that make the decision whether to rehire me or not,” Pogge said. “I’m fine with that because I love our process.”
Pogge and Waltrip were not able to participate in a public debate after Pogge withdrew from a forum organized by the League of Women Voters. She said she does not believe missing out on the forum will affect her campaign.
“My record is pretty transparent. Everybody knows where I stand,” Pogge said. “They need to find where he stands and make a decision.”