An Amherst resident is seeking to turn Virginia’s House 24 district blue for the first time in nearly four decades.
Sam Soghor, 40, is the Democratic candidate for the district that covers the cities of Buena Vista and Lexington as well as Bath and Rockbridge counties and parts of Amherst and Augusta counties. Soghor, a New York City native who recently moved to the town of Amherst, said improving public education, broadband accessibility and health care access are crucial issues he plans to fight for in the General Assembly.
A parent of a student in Amherst County Public Schools, he said he wants to make sure every child has high-speed access to the internet and school districts have the best available resources.
“That really puts them at a disadvantage to other students who do have access at home,” Soghor said of children without broadband access. “We need to make sure they have every advantage possible.”
Expanding health care options in the district and supporting farmers are priorities if elected, he said.
“This area is full of small business farmers, mom and pop farms. They should be given all the resources and tools that the factory farms get,” Soghor said. “The more access we, as citizens, have here to fresh food, the better access to health we have.”
The Virginia 24 House seat has been in Republican hands since January 1983. Soghor will face the winner of the June 8 Republican primary between incumbent Ronnie Campbell and challenger Mark Reed.
Soghor said he has spent much time exploring the Blue Ridge Mountains and feels the area has much to offer in the splendor of the George Washington National Forest.
“I love being part of the community. That’s a reason I want to help here, and do my part. People here help each other and are always looking out for each other,” Soghor said. “I’m not doing this because I have a political career. I’m doing this because I want to serve the people of the 24th District.”
Reinvigorating the economy is another goal and the legalization of marijuana this summer is a factor, he said.
“That’s happening whether we like it or not,” Soghor said. “I think it’s very important that Amherst County makes sure they get the tax revenue. Are we going to allow that to go to Lynchburg or Nelson County? No, we need to make sure Amherst County gets the revenue.”
Soghor said farmers in Amherst not being able to grow and sell a legal crop would be absurd.
“I want to make sure our farmers and our entrepreneurs here have every resource to take advantage of that opportunity,” Soghor said.
The Amherst County Board of Supervisors recently said they favor a referendum that would let voters decide if the county should benefit financially from marijuana dispensaries. Supervisor Jimmy Ayers during a recent meeting described marijuana as a gateway drug and as a former Amherst sheriff he has seen it do damage to families.
Soghor said marijuana is a proven medicine and can be a gateway drug out of opioid addiction. “It’s being done in a thoughtful and respectable way,” Soghor said. “Amherst residents shouldn’t be denied access to an internationally recognized medicine.”
Soghor has a bachelor’s degree in political science from the State University of New York at Purchase and seeks public office for the first time. He said he if elected he would work to give Amherst residents and businesses resources and promote Amherst as a destination.
“Right now I see a lot of closed down storefronts. There’s not a lot of restaurants in this area,” Soghor said. “I think we can improve that.”
Describing himself a “peace and love guy” not driven by a political machine or corporations, he said he would work to find common ground in a climate of heightened polarization in politics.
“We must come together and be inclusive and be compassionate. I’m just a parent in this district who wants to work hard for the community,” Soghor said. “My agenda is the concerns of the community. I will be able to bring those concerns in a more effective way to the [majority] Democratic legislature.”