Santini announces GOP bid for governor, Visits Appomattox CO.
The article below was printed in the Appomattox Times Virginian, Vol 129, No 31, pgs. 3 and 7. Written by Charles Conrad.
Forest resident Kurt Santini has announced his bid to run as a republican for governor of Virginia in the 2021 election with a mission to remove government control from “career politicians” and place power “back into the people’s hands.”
Santini, a United States Army veteran, made the announcement nearly two years after undergoing spinal cord surgery that relieved him from 18 years of extreme pain after being seriously injured in 2000 during an airborne training exercise as a member of the Special Operations Unit, 1st of the 75th Ranger Battalion when his parachute collapsed and reserve failed.
After recovering from the successful surgery, Santini purchased a Harley Davidson motorcycle and has been riding throughout the state talking to citizens and visiting small businesses.
Recently, Santini rode his Harley into Appomattox County to meet people and enjoy the rural scenery. He is familiar with the county, having visited the Appomattox Court House National Historical Park and fished and kayaked at Holliday Lake State Park.
“I’ve talked to a lot of different people about my travels in Appomattox County, from people getting gas, to the people running the gas station, to the restaurants, just different people. I actually went to Appomattox (Thursday) and stopped at a few businesses and talked to them about some of their concerns,” he said.
“I like the roads,” Santini said of the county. “I ride my Harley a lot, and I like the hills, the back country, the farms. I ended up on the back roads and I ended up at a floral /greenhouse business out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by farms.”
Santini, who had been running for lieutenant governor before making the upward move, said that in speaking to the small business owner, he learned that the business had been penalized because they didn’t have enough funds to pay taxes.
“To me that’s not right,” Santini said. “For me, (it’s) common sense- don’t penalize the people that are struggling cause you’re just making it harder on them to get back up. You can find another way to get wat you need from them without making it harder on the small business.”
Santini is unsure if the tax burden was state or local, but he aims to address the county’s poverty rate. According to 2019 statistics compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau, the poverty rate in Appomattox County was 13.5 percent in a population estimated at 15,911. Santini believes that lowering taxes helps reduce poverty and would like to see more well-paying industry come into the county. He mentioned the collapsed Chinese-based Lindenburg Industry deal in 2015 that had promised to bring more than 300 industrial jobs into the abandoned Thomasville Furniture building-which cost $1.4 million in taxpayer funds as an incentive toward the project in a deal negotiated by then-Gov. Terry McAuliffe when the company turned out to be fraudulent.
“That really hurt the county,” Santini said. “I think if we do any kind of foreign business with another country, we need to make sure that whatever deposits come back if you don’t do that business.”
With agriculture being an important part of Appomattox County, Santini addressed the issue of hemp farming, which he says was brought to his attention during visits to the county.
“I also heard from a couple people, with the new hemp laws that have been passed, there’ve been a few farmers in Appomattox that had grown some hemp and were having trouble getting it sold,” he said. “The people I talked to, their theory was the (foreign) countries were undercutting the prices and making it harder for the companies in the United States to say, ‘yeah, I’m going to buy the American stuff.”
Santini believes that innovation in the farming industry will cut production costs and bring prices down while still bringing in a comfortable profit margin. Seeing people prosper in their business is important to Santini because they can, in turn, create jobs and put money back into the economy.
His own struggles with the Veteran’s Administration (VA) health system following his spinal injury inspired Santini to get involved in public service. Santini said he went through all possible options to address his grievances and came up empty, with only pain management offered by the VA.
At one point, Santini was taking 30 opioids per day and was at his “wit’s end” when he was referred to Operation Backbone, an organization that provides brain and spinal surgery for special forces and private operators as well as moral support to veteran’s wives through its network. The organization found a doctor to perform the surgery. Along with the support from his wife, Misty, the organization saved his life, he stated.
“I went from 30-some opioids a day to waking up from my surgery-my surgery was four to six hours-and I woke up from my surgery and I took absolutely zero pain meds,” he said.
Among the topics that Santini wants to address are the high rate of suicide among the military veteran, providing more help to veterans with disabilities, rights of the unborn, promoting unity among people who disagree on issues, halting the funding of driving privileges for illegal immigrants, improving communication between first responders from differing counties through repeater systems, combatting socialism and creating a constitutional review of the state’s laws to ensure their constitutionality.
“Through my campaign and talking with the people, and then at the same time seeing what other candidates were doing, I didn’t feel like that was the right path that we needed to go as Virginia,” he said. “The other candidates were being just as divisive amongst the people, basically a political party division. I’m not a socialist, a Marxist or communist, and that’s kina where the Democratic party is leading right now.”
In June, Santini visited the now-controversial Lee Monument in Richmond and spoke with Black Lives Matter protestors, even standing on the monument and speaking to the crowd of several hundred with a microphone. In the end, Santini believes everyone desires the same fundamental rights.
“They’re pretty much saying the same thing that all Republicans are saying—we want our freedom, we don’t want to feel oppressed under constitutional laws,” he said. “Obviously, they’re using different words and terminology, but when you actually have the conversation with them, it breaks down into fundamentally the same thing.”
The idea of a major constitutional review, which Santini said hasn’t been done in Virginia since 1971, would give people a chance to voice grievances that they believe are currently “falling on deaf ears” because of party division.
“We would take people from different districts in the state that were citizens, not politicians, to review the laws that they felt crossed the line on our constitutional rights, put in recommendations for removal of that law, for revision of that law, whether that revision be strengthening it or weakening it,” he said. “Under constitutional review, whatever changes you make—strengthening the first amendment or second amendment, or taking out any laws that don’t pertain to the constitution that infringe on rights—those things will be voted on by the people. Under constitutional review the people of the state have to vote, and their vote has to be a majority for that review to pass.”
Santini appreciates the willingness of Appomattox County residents to discuss their viewpoints on political issues.
“The people are nice,” he said. “Whether you disagree on any political view or not, they’re willing to have that discussion.”
The most common complaint Santini has heard during his statewide travels are “people saying they are tired of career politicians” who are untrustworthy in their eyes.
“I don’t want power; I don’t want to be a career politician,” Santini said. “I’m running for office in hopes to inspire other regular people to run for office. You don’t have to have a law degree or be a doctorate or neurosurgeon. College doesn’t teach you anything about being honest and having common sense and integrity and doing the right thing.”
“I want to put the power back in your hands. I don’t want to control you. I want [toy] you to control me. I want to be your tool-let me take the office and do what’s right to put the power back into the people’s hand.”
For more information, visit Santini for Virginia on Facebook or call (434)841-0350. His website, www.santiniforva.com, is currently under construction.