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Plenty of people have experience in politics, but few in politics have much experience in the business world. That's why entrepreneur Pete Snyder is running to be Virginia's next lieutenant governor.
Virginia's statewide offices are on the ballot every four years in odd numbered years, and all three of Virginia's statewide offices are up for grabs next year.
Snyder has long been active in Republican politics but never sought office himself. Instead, he spent the past 13 years starting and growing New Media Strategies, the first social media marketing company.
He also had no plans to join this race until he saw the election results in November, and his wife actually planted the idea in his head.
"I went into a deep depression for about a week (after the election)," Snyder said. "My wife kicked me after a couple of days and said, 'Hey honey. What the heck are you doing? If you really firmly believe that we need more private-sector people involved in governing and more people who actually signed the front of a paycheck, you need to get in the ring.' And that was really it."
Snyder said he had no intention of running for governor against his good friend, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, so running for lieutenant governor was the logical choice. He is one of seven Republicans in the field, but Snyder said a career in business – rather than a lifetime in politics – separates him from most of his GOP rivals.
"The entire field is made up of career politicians, current officeholders or those who have sought office before, and I'm the only private sector person in the mix," said Snyder, who noted that he thinks highly of many of the other Republicans in the field. "I'm the only person who's been an innovator and a job creator, and that's really what I'm going to be bringing to the table. My focus is going to be one of big ideas. While the stakes have only gotten higher in politics in Washington and in Richmond, it seems that the politics have only gotten smaller. The ideas have only gotten smaller. So we have a campaign based on big ideas."
Education reform is at the top of Snyder's priority list. He said union power has allowed some terrible policies to remain on the books.
"If you look at Virginia's education laws, you would think they were written by the teacher unions themselves, which is preposterous because in Virginia we don't even negotiate against teachers unions," said Snyder. "Things like teacher tenure still exist. Last in, first out still exists. We have some of the worst grades on charter schools."
Snyder said the private market should be allowed to flourish in the education arena. He said the model should be Louisiana, where Hurricane Katrina wiped out so many schools the government couldn't get enough open and the private sector came to the rescue.
"Since then, kids are being educated, test scores are going through the roof and more kids are going to college than ever," Snyder said. "We need more of that in Virginia. We need to take down the teachers' unions and their influence and add many more free-market elements to reward our best and most innovative teachers and to actually have our kids be learning."
On the economy, Snyder said some areas of Virginia are doing well but others are not – like southwestern Virginia, which is facing double-digit unemployment. Snyder wants to spur greater investment and encourage small and large-scale entrepreneurs to do business in the commonwealth. One way Snyder said that can be spurred is to eliminate the state corporate income tax.