House District 55 update: Bell not seeking election

Late last week, Delegate Rob Bell announced he would not seek re-election to another term in the General Assembly. Bell was first elected in 2001 when he defeated Democrat Charles Martin with 59.9 percent of the vote. He ran unopposed in 2003, 2007, 2011, 2013, and 2015. In the years he faced a contested election, he secured between 62 percent and 67 percent of the vote. 

On the final day of the General Assembly last Saturday, Bell addressed the House of Delegates to explain he is retiring to devote more time to his family and thanked his wife Jessica. 

“When we started this, she thought it was fun,” Bell said. “It was one of the things that we kind of did together and in our first race we didn’t have kids and she knocked on a thousand doors and that was just something we did. And once you have kids, it changes all of these trade-offs.” 

Bell said his wife has been the one to dedicate time to their children and the family, and he thanked his wife. He told fellow legislators that their time is transient and all legislation can be changed, referring to a 2004 law he carried that was intended to curtail bullying. 

“And then my recollection and I might get some of this wrong is that Jennifer McClellan and everybody voted for that,” Bell said. “At the time, Delegate [Eileen] Filler-Corn had a bill and she put in a time limit. And then I think [Glen] had one and at each step you took a little idea that, everybody voted for all of these, I think they were all unanimous. But hopefully that made someone’s life somewhere in the Commonwealth a little better and something you do will make your lives a little better and that’s why we’re here, I hope.” 

This time around, Bell would have run in the new House District 55 as opposed to the old House District 58. That had contained sections of Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene and Rockingham counties, which learned Republican. Because of redistricting, the new House District 55 consists of most of Albemarle and parts of Louisa and Nelson. There are 19 registered voters in Fluvanna who will vote in this race. 

There are two Democrats competing in the June 20, 2023 primary, including one who ran against Bell in 2017. That year, Kellen Squire got 38.7 percent of the vote to Bell’s 61.2 percent. The other candidate is Amy Laufer, a former member of the Charlottesville School Board. Laufer placed third in a race for two Charlottesville Council seats in 2017. In 2019, she ran against Senator Bryce Reeves in the former Senate District 17 and garnered 48.11 percent of the vote. 

Both candidates immediately put out statements. 

“Despite our profound differences, anyone who puts themselves forward and serves their community is deserving of our respect. However, as we’ve progressed, it’s clear Delegate. Bell no longer represents our values and that we need new leadership,” said Laufer’s statement.

“The Virginia GOP calculated that they’ve had to spend millions of dollars in our district – and waste it in the face of the campaign we’ve built,” said Square’s statement. 

The two Democrats are locked in an intense campaign. At the end of 2022, Laufer had raised $121,256 to Squire’s $104,637. Check the Virginia Public Access Project for the full details

Before you go: The time to write and research of this article is covered by paid subscribers to Charlottesville Community Engagement. In fact, this particular installment comes from the March 1, 2023 edition of the program. To ensure this research can be sustained, please consider becoming a paid subscriber or contributing monthly through Patreon.

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