Back in 2007, then AMERIGROUP CEO Jeffrey McWaters wrote an article about health care, which I opined on here. Today McWaters is one of two Republican candidates seeking to represent the 8th Senate District in Virginia Beach. Due to a conflict, McWaters was unable to make our interview, which had been scheduled for Monday afternoon.
I first met McWaters at a luncheon back in September where both of the gubernatorial candidates spoke. It just so happens that I sat at the same table with him and a couple of members of his staff. I’ve run into him on a couple of occasions since, most notably the Kiwanis Harbor Party. He strikes me as a natural politician, with a knack for remembering names and an outgoing personality.
Until I read the bio on his website, I was unaware that his background was in accounting. That’s not all we have in common: as I was researching him for this article, I came across this piece on his home. It’s a small world: I know the architect.
McWaters is a native of Kentucky. He has lived in Virginia Beach since 1990. In 1994, McWaters founded AMERIGROUP, a company which provides managed care to low-income families. With the help of venture capitalists NEA and others, he grew the company into almost a Fortune 500 company: it is currently ranked at 509.
The voters in the 8th Senate district are not hiring a CEO, though. They are hiring someone to represent them in the State Senate. McWaters has no prior experience in elected office, which is both a good thing and a bad thing. In listening to his interview with JR Hoeft, one thing he said jumped out at me. McWaters said that he has written legislation. I see from his bio that he has testified before various legislative bodies but nothing about writing legislation. I really wish JR had asked him for specifics on this. Heck, most members of the General Assembly don’t write legislation, so that’s a pretty significant claim in my book.
There were a couple of other issues that I wanted to touch on with McWaters had he been available for interview. I believe there are two pretty big issues that the General Assembly will face in the next couple of years. Probably the biggest is the budget – or rather, the constraints that the budget will present. Just Monday, the governor and the governor-elect met with the money committees to discuss our predicament. McWaters’ issue page on taxes and spending only mentions the budget in passing, saying the “Commonwealth needs a more balanced and realistic budgeting process,” whatever that means. His page on education – one of the major components of the budget – is still under construction.
The second big issue that will come up in the next two years is redistricting. If elected, McWaters will be a member of the minority in the Senate. Does he support bipartisan redistricting? His website is completely silent on the issue.
I understand that the voters in the 8th have been deluged with mail. Some of that mail is available on McWaters’ website. But mail generally doesn’t tell the whole story about the candidate. I doubt, for example, that any mail piece makes mention of the $225 million settlement of a lawsuit against AMERIGROUP for its denial of coverage to pregnant women, something McWaters claimed that the state told the company to do. “We did what we were asked to do,” McWaters told the writer.
While each mail piece on the website screams “conservative,” I doubt if any of them reference McWaters’ role in the establishment of the breakaway congregation of Trinity Church. McWaters proudly announces that he is an elder in this church, one in which women are not allowed to be elders. And, of course, there is his stance on health care, which no doubt raised a few eyebrows and called into question his commitment to conservatism.
I had hoped to be able to bring my readers more insight into McWaters, the man who would be Senator. But I am left with the same publicly available information that any voter in the 8th Senate district has at their disposal.