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Monday, October 8, 2012

Forum focuses on congressional candidates

From the left: Murphy, Moran, Howell, Cabral, Wolf, Chisholm, Connolly, Galdo, Gibson, and Perkins.
Candidates for the U.S. Congress laid out their positions on a broad range of issues at a forum Oct. 6 at Luther Jackson High School sponsored by the Korean Coalition for Political Participation. As the auditorium was filled with Korean Americans, the candidates spent a good deal of time on issues aimed at them, such as immigration, trade, and aid to small businesses.

Ten of the 13 candidates running in the 8th, 10th, and 11th congressional districts appeared. There were two rounds of questions, with a moderator asking each candidate about different issues, based on their experience as an incumbent or policy statements on their website, and each candidate had a chance to make a brief opening and closing statement. There were no questions from the audience.

All 10 were on the stage at the same time and were not grouped by congressional district. To make things a bit easier for readers, the following summary of the candidates’ remarks is organized by district.

11th District (includes most of Annandale, extending to parts of Woodbridge, Vienna, and Gainesville)

The incumbent, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D) said he supports legislation to ensure free and transparent trade with Korea, which will create lots of opportunities for small businesses in the U.S.

When asked how to encourage more Korean Americans to seek leadership roles, Connolly said, “I continue to believe public service is a noble calling” and said disparaging public service is no way to recruit new leaders.

He reminded the audience that he co-chairs the Korean Caucus, worked with the Korean dry cleaners’ association, supported the Korean senior center, helped the Korean American community following the Virginia Tech tragedy, and supports human rights. “I’ve been there for the Korean community,” he said.

Chris Perkins (R) would impose a means test for Medicare and turn Medicaid into a block grant to the states, calling it “passing the problem to those folks closest to the problem.”

Perkins said he admired Korean Americans for their “great reputation for excellence in business and education” but said those gains are threatened by federal tax policies. He said Korean Americans should vote for him because “I am going to be the pro-business representative in Congress” and “a real champion for the Korean community.”

Joe Galdo (Green Party) said the most urgent issue is the federal budget and proposed reducing defense spending by 20 percent and funding for discretionary programs by 10 percent. He would “exempt very small businesses from income taxes” and increase the investment in transit.

While the major parties look to large corporations to create jobs, Galdo noted that most jobs are created by small businesses, like the ones created by Korean Americans.

Galdo said he would reform the No Child Left Behind Act because it overburdens teachers, its unfunded mandates strain state and local budgets, and it puts too much of an emphasis on standardized tests.

Mark Gibson (Independent) said he would impose a means test for Social Security and Medicare, raise the age for benefits to 70 for those programs, and replace current employment taxes with a national sales tax. He would also focus on reducing federal spending and making sure college graduates get jobs.

Gibson said he would charge high fees to people seeking citizenship and would give every university graduate a chance to become a permanent resident. “Everyone on this stage can give a better political speech than me,” he acknowledged.

Two other candidates for Congress in the 11th district, Peter Marchetti (Independent Green Party) and Christopher De Carlo (Independent) did not appear at the forum.

8th District (encompasses most of Alexandria and Arlington, extends to Great Falls, and includes parts of Falls Church, Bailey’s Crossroads, and Annandale)

The incumbent, Rep. James Moran (D), said the nation needs to increase investments in the infrastructure, not only for things like public transit and bridges, but for the “human infrastructure.”

Moran reiterated his support for the Dream Act and said, “We are a nation of immigrants,” adding that the U.S. needs immigrants’ “capacity to work hard and invest in the future.” Moran reminded the audience that he supported legislation to promote free trade for Korea and expedite Koreans’ travel to the U.S.

Janet Murphy’s (Green Party) campaign slogan is “more trains, less traffic.” She supports high-speed rail through Virginia and another rail line to D.C. to relieve commuter traffic. Murphy vowed to “cut subsidies to oil, asphalt, and cement” and divert the funds to rail.

Jason Howell (Independent) said his priorities include balancing the federal budget and “comprehensive immigration reform” so people “don’t have to worry about being deported.” He told the audience he supports the Dream Act and touted his background as an immigrant and accountant.

J. Patrick Murray (R) is also on the ballot but wasn’t at the forum.

10th District (includes parts of Loudoun and Prince William counties, and the Shenandoah Valley, with a small section of Fairfax County in Great Falls and McLean)

Rep. Frank Wolf (R), the incumbent, called the lack of immigration reform “the greatest failure of the Obama Administration.” He said the failure to control the border has increased gang activity in the U.S. Wolf promised to invest in math and science education and said he is committed to religious freedom.

Wolf said he believes “the North Korean government and its people will live in freedom and democracy in my lifetime” and that he is “committed to doing everything I can to bring that about.” He also noted that he sponsored legislation aimed to helping North Koreans reunite with their families in South Korea.

Kristin Cabral (D) said she favors a balanced approach to cut taxes for the middle class, end the Bush tax cuts, close tax loopholes, increase exports, and streamline the government, while supporting programs to help veterans and small business, especially women business owners, and increasing investments to Head Start, community colleges, and technical education.

She promised to provide “fresh leadership in a broken Congress” and work to “preserve and grow the American dream.” Cabral noted that her family struggled economically when she was growing up but pursued an education and was in the same graduating class at Harvard Law School as President Obama.

J. Kevin Chisholm (Independent) called high federal taxes a huge burden and proposed cutting the size of the federal government.

He said partisanship is a major obstacle in the Congress and called himself “a fiscal conservative and a progressive on the issues,” promising to work with both sides. He said he is a “problem solver” with experience as a consultant whose clients include the Defense Department, EPA, and FEMA.

1 comment:

  1. The 8th District has evidently--if you do some digging-- swallowed up part of Annandale too, suddenly putting a few of us in Jim Moran's territory.

    I just moved to Annandale between 236 and Columbia Pike in the Mason area, a half-mile's walk from Columbia Elementary (which is listed as my voting precinct online -- apparently incorrectly). I checked and it also listed my representative as Connolly/11th District, but I just received my voter's registration and it put me in the 8th (Moran) with the St Albans voting precinct, which was confusing.

    So I looked up the redistricting boundaries:

    It appears simply hasn't been updated for the redistricting, which explains my voter registration card placing me in the 8th. Check around Mason District Park in Annandale. If you zoom in you'll see that this small slice of land very clearly has been absorbed into the 8th. The changes overall are rather interesting, particularly with that narrow swath along 236 that remained in the 11th while the rest was absorbed into the 8th..

    Thought it was interesting. Having moved here in September I had anticipated making a decision on whether to vote for Connolly which, according to my admittedly limited understanding of the current polling is a relatively tight race, but now it looks like I'll be deciding about Jim Moran, who I normally thought of as not representing much outside of Arlington--which is still true enough, really, considering this precinct's location.