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Sunday, October 20, 2013

Candidates for delegate face off at forum in Annandale

Candidates for the House of Delegates (left to right): Kaye Kory, Jim Leslie, Alfonso Lopez, Terry Modglin, and Marcus Simon.

Candidates running for the House of Delegates from districts in the Anndandale/Mason area and for Sheriff of Fairfax County appeared at a candidates forum Oct. 17 co-sponsored the League of Women Voters of the Fairfax Area and the Mason District Council of Community Associations. We wrote about the sheriff candidates Oct. 19; this report covers the delegate candidates.

The following candidates are in the running:
38th District (includes most of Annandale and the Mason District)—Kaye Kory, the Democratic incumbent, vs. Jim Leslie (Independent Green).
39th (part of Annandale outside the beltway and parts of Mason in Alexandria)—Vivian Watts, the Democratic incumbent, is unopposed.
49th (part of Bailey’s Crossroads)—Alfonso Lopez, the Democratic incumbent, vs. Terry Modglin (Independent Green).
53rd (parts of the Falls Church area in Mason)—Three candidates are vying for the seat held by Democrat Jim Scott who is retiring: Marcus Simon (D), Brad Tidwell (R), and Anthony Tellez (Libertarian).  

Among the key issues addressed at the forum were Medicaid, guns, the Dream Act, human trafficking, and neighborhood preservation. All of the candidates listed above appeared except Tidwell and Tellez.

On the expansion of Medicaid, a key provision in the Affordable Care Act, Simon, Lopez, Leslie, Modglin, and Kory said they support it. If Virginia approves the expansion, the commonwealth will receive $2.6 billion in 2015 to extend coverage to some 400,000 people, who are not covered by employers’ health plans. If Virginia turns down the money, it would go to other states.

“It would be totally stupid not to do it,” Kory said, noting that the Republicans in the House agreed to create a commission to explore Medicaid expansion in return for the Democrats agreeing to support the Republican governor’s transportation bill.

Accepting the funds would allow Virginia to keep its tax money here in the state, said Simon, and “will create 30,000 jobs which is important because there will be a smaller federal presence in Northern Virginia.”

Leslie said, without the expansion, people who don’t have Medicaid will end up in emergency rooms, which would be five times more expensive.

Lopez called Medicaid expansion a “no brainer.” He said it is “not only a moral issue but an economic development issue, as well.” (Watts also supports it, but arrived at the forum late, after the candidates moved on to other topics.)

When asked about gun violence, all of them said they supported more restrictions, expect Leslie, who said, “I am very much pro-Second Amendment. . . . I’ve been around guns all my life.”

Lopez said agrees with the 91 percent of Virginians who favor universal background checks. He also wants to see restrictions on high-capacity gun magazines, noting, “You don’t need an AR-15 to kill a deer.”

“You are limited to using three shotgun shells when you’re hunting ducks,” he said. “There’s something wrong when ducks have more protection than people.”

“Let’s change the language of this conversation. It’s not about guns it’s about safety,” Kory said.  Kory’s bill to ban people from bringing guns on school property was blocked by the National Rifle Association. “The NRA has a huge overbearing presence in Richmond. . . . It’s easier to buy a gun in Virginia than to vote,” she said, referring to Republican-backed restrictions on voters, including a requirement that voters have picture IDs beginning next year

Simon called for “commonsense gun violence prevention.” He proposed closing the gun show loophole, which allows private sales at gun shows without requiring background checks on purchasers. He also said that the General Assembly this year repealed the law that banned people from buying more than one gun a month.

Watts said she introduced a bill to close the gun show loophole 15 years ago. She also opposes a law that allows people to bring guns to bars, noting that over half the people convicted of murder were drunk at the time.

Modglin called for responsible gun ownership, noting “certain kinds of weapons exist to kill or injure human beings.”

When asked about residential studio units (RSUs), a controversial proposal that would allow multifamily developments with tiny efficiency units in residential neighborhoods, Kory said, “land use issues are 99.9 percent determined by localities in Virginia,” but said she is concerned about the need to maintain older single-family communities.

The RSU proposal is aimed at providing more affordable housing but has drawn widespread opposition from community organizations. Leslie, a real estate broker in Annandale for 25 years, said, “There has to be a better way to deal with this.”

Simon suggested more affordable housing could relieve the need for overcrowded houses in suburban areas, and Lopez suggested establishing an affordable housing trust fund to give localities an incentive to create housing for lower-income people.

Lopez, Kory, Simon, and Leslie all said they support allowing the children of certain undocumented immigrants to pay the in-state tuition rate at Virginia state colleges, a proposal known as the “Dream Act.” Modglin said he supports the concept but with modifications to ensure fairness to taxpayers.

The proposed legislation includes lots of caveats. For example, students have to be a graduate of a Virginia public school, be accepted to a Virginia college, and prove their family has paid taxes.

“This is the right thing to do,” said Lopez. “These kids do incredibly well.” After they have been encouraged to get good grades in high school, there is no reason to make it more difficult  for them to seek higher education, he said.

Many of these students who did well at JEB Stuart High School were able to get scholarships, but there isn’t enough money available for everyone who’s eligible, said Kory. “It’s wasteful to force them out of state.” They should be able to stay in Virginia and contribute to the economy.

“There’s a ripple effect,” added Simon. “If these students get through college, they are more likely to stay here, create businesses here, and pay taxes here.” And if they know they will have a chance to go college, they will be more motivated to succeed.

In response to a question about human trafficking, Simon said laws on asset forfeiture need to be strengthened to provide a disincentive. He also said police officers need more training, and efforts need to be undertaken to raise public awareness about this issue.

Watts said she’s worked in the General Assembly to get tougher laws passed, so anyone involved with abducting or kidnapping people or involved in any way would be prosecuted as an accomplice in human trafficking. “We need to send the word out to the world that Virginia is not the place to conduct this business.”

Modglin called for more ethnic outreach and youth development efforts in schools. Lopez proposed tougher penalties for people who target minors and better training for school officials, police, and prosecutors so they know what to look for.

Kory called for better education, noting “it’s shocking that students are so naive” about the threat of human trafficking and said better services are needed for victims. Leslie said he isn’t familiar with the issue.


  1. Thanks for your coverage of the Independent Green Party candidates Terry Modglin and Col. Jim Leslie.

  2. Kaye Kory wins!! Thank God!