ALL POLITICS ARE LOCALPosted by Tim O'Donnell on March 17, 2014
Virginia Congressional races – Part 2 The Virginia 7th District
I posed a series of questions to the candidates in the Virginia 7th District. I had the opportunity to speak with candidates, campaigns, and one Press Secretary. The candidates include, three Republicans – House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor, retired Navy Commander Pete Greenwald, and College Economist Dave Brat, one Libertarian – Healthcare Operations Manager James Carr, and one Democrat – “Restaurant & Bar Manager” Mike Dickinson. I want to provide an impartial profile based on their answers. The writing below is in their own words or the words of their designated spokesperson as much as possible. Any editing is done for brevity and not to change their messaging. I got answers from all of the candidates or their spokesperson with the exception of Dave Brat. Despite repeated attempts and promises of answers and calls from his campaign, I have yet to get any questions answered. So the profiles have narrowed down to the four campaigns that took time to respond.
This is the background of the candidates as they describe it. Rep Cantor got his start in politics when he worked as a driver for his predecessor Rep Tom Bliley. He’s a lifelong resident of the Richmond area. My research shows that he worked previously doing legal work and real estate development. Rep Cantor has represented the 7th District of VA since 2001. Pete Greenwald is a retired Navy Commander with 25 years of military service. He is currently the Navy Junior ROTC instructor at James River High School and resides with his family in Midlothian, VA. James Carr has lived his whole life in Virginia and never held public office. He’s done a wide range of work from managing a rock band to his current work in the healthcare industry. Democrat Mike Dickinson grew up in the Richmond area. He “has been in restaurant and bar management since the age of 25”.
Candidates and their people describe their campaigns as being about: Rep Cantor’s office – “focused” on restoring an “America that works for everyone” to “create growth through jobs and opportunities” and to fix issues “everyone faces”, Greenwald – “Fighting to restore our Constitutional Republic and our liberty, by returning our federal government to the enumerated, limited, and defined powers found in Article I, Section 8 of our constitution”, Carr – “Smaller government… Smaller government control over how your money is spent, what you put in your body, and every other aspect of your life”, and Dickinson – “My platform is about honesty… The ‘free market’ and ‘taxes stifle businesses’ argument falls on deaf ears here. Business owners must adjust their business model, so that they take less and pay more to workers”.
Why do these candidates feel they should be the choice over others? Mike Dickinson says “Eric Cantor is the epitome of what is wrong in government today. He is disconnected from his constituents and a cherry picker of freedom”. Pete Greenwald tells us “As a Naval officer, I kept my oath to faithfully defend the Constitution. I will do the same as your congressman”. James Carr answers this question with “I believe the federal government was intended to provide protection from outside forces so that US citizens may live their lives as they see fit. Virginians who want less government and more control over their own lives should check out my site”. Rep Cantor’s office says that he’s been one of “the most vocal opponents” of Obamacare that they’re “working on issues” such as “Education.. National security… & Energy” and “focus on jobs & the economy”.
I asked which issues they disagree with their party on and what issues they can agree with the other party on. Pete Greenwald says “many Republicans will not cosponsor the personhood amendment” or the “fair tax”. He said “Many Democrats & Republicans have a growing concern regarding the public debt which now exceeds $17T as well as $128T in unfunded obligations”. James Carr says he disagrees with the Libertarian stance on “privatizing education” that it would “lead to more education inequality in some localities… but it is not for the Federal government to decide” but that he can find common ground with Democrats because they “support freedoms related to social aspects” and Republicans “support freedoms related to economic success, personal protection, and overall personal accountability.” Rep Cantor’s office tells about the issue of sequestration & “sequestration replacement proposed by Rep Cantor” and that common ground with Democrats was a “great question for the Senate” that was “not serious about working with the House” and that he’s always interested in finding “better solutions”. Mike Dickinson says that “It makes me very mad when democrats run from President Obama or refuse to stand up for the ACA” “If democrats are not willing to stand behind the President they are not true democrats.” When it comes to Republicans “I am willing to work with anyone who comes to the table with an honest concern about wanting to improve the lives of Americans.
After these questions that I asked of all candidates, I specified the questions for the candidates themselves. I asked James Carr ‘Does the performance of Robert Sarvis in the VA Governor’s race make you hopeful for a win or to act as he did and be a ‘spoiler’ in the race?’ He answered “First I have to clarify that Rob Sarvis was not a “spoiler” in the gubernatorial race. Those who voted for Rob did not ultimately decide who was elected but their vote was not wasted. That makes me very hopeful that more of the individuals who voted for one of the major party candidates only to prevent the other from winning will see that a vote for a 3rd party candidate is a viable option.” Rep. Cantor’s office was asked about ‘the Republicans’ efforts to stop Obamacare, was there more to it than sending 40+ bills to repeal?’ The response “They have always had alternatives to Obamacare” that Americans should all want to fight a bill “that has had millions of policies cancelled” that they’ve tried to “highlight flaws and find better solutions”. They felt that “the president lied” just to sell the bill and “that current Obamacare changes are absolutely political” and that Americans “shouldn’t be penalized for the website not working”. I asked Pete Greenwald, ‘How does your background in the military affect your position on the issue of the recent military cuts suggested by the Obama administration?’ He responded “China continues to grow its military while we downsize. I see that as a dangerous trend. As a maritime nation we need to maintain a strong Navy ready to keep the sea lanes free.” Mike Dickinson was asked ‘With the recent idea by the FCC to ask news stations about how they get their story ideas and given your recent comments about Fox News on Twitter, do you really favor censorship of news stations?’ Dickinson responded “I am not for censoring any news station. I am for monitoring them for news content. What is the difference between “Joes Political Blog” and “Fox News”? When it says “news” and is broadcast throughout the world there is implied legitimacy and fact checking. If Fox News called themselves Fox Entertainment I would have no problem with it.” I asked all what they felt the biggest issue facing Americans was right now. I got as many different answers as there were candidates. James Carr says “The ineffective management of our country’s finances combined with the current view that we are responsible for policing the entire globe are two of our most immediate issues. My stance provides solutions to both of these issues. Each of the other candidates’ views may diminish the impact of one of these issues but each would make the other issue worse.” Mike Dickinson says “The economy and business are two of the major issues facing the US as a whole. We have to adjust the business model many Americans are used to, where business owners can pay workers as little as possible.” Pete Greenwald tells us “The debt. The debt. The debt. The interest alone on the debt could overwhelm our federal budget if interest rates rise. The weakening dollar hurts all Americans including my fellow Virginians, especially those with little to no disposable income.” And Rep. Cantor’s office says “Jobs and the Economy” but expanded to speak on issues that feed that like “Education” which is why Rep Cantor sponsored the “Student Success Act” and why he was going to vote shortly after we spoke on the “Energy Bill” to focus on “reform” and to “lower energy costs for consumers” and how “National Security” that “we should be a nation that leads” and not “negotiate with leaders who don’t have our best interests in mind”.
I asked all of the candidates about their support for leadership in the House of Representatives. Who would they support for Speaker if elected? Pete Greenwald stated pretty emphatically that he would support Rep. “Louie Gohmert” of Texas but later asked to change that to “Trey Gowdy” of South Carolina “due to his leadership on Benghazi”. Mike Dickinson stated he thinks Democrats will “retake the House” and that he would support former Speaker “Nancy Pelosi” & that he “also liked Alan Grayson of Florida or Keith Ellison of Minnesota”. James Carr said he “couldn’t answer that without knowing who will be in office and I am hopeful that very few of the incumbents will make it back to Washington”. As a sitting & high ranking member of his party, I didn’t ask this when speaking to Rep. Cantor’s office. He sits as the odds on favorite should Speaker Boehner be replaced or choose to retire. His support for Boehner has not changed in any public way since 2010 should Boehner decide to remain.
So what do we see in the 7th District of Virginia? We see differing opinions on a wide range of issues even from people in the same party. We see an emphasis by those other than the incumbent on the usual business of Washington DC. Although the incumbent does vary the range of issues much more widely than those looking to unseat him. This is not surprising in a mid-term election when the presidential candidates are not setting the agenda. The primary opponent didn’t feel it sent a bad message to the party or to the opposition that he is trying to unseat such a high ranking member of their own party and neither of the opposition party’s candidates seem to shy away from the challenge. No matter what the opinions of any challenger, facts are facts, it’s very difficult to unseat a sitting congressman who holds such a prominent position within the House. So where do you land? Is your issue jobs, the economy, government waste, or income inequality. What candidate best suits your needs? The race will thin out and be decided by you, the voters this November.