The other day, I sent out questionnaires to both Democratic Congressional candidates – Krystal Ball and Scott Robinson – in the 1st Congressional District (currently misrepresented by Rob Wittman) Here are Krystal Ball’s Q&A’s; I will print Scott Robinson’s as soon as I receive them. After that, and having already spoken in person with both candidates, I will consider making an endorsement in this race. In the meantime, thanks very much to Krystal Ball for responding promptly, and also for her thorough, well-thought-out answers to my questions!
1. Tell us a bit about yourself, and specifically, what made you decide to run for Congress at this time?
I was born and raised in King George, Virginia and educated in King George public schools. I attended Clemson University as an NCAA Div I scholarship swimmer and then transferred to the University of Virginia, where I played water polo and graduated with a degree in economics. I am a CPA. I previously worked for a large contractor to the Federal Government designing and implementing accounting software for the US Federal Courts. I currently have a small business, which I founded with my husband three years ago and which develops educational software for clients in the United States and around the world. Thousands of students every day use the software we have created. I have also worked on literacy issues in the developing world, particularly for women and girls, and have spent considerable time in India on my philanthropic, educational work. I have also worked with education partners in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Jordan and South Korea.
Those are my biographical details. To put these details in context, my father was raised in poverty in West Virginia, the son of a union coal miner and a teacher. They lived in a trailer and eventually built a house with their own hands. My father, who was an excellent student in rural, West Virginia public schools, got straight As his whole life and attended West Virginia University and Indiana University on government scholarships, earned his PhD in theoretical physics and spent his entire career working on technologies to defend our country at the Dahlgren Naval Surface Warfare Center, in the 1st CD. My mother was the daughter of a union sheet metal worker who stormed the beaches of Normandy during World War II and a union postal worker. She attended college with the financial support of the Catholic Church and went on to be a teacher, assistant principal and school board chairwoman.
My grandparents were able to provide a life for my parents that allowed them to go to college because of the assistance of unions and the government, combined with my parents’ hard work. They didn’t have to do it alone. My parents were able to provide a wonderful life for my sisters and me, complete with goats and fruit trees in King George, because of help from the government and their own hard work. They didn’t have to do it alone. I am now able to provide my own daughter with an upper middle class lifestyle and achieve the American Dream of having my own small business based on their sacrifices. That’s why I never got a B in high school, it’s why I never lost a swimming race in Virginia in high school, it’s why I never got a B when studying economics, it’s why I earned a perfect score on the auditing and attestation CPA exam…it’s why I get up at 4:30 AM every day now and work on my business and why I ultimately decided to run for Congress. I have the life that I have through the hard work, sacrifice and dedication of people like my parents and grandparents and the assistance of strong unions and government help. I will not stand by and watch as those with a contempt for government, a disdain for working class people and hatred of unions make it so difficult for poor people today to enter the middle class the way my family did.
I am running for Congress because it’s time to say “enough” to those who want to gut the very government services that help lift people out of poverty, who vote against health care for poor children, who refuse to give gay Americans equal rights, who would take away a woman’s right to choose and who would not just stand by in indifference as income inequality destroys the middle class, but would actually enact tax cuts for the wealthy. I want a food supply for my daughter regulated by people who care about our planet and our families and not who serve the interests of agribusiness. I want a country where the environment is protected and where everyone has health care. That’s why I’m running. People like me, people under 30, became active in the political process only recently, in 2008. Now they are disillusioned and adrift and in Virginia they didn’t vote in the last election. I want my campaign to serve as an example to them of the way that our generation has to do its part to make this country the way we want it to be. I want to show that there is a place for idealism in this country and that our generation can be a part of the political process. Right now, not in the mythical someday soon that’s never going to arrive unless ordinary people step up, run for office and win.
2. What three issues are you most passionate about and why?
This is my number one issue. I believe every child deserves the opportunity to live up to their potential. Education is why my family is not still living in a trailer in West Virginia and struggling to put food on the table. Education allows human potential to be realized. Education should be the embodiment of equal treatment under the law where every child, white or black, rich or poor, is treated equally and given equal access to a world class education. And we have failed miserably in this regard and it is a source of deep human pain, violence and huge social problems. I work in this field and I want to run for Congress because I have seen and been involved in creating educational models that work for everyone, that are affordable and that properly honor and compensate teachers as the motive force in sustaining democracy and I want these, and other models to be adopted so that we realize the true promise of public education and transform this country as a result.
I watch in horror as my own elected Congressman, Rob Wittman, votes against cap and trade. The 1st is home to the Chesapeake Bay and is all too aware of the damage caused by a polluted environment. A lot of people don’t realize this but all of our Bay conservation efforts will be wasted if we do not halt global warming which is (among other things) a major contributor to the algal blooms which are so harmful to Bay ecology. My generation does not, by and large, deny global warming. We want energy independence through green technology, we want organic foods available at a low cost, we don’t want families to have to choose between poisoning themselves and food they can’t afford. We want water that is clean, air that’s breathable and an environment that is not a toxic stew of agricultural run-off, industrial carcinogens and climate crushing green house gases. I am passionate about this because we are shaping the world my daughter will live in and she can’t do anything about it except look to me and to us for the leadership that absolutely must come forward and protect this planet now. I’m a pro-growth environmentalist because I believe that sustainability, technology and a healthy population are essential to long-term economic growth.
Technology Based Job Creation
The only way that income inequality is going to change, the only way that the next generation is going to be able to be lifted out of poverty the way that my parents’ generation was, is through job creation in areas that the United States has significant comparative advantage. I work in the field of computer based education, where the US is unquestionably the world leader and I watch my colleagues who work in other aspects of our technology sector, from software to renewable energy to nanotechnology to genomics and pharmacology and I see our comparative advantage every day. We have hard working people throughout the 1st CD and America who can be trained to work in high tech industries, especially those industries that become economically viable as the costs of environmental destruction are brought from externalities to business expenses. We can lead the world in next generation technologies, including green energy. We are the world’s largest energy consumers. With proper government leadership and the right regulations, we should have a job creation engine of dignified wage jobs, not an anemic economy unable even to generate enough minimum wage jobs to keep people from desperation.
3. How would you describe yourself ideologically – “progressive,” “conservative,” “moderate,” “liberal,” or something else?
I am a pro-growth progressive. I support industry and economic growth, but in the service of a higher quality of life, not as the master. I believe in government’s basic role as a social equalizer, leveling the playing field in favor of those struggling in poverty, the working middle class and small business owners, especially those just starting a business. I believe in strong environmental and financial regulation. I believe in civil liberties, the right to choose for ourselves in marriage, reproduction and self-defense.
4. Who is your favorite Virginia politician and why?
My favorite Virginia politician is Senator Mark Warner. I love Mark Warner because he has built businesses, created jobs and chose public service. He ran and governed as a moderate. He displayed exceptional management competence and fiscal discipline, he made Virginia the most business-friendly state and he didn’t leave working families behind. He united Republicans and Democrats under the banner of good governance. Mark Warner helped turn Virginia blue, or at least purple. I just hope he doesn’t let us down on health care!
I’m also a great supporter of Congressman Tom Perriello who was part of my inspiration to run for office. I think he’s provided a phenomenal model for how to champion our Democratic values in a way that appeals to and is respectful of conservative-leaning voters. He’s incredibly hard-working, smart, and devoted to his constituents. I also think he’s shown a lot of courage since he’s been in office.
5. Arguably, the biggest debate politically this year in the United States has been over health reform. If you were in Congress right now, how would you vote on: a) a robust public option; b) allowing public funds to be used to provide abortion coverage; c) allowing undocumented immigrants to buy health insurance (with their own money) on the proposed insurance “exchanges;” and d) a surcharge on wealthy Americans in order to pay for this bill?
I’d vote in favor of a robust public option, in favor of allowing public funds to be used to provide abortion coverage, in favor of allowing illegal immigrants to buy health insurance with their own money on exchanges and in favor of an income surcharge on wealthy Americans if necessary to pay for this bill.
6. With regard to another top issue – energy and the environment – if you were in Congress right now, how would you vote on: a) a revenue-neutral carbon tax; b) a strong cap-and-trade bill; c) aggressive mandatory renewable energy standards; d) sharply increasing energy efficiency standards for vehicles, appliances, etc.; e) oil drilling off Virginia’s coast or other environmentally sensitive areas (e.g., ANWR); and f) mountaintop removal coal mining.
I would vote in favor of a revenue neutral carbon tax, in favor of a strong cap and trade bill, in favor of aggressive mandatory renewable energy standards for vehicles, appliances, etc, and against drilling off Virginia’s coast or environmentally sensitive areas, ANWR and against mountaintop removal coal mining.
7. In 2006, Jim Webb talked about America dividing into “three pieces,” with the “rich getting richer, the poor getting poorer, and the middle class getting squeezed.” If you are elected to Congress, what will you do about this situation?
I am passionate about income inequality and tilting the playing field in favor of the poor and middle class. I talk a lot about this in the section I wrote for you on Technology Based Job Creation, but I also have other ideas, including strong unions, affordable daycare, making community college free or close to free, local provisioning of social and governmental services (i.e. using child care subsidies to pay home based providers in local neighborhoods, having government call center functions distributed in economically challenged areas, increased support for telecommuting). Education, however, is the ultimate equalizer and I believe that one of the reasons income inequality has increased is because of the way that our public education system has failed many of our most vulnerable students.
8. Education is crucial to our nation’s future, yet there are indications we are falling further and further behind to rising nations like China and India every year that goes by. What would you do to reverse this trend and ensure that America remains the best educated nation in the world?
Let me first say, having spent a lot of time in India, I don’t want us to be like China and India. I also don’t want us to exaggerate the extent of problems in our education system, which are much more about parity, equality, attracting new people to the teaching profession and supporting the excellent teachers we have. India and China have absolutely inferior public education systems to our own. We do not want to replicate their systems. I have written in the education section of this questionnaire about my thoughts on education, but I believe our system can be revitalized through a combination of increased teacher salaries, implementation of technology within the classroom, increased teacher training and mentoring, an emphasis on local control over standardized test norms, an incentive based model to replicate excellence in teaching, shared national resources to promote excellent teaching and increased support for underperforming schools that is non-punitive and designed to address issues inside and outside of the classroom that impact student success.
9. On GLBT issues, where do you stand on: 1) repealing “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” 2) allowing gays and lesbians to marry; 3) “hate crimes” legislation?
I am 100% committed to full LGBT equality at every level including repealing “DADT”, allowing full marriage equality and I am in full support of hate crimes legislation.
10. Finally, given that you have a Democratic opponent, why should voters – whether in a primary or a convention – support you as opposed to the other Democrat in the race?
Scott Robinson has served our country and I am grateful for his service. There are two reasons to support me over Scott, one related to issues and the other related to electability. Scott is opposed to marriage equality, has made public statements against the public option, has not articulated a position on a woman’s right to choose (I fully support the a woman’s right to choose). Scott is not sufficiently distinguishable from Rob Wittman on electoral issues to make a meaningful difference for us in Washington. Scott’s hesitation to take public positions on issues, despite the fact that he has been planning a run for this seat for several years, demonstrates to me a lack of political courage. This does not serve our party and will ultimately not serve our country or the citizens of this district.
We need leaders who take clear stands, popular or not and actually lead, who are committed to something more than getting elected. I have demonstrated this clearly from the very first day of my campaign and I think that my clearly articulated, public stands on issues are an embodiment of the type of leader I will be, if elected. Democrats, to succeed in elections or governance, must run based on core distinguishing principles. I believe that my clear, distinct disagreements with Rob Wittman on virtually every significant national issue except gun control will make a clear choice for Democratic voters. We know what happens when Democratic voters don’t have a clear choice, they don’t show up at the polls.
This brings me to electability. I have demonstrated the ability to attract national donors to this race, which is critical to raising the $2 million to $3 million it will take to beat Rob Wittman in the Fall. I have also attracted hundreds of volunteers, thousands of campaign supporters and hundreds of donors because my campaign has an excitement that has galvanized people. I can attract the thousands of volunteers it will require to run a successful GOTV and field operation.
In addition, winning in the 1st CD is all about getting Obama voters to actually show up for a mid-term election. With the uniqueness and energy of my campaign, with our proven ability to generate earned media, from local papers to Lou Dobbs and with our particular appeal to young voters who are crucial to Democratic victory, I am the only candidate who can win for Democrats in the 1st CD. There is no doubt that this is a tough district and to win we have to do something different.