As part of this site’s ongoing effort to learn more about Democratic candidates for office in Virginia, today we publish our interview with one of the Democratic candidates in the 31st State Senate District (note: current Senator Mary Margaret Whipple has announced that she is retiring). The candidates in the 31st (Arlington, parts of Fairfax and Loudoun Counties) are Arlington County Board member Barbara Favola and Army Lt. Col. Jaime Areizaga-Soto. Yesterday, I had the chance to sit down with Favola for about 45 minutes. The ground rules were that I could record the interview on audio (note: I requested video, but Favola’s campaign did not agree), which I’ve included here and on the “flip.” I hope to do the same with Jaime Arezeiga-Soto in the near future. Thanks to Barbara Favola for her time, and also for her willingness to respond to Blue Virginia’s questions.
P.S. We will use these interviews as an important part of our consideration into whether we will endorse anyone in this district, and if so, who we will endorse. We will also be watching debates and the overall campaign to determine who we believe will best represent progressive values, and of course the 31st District, in Richmond.
P.P.S. Favola’s campaign manager, Adam Scott, was also present for the interview.
In the first part, I asked Favola to tell us why she’s running for State Senate and why she’d be a better choice for Democratic primary voters than her opponent. Favola talked about her 14 years of experience on the Arlington County Board and how that’s given her “valuable insight on how Richmond should work with local governments.” In addition, Favola said she was “concerned about the direction of the General Assembly and this administration in terms of…their vision for Virginia.” Favola said she’d prefer a “more welcoming Virginia, a more compassionate Virginia, a Virginia that’s willing to make key investments in its people and its manpower.” Favola said she would have voted against anti-immigrant bills, would always vote for women’s reproductive rights, would be a human rights advocate for things like the DREAM Act.
Why would she be a better choice than her opponent, Jaime Areizaga-Soto? Please see the “flip” for more.
Favola again cited her experience, as well as the “endorsement of many Northern Virginia leaders,” her ability to “hit the ground running,” and her “up close and personal perspective on the educational system” as a mother. She said she’d be “surprised if there are policy differences” with Areizaga-Soto, but she asserted that she had “more depth…more experience.” She also challenged Areizaga-Soto’s characterization of his role as a “senior advisor” to Sen. Whipple (“[Whipple] would not characterize his job that way and of course she has endorsed me”).
My second question was whether Favola would support Sen. Phil Puckett, who is now Deputy Democratic Caucus Chair, to succeed Sen. Whipple as Caucus Chair. In general, I asked her whether she would ever support an anti-choice, anti-progressive like Puckett for a leadership position? Her response? “I would never compromise my vote on progressive issues, and I can say that unequivocally…[but] what exactly the role of the leader is may have to be discussed more completely.” Favola also noted that Dick Saslaw is the current “head of the caucus” (note: actually, he’s majority leader; Mary Margaret Whipple is Caucus Chair) and is “very progressive.” Later in the interview, this comes up again, and Favola says she was actually not referring to Saslaw but to Whipple as “very progressive.” Stay tuned…
In Part 2, I asked Favola about the HOT lanes controversy, whether there was “bad blood” between Richmond and Arlington, and how effective someone from the Arlington County Board could be in Richmond? According to Favola, “people are going to get over it, time moves in, there will be new issues, there will be interest in working with me…” Favola added that the HOT lanes issue was used “as a political football,” and that even “the Republicans in their calmer moments would agree that you have to do it right.” Favola also stated that she’s frequently told she’s the “most reasonable member of the County Board,” although she quickly added, “all of my colleagues are reasonable.” She also cited her ability to work across party lines.
On the 31st State Senate district being reconfigured, and whether Arlington is a “community of interest” along with places like Great Falls and Loudoun County, Favola said “in a perfect world, I would prefer a nonpartisan commission to have drawn the district,” but in “our world, I do think the value of having a Democratic Senate is the top of my priority list.” Favola added her belief that the districts meet the “legal test” of “communities of interest.” Favola does not believe Arlington’s influence has been “diluted,” but that Arlington can now serve a role in “carrying the district” and in “sharing our goods.” “I don’t think I’m ever going to put aside the Arlington model.” “There’s more commonality than not, when I talk to my Loudoun people…the Greenway group…the Dulles group…many parts of the district really like the fact that Arlington has managed to grow without bringing all of this congestion…they view my experience as perhaps being a plus.” Favola cited the environmentally sustainable “Blueberry Hill” community in Great Falls as more progressive than anything in Arlington. She advised that we have to be “careful how we categorize what people think of other parts of the region.” “I think we enrich each other’s experiences, I find the whole district to be very enriching…most people are willing to get to know me.”
In Part 3, I asked Favola about contributions from real estate developers with business before the Arlington County Board. Favola said she is “taking business donations, but I to my knowledge have not taken a donation from a developer who is doing business before the board over the next 6 months.” Specifically, Favola stated, John Shooshan’s projects were “approved before I took the money.” Favola added that Arlington’s standards go far beyond the Fairfax County board. Favola definitely doesn’t believe she needs to recuse herself or step down from the board (“my constituents…elected me to a full term, and I will serve a full term…if I win the election in 2011 then I will resign”).
We got into a little discussion about Favola’s earlier characterization of Dick Saslaw as “very progressive.” Favola said “I think I characterized Mary Margaret as very progressive…I didn’t characterize Dick Saslaw.” On the issue of predatory lending, Saslaw’s bill on motor vehicle title loans to non-residents, Favola left the room to get a document listing her progressive record and opposition to predatory lending. With regard to money in politics and the influence of lobbyists in Richmond, Favola said “I come from a good government background…money is not the influencing factor with me.” Favola added, “Anybody who knows me will tell you I’m a pretty forceful personality, very tough to influence when I make up my mind.” “I always try to go for what I think is the ideal…you come up short…you have to make a decision if you take some baby steps…[legislation making] can get ugly.” “I don’t see how I can’t [bring Arlington values to Richmond]…I was an activist for 15 years before I was on the County Board.” Favola clearly sees herself as a “reformer” and “strong progressive,” says “that’s my background.”
In Part 4, Favola said that she sees herself more as a “progressive…a leader…an independent” than as a “party line” person. I gave Favola a few “yes or no” questions on whether she supports a progressive tax system (yes), an estate tax (“I probably take a middle ground there”), DREAM Act (“absolutely” — opposition is “divisive and short sighted”), gay adoption (“I would be fine with having gay couples adopt;” opposition to this is coming from “narrowly defined view of family,” “part” of it is “homophobia,” part of it is “posturing” to prevent a primary from the “far-right” “Tea Party” wing), guns (Favola strongly favors commonsense gun laws, like closing the gun show loophole and not having guns on campus), raising the gas tax (“I’m in favor of it”), imposing a carbon tax (“buildings actually emit the most carbon, so I’m a big fan of these green buildings,” but not sure about a carbon tax based on who it affects exactly — “I’d have to think about it more”).
Finally, in part 5 (damn YouTube for making me split a 45 minute video into 5 parts!!! LOL), Favola said she strongly supports a strong, mandatory, renewable energy standard. On the Dillon Rule, Favola said it’s “pretty complicated” and a “mindset” that is “ineffective in many areas.” Dillon allows people to go to the General Assembly — “one stop shopping” that “they can more easily control” — and “local governments really want relaxation of the Dillon Rule when it comes to [unfunded] mandates.” [sidebar discussion at this point on the 1970s, leisure suits, and how old Favola thought I was – pretty funny] In general, Favola pledged that she would push to loosen up the Dillon Rule so that local jurisdictions can do more, also that local officials can be held accountable (“they see us in the supermarket, the church, the schools”).
On reforming Richmond, Favola said she supports having longer General Assembly sessions, would look at other states to see what they do, “we need to structure the General Assembly in a way where that lawmaker will get to serve the constituents…bring best informed judgment to the table.” Favola also would consider supporting paying legislators more in exchange for further restrictions on outside money, also campaign finance reform.
Finally, Favola said she thought “these were reasonable questions,” urged that people not “write me off” as “status quo” just because she has “experience and the endorsement of some regional leaders” and because “everybody is different” and she has a “really good progressive record.”