Last night, I attended the Arlington County Civic Federation Candidates forum at the Washington-Lee High School Auditorium. Last night’s candidates included Democrats and Republicans running in the 30th, 31st and 32nd State Senate districts, as well as the 45th, 47th, 48th, and 49th House of Delegates districts. Most of these are totally safe Democratic, and nothing last night indicated otherwise (e.g., the Republican running against Adam Ebbin is a total right wingnut, whose “only one promise” is to “uphold the constitutions of the United States and of Virginia” — whatever).
However, the 31st State Senate district is definitely of interest, as Republican Caren Merrick is extremely wealthy, and also has been portraying an image of being a “moderate.” Also, Barbara Favola just finished up a rough, tough, even brutal primary campaign against Jaime Areizaga-Soto, giving Merrick a potential opening in this (still) strongly Democratic-leaning district. However, if Merrick‘s performance last night is any indication, Favola might not have anything to worry about after all.
I found the first question to be particularly revealing, as Merrick has been studiously avoiding any mention of social issues on her website, or in the 8-page glossy color mailer she sent out the other day. Instead, all we’ve been getting from Merrick is “soccer mom,” “entrepreneur,” and “jobs.” Other than that, we’ve known basically nothing about her positions on the issues that people in the 31st district (Arlington, McLean, Great Falls, eastern Loudoun) care about. Well, as of last night, and particularly the first question (on abortion and gay rights), we’re starting to find out.
Barbara Favola clearly believes the Marshall-Newman amendment should be repealed, is a strong supporter of LGBT equality, and is 100% pro-choice. In stark contrast, Caren Merrick identifies herself as “pro-life” (aka, anti-women’s choice). As for LGBT rights, Merrick completely dodged the question, talking about how she’s never hired anyone based on their sexual orientation, but not at all getting at the core of the question, which is how she’d vote as a State Senator for things like LGBT adoption, gay marriage, etc. I think we can take that as a “no” from Caren Merrick on whether she fully supports LGBT rights. If she did, she would have said so — clearly. But she didn’t.
On question #2, on creating jobs, Merrick gave the usual Republican response — the problem is “too many regulations, too many taxes.” In Virginia? Is she serious? This is one of the lowest-taxed states in the country (e.g., we have the lowest gas tax in the region), one of the most “business-friendly,” winner of multiple “best place to do business” awards, etc. Yet Merrick still thinks the way to create jobs in Virginia isn’t to invest in our infrastructure and our people, but to cut taxes and regulations on businesses even further? Sorry, but that’s just utter nonsense, utterly detached from reality, and right-wing ideological blather. Is Caren Merrick getting her talking points straight from Bob McDonnell, Ken Cuccinelli and Eric Can’tor or what? It sure seemed like it last night.
Finally, when asked if she’d support an increase in the gas tax, or any other dedicated stream of revenues, to improve transportation, Merrick punted yet again (Or, one could say, engaged in “magical thinking,” a world where things somehow pay for themselves and revenues materialize out of thin air, pixies and fairy dust. Oh, and purple polka dotted pony-unicorns. Lots of those.). According to her, a gas tax is not “sustainable.” Instead, the answer is drill baby drill — mythical (see here for Chap’s explanation as to why that’s the case) revenues from offshore oil drilling. As Chap explains, “state transportation proposals which rely on ‘royalties’ from off-shore oil drilling are laughable — you’d have better luck relying on royalties from the next Jonas Brother album.” Apparently, Caren Merrick is a big Jonas Brothers fan! 🙂