To date, the 8th CD Democratic primary campaign has been one of the most sedate primaries I’ve ever seen, with candidates being extremely civil to each other, at least in public (note that several campaigns have reportedly “tested negatives” against Don Beyer, but have not as of yet used those “negatives” in public).
Now, you may think that a sedate, civil campaign is a great thing. Except for one problem: if the candidates never explain how they differ from the other candidates, and/or point out areas in the other candidates’ records (e.g., votes, ethical issues, whatever) that are relevant to voters in the 8th CD, then what’s the point of having a primary at all? I mean, if nobody’s going to do any of the things I just mentioned, then doesn’t this just become a popularity contest, as well as who has the most money, rather than a contest of ideas, vision, direction, etc? And if candidates can’t spell out differences with each other in a 100% “safe” Democratic district, where can they do so? Again, why even bother having campaigns (and debates) if candidates are not going to actually debate each other?
Well, FINALLY, with three weeks to go in this campaign, we might actually be starting to get a bit of differentiation between the 8th CD Democratic candidates. At least two of the candidates, anyway (their supporters are busy attacking each other on Facebook, but that’s a topic for another post). Thus, over the past three debates, Patrick Hope has repeatedly criticized Don Beyer for Beyer’s work as chair of Virginia’s Poverty and Welfare Reform Commission in 1994-1995, when Beyer was Lt. Governor (note: I wrote about this back in early February, but until a few days ago, none of the 8th CD Democratic candidates had picked up on it). For instance, yesterday at the Beth El debate, Hope used his opening statement to focus on this issue, charging that “the Beyer plan proposed ending welfare benefits after one year, along with a refusal to provide welfare to any children born to participants during the benefit period.” According to a Hope campaign press release a few minutes ago:
“…the Beyer plan proposed ending welfare benefits after one year, along with a refusal to provide welfare to any children born to participants during the benefit period…Subsidized childcare was promised to help young mothers on welfare return to jobs-but Don’s plan provided no permanent funding source and cuts were made as soon as the budget got tight. Today because of those cuts over 4,000 children sit on waiting lists for subsidized childcare in the localities of the 8th district today while thousands of others have sat on this list over the last 20 years.”
That’s a pretty serious charge, and at the debate yesterday, Don Beyer responded to Hope’s (sharp) criticism. In Beyer’s words:
This is the third debate in a row that someone’s chosen to mischaracterize all the work that I’ve done to try to lift people out of poverty. It’s just not true that tens of thousands of people were thrown off of welfare because of the poverty work I did in the 1990s. There were important structural changes. What we did was make sure that welfare mothers didn’t have to pay a 100% tax when they earned money outside. What we did is we said we don’t have to put the fathers out of a home in order for a woman to qualify for welfare. And we DID fund child care, job training, and transportation.
You know, when I ran for Governor in 1997, I lost over something called “No Car Tax.” I didn’t have a chance to put in the long-term economic funding mechanisms I would have liked. Instead, I chaired “Youth for Tomorrow,” Joe Gibbs’ youth home for adolescent boys and girls in trouble…Instead, I spent 15 years chairing the state’s largest high school dropout prevention program; 5,000 very at-risk kids, who got a chance to graduate, get jobs and go to college. For 10 years, I led the DC campaign for teen pregnancy; DC had the highest teen pregnancy rate in the country, we dropped it in half. My commitment to lifting people out of poverty is lifelong and sincere.
I am not going to attack my opponent. I want to attack poverty, I want to attack the NRA that keeps us from having gun laws, I want to attack climate change, I want attack this economy that’s built all for the minimum wage. I want to do things that lift all of us.
P.S. A press release from the Hope campaign is on the “flip,” along with part 2 of Beyer’s response at the Beth El Hebrew Congregation 8th CD Democratic debate in Alexandria yesterday. Again, as far as I’m concerned, this is the type of debate on important issues – domestic, international, whatever – that we should be having in this and every other campaign, and I commend both Patrick Hope and Don Beyer for engaging in it.
HOPE HAMMERS HOME DIFFERENCES ON WELFARE REFORM BILL
Beyer refuses to respond directly to question in Sunday debate
On Sunday morning, 8th district candidates met for their third candidates’ forum in four days at Temple Beth El in Alexandria, Virginia. At all three forums, Patrick Hope raised serious and substantive questions about Don Beyer’s role in Virginia’s “welfare reform” efforts in the 1990’s. Because of the complexity of the bill, Hope focused on the childcare funding portion on Thursday and Friday (see press release “Hope Draws Contrast With Beyer’s Record…” from 5/16). On Sunday, Hope raised another troubling aspect of law that Beyer has called his “crowning achievement”:
“…the Beyer plan proposed ending welfare benefits after one year, along with a refusal to provide welfare to any children born to participants during the benefit period.”
From “Starting Over”, a political biography of George Allen by Edward A. Lynch
This provision was included in the “welfare reform” law and is still in effect today. Children born to mothers on welfare are ineligible for benefits (known as the “family cap”)- and that is a policy directly from Don Beyer.
Speaking about the Beyer plan on Sunday, Patrick Hope called it “terrible policy” and “politics of a bygone era”. He released this additional statement today:
“Politicians too often make deals in order to hold self-congratulatory news conferences and make claims to have solved problems. Looking back 20 years on the welfare reform compromises from 1994 we see that is exactly what happened. Subsidized childcare was promised to help young mothers on welfare return to jobs-but Don’s plan provided no permanent funding source and cuts were made as soon as the budget got tight. Today because of those cuts over 4,000 children sit on waiting lists for subsidized childcare in the localities of the 8th district today while thousands of others have sat on this list over the last 20 years. While the promises to those in need were not kept, the punitive measures in the agreement have all stayed in effect-including banning mothers from getting additional assistance- $60 a month- when they have another child. That’s just wrong. With entitlement reform and proposed cuts to our social safety net on the agenda for the next Congress, I believe Beyer’s record highlights a major difference between Don Beyer and myself in the way we approach issues. I ask voters to consider four simple words when making their choice for Congress- “Who do you trust?”