It was a packed house last night at the NRECA building in Arlington for ACDC’s 8th CD Democratic debate, the last such forum of this campaign, and it got pretty heated in there. Not because there were 300 or so people in there, or because the HVAC system failed or whatever (it worked fine), but because two of the candidates – Patrick Hope and Mark Levine – got highly aggressive with Don Beyer, the by-all-evidence frontrunner in this race. Given that this was the final debate, I wasn’t surprised that candidates would go after the frontrunner, as that’s Politics 101. If anything, I was surprised that it didn’t happen a lot earlier in the campaign. I was also surprised that other candidates – Adam Ebbin and Bill Euille in particular – chose to hold their fire. Some sort of campaign “strategery,” perhaps? (e.g., maybe they’re figuring that the candidates attacking each other will fall back in the polls, allowing Ebbin and Euille a proverbial “path to victory?”)
Anyway, I’m going to post the videos in the comments section, as usual, pointing out what I found notable. That includes Hope’s and Levine’s criticisms of Beyer on welfare reform when he was LG (see video to the right), his January 2007 comments on the estate tax (in Automotive News), his 2005 comments seemingly in support of a national sales tax (see Automotive News), his position on mandatory arbitration clauses in his auto dealerships’ contracts, whether or not he was a “lobbyist” (Beyer said he’s never been a lobbyist and noted that actually Patrick Hope’s currently a “lobbyist” – the formal title is actually “Senior Director, Legislative Policy” – at the American College of Cardiology), etc. Perhaps the most notable exchange was on the arbitration clauses in Beyer’s car dealership contracts. According to Beyer (click here to watch his answer):
Yes, it’s a good question Patrick. I would absolutely support banning mandatory arbitration contracts in employment and certainly in any sales. I was first alerted to this issue just a few months ago, back in January, when I was first a candidate actually. A lawyer came to one of our very first meet-and-greets and said, where are you on this mandatory minimum arbitration? I said, well, tell me about it. And she said, well it completely robs the consumer of the ability to sue in the short run and often delays justice. And so I said, that absolutely doesn’t seem right. I talked to my brother and my COO, and said if we have any contracts like that in the business, get rid of them, both with our employees and with our customers, and we did that immediately.
That sounds great, but what I don’t understand is that, following the debate last night, Patrick Hope campaign manager Ben Tribbett posted a photo of a March 29 Don Beyer Motors contract, with the mandatory arbitration clause still in it. I emailed the Beyer campaign for comment late last night and am awaiting a response. Perhaps there’s a good explanation for this seeming discrepancy, and I’m certainly interested in hearing it. Also note that when I asked the Beyer campaign about this issue in late March, campaign spokesperson Ann O’Hanlon sent me the short statement, “Don’s dealerships do NOT have mandatory arbitration contracts, so that’s an easy one to answer!” Except that, as Beyer explained last night, it wasn’t so easy a question to answer, as he said that even he didn’t know about these clauses being in his car dealership contracts (or what they meant, exactly) until January 2014.
Also note that Levine criticized Ebbin for voting to repeal the Virginia estate tax back in 2006 (note that this is the issue, more than any other, which started a major rift between what was then called “Raising Kaine” and Tim Kaine, as the estate tax is an absolutely core, fundamental, crucial progressive value, going back to Teddy Roosevelt’s days). While it’s true that Ebbin voted to repeal the Virginia estate tax, as I discussed several months ago, Ebbin voted AGAINST repealing it several times before ultimately voting FOR repealing it (the final vote was 91-0). It’s also interesting that Ebbin’s rationale for his vote changed dramatically last night from my previous understanding based on multiple sources (from, essentially, “it was going to pass unanimously anyway and Gov. Kaine’s folks were pressuring wayward Democrats to vote ‘yea’ (plus, don’t want our Virginia FREE scores to suffer)” to:
“I have supported a cut or an elimination of a Virginia estate tax in order to remain competitive and consistent with other states that we compete with; but my policy on taxation has been consistent.”
“Consistent?” Really? Hmmmm…well, alrighty then. So it’s “consistent” to vote multiple times AGAINST repealing the Virginia estate tax right before voting FOR repealing the Virginia estate tax (costing us around $140 million a year, by the way, to benefit a few hundred super-rich Virginia families, at the expense of everyone else – grrrrrr!), and then to present contradictory (and flawed – e.g., I don’t buy for a minute that this was about competitiveness with other states, as Virginia’s already super-“business friendly”) explanations as to why he voted the way he did on the final bill? Right-o, gotcha.
With that, on to the videos.