I’ve sent questionnaires to all the announced 48th House of Delegates district Democratic candidates. Given the extremely short time frame we’re dealing with – election THIS Sunday! – I’m going to print candidate responses as I receive them. Also note that given how frantic these candidates’ schedules are, I’m not going to mark them down for brevity, although obviously I’d prefer fully-fleshed-out answers if possible, and certainly at least a short response to every question. With that, here are the responses from Yorktown Civic Association President Andrew Schneider.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself, and specifically, what in your background and/or temperament makes you the best qualified of the Democratic candidates to represent the 48th House of Delegates district in Richmond.
I am a lifelong Arlingtonian dedicated to service and a commitment to making a difference. I have built my professional career around listening, communicating and advocating on behalf of people and communities. Whether as the Civic Association President, serving on the boards of local non-profits, or in my professional life of working to engage and grow the William & Mary network, the skills I have developed and honed over the past 15 years have prepared me for this stage. I am excited and thrilled to be considered for this seat and commit to listening and fiercely advocating for the needs, interests and views of the folks of the 48th District- every single day – the same way I have my whole life.
2. What three issues are you most passionate about and why? What specifically have you done to further those issues?
I am committed to expanding the economic pie for all Virginians – Arlington is one of the wealthiest counties in the Country and yet we have thousands of Virgininans without health care and thousands of children on free and reduced lunch. I am committed to reforming our mental health care system and working to ensure that those who need care can get it, and I am passionate about children. As the father of two schoolage children, I am committed to ensure they and their peers will be able to compete in a rapidly changing regional and global economy. That said, I want to keep our kids safe- sensible and stronger gun laws will be a constant focus of mine in Richmond.
What would be the first bill you’d introduce in the House of Delegates? Election reform that would prevent a snap election like this one from ever being able to happen again.
3. How would you describe yourself ideologically – “progressive,” “moderate,” “liberal,” or something else? How does your record of votes, endorsements, employment, and other activities reflect your political ideology?
I am a lifelong Democrat that has supported local and national politics since I was a teenager. I worked on Mary Hynes’ first campaign for school board when I was in high school, volunteered for Mark Warner when he was considering running for President in 2005 and 2006, Tim Kaine when he ran for Governor in 2005, and worked for Bill Dolan when he ran for Attorney General in 1993. I am proud of my progressive and liberal values and at my ability to not let my ideology get in the way of working with many folks of different political persuasions and viewpoints. Part of the reason I obtained my MBA was to better learn how the business community works and views the world. If you look at my entire record of service and the commitment that my parents, Ginna and Al Schneider, instilled in me through their acts of community service, volunteerism and community engagement, I stand for progressive, compassionate open minded engagement.
4. Who is your favorite and who is your least favorite Virginia politician and why?
Having volunteered for Mark Warner, Tim Kaine, Terry McAuliffe and David Boling over the years, not to mention the multiple local elections that I’ve been involved in, I think a newly minted candidate is wise to answer this question cautiously. That said, I think Arlington and McLean have been very blessed with progressive leadership of our local and state delegations. I look forward to getting to know Speaker Howell and trying to understand his world view a little better.
5. If you had been in the House of Delegates at the time, would you have voted for a) HB 2313, the comprehensive transportation package passed in 2013; b) repeal of Virginia’s estate tax, which is costing our state around $130 million a year in order to benefit a few hundred of the wealthiest Virginians; c) the 2011 redistricting bill HB 5001, which gerrymandered the state and helped to lock in a Republican majority in the House of Delegates for the rest of the decade; or d) the 2014 ethics reform package (SB 649), which many have criticized as extremely weak.
The incredibly complex transportation bill would have received my support. Terry McAuliffe supported it and it was a good example of compromise politics. It’s not a perfect bill or total solution but given the severity of the issue, and the realities of the politics in Richmond, it was a smart bill to support. As for the other bills, I consider them to be bills that are disrespectful to the voters of Virginia and the 48th district – our voters are smart and can see through sham reform and tax cuts for the wealthiest.
6. What is your vision for Virginia’s energy future? Have you ever supported, or do you currently support, the following: offshore oil drilling, natural gas “fracking,” uranium mining, new coal-fired power plants, mountaintop removal coal mining? If not, what will you do to fight against these things, and to fight for a healthy environment, energy efficiency, and renewable power?
Climate change is real and is already having an impact on our commonwealth and country. I support common sense and consistent energy reform that takes advantage of and encourages innovation and new ideas. All of the examples that you list take us in the wrong direction at too great of a cost. If we do not steward our natural environment effectively in the short term, then the long term is not going to be relevant.
7. Yes or no answers. Do you support: a) a strongly progressive tax system, including a reasonable estate tax on the wealthy; b) a “Dream Act” for Virginia; c) allowing gay couples to adopt; e) closing the “gun show loophole” and taking other commonsense gun measures; f) raising the gas tax and/or instituting a carbon tax (revenue-neutral or otherwise)?
I support tax reform that enables Virginians, including Northern Virginians to pay their fair share and that allows the state government to provide the services and needs of our communities. I am not for and will never support tax reform that is saddled on the backs of the middle class and the poor. That is not tax reform that is sham politics. I think sensible tax reform does, obviously, include a reasonable estate tax.
As for the other issues, of course I support a Dream Act for Virginia, adoption rights for all qualified parents regardless of their orientation, hair color, or political preferences. I am going to Richmond to maintain the issue of sensible stronger gun laws to the forefront of my colleague’s minds – so there is no doubt that I will be a fierce proponent of closing the loophole and other stronger and safer gun laws.
8. Given that the 48th House of Delegates district is a solid “blue” district, and thus a “safe seat,” it is crucial that whoever is elected has a plan to help elect Democrats – preferably progressives – across Virginia. That includes fundraising, organizing volunteers, and maximizing turnout in the 48th district for statewide and Congressional elections. Do you agree with this vision for the Delegate from the 48th district, and if so, what exactly is your plan to accomplish it?
Because of the broken nature of gerrymandering and the distortion of what redistricting has done to create super safe seats for many legislators in Richmond, it makes absolutely no sense to me that the 48th District Delegate would be anything but a constant, vocal, and passionate (and respectful) colleague espousing and advocating for a proud progressive agenda. Why would anyone run for office except to passionately represent their constituents, their beliefs, and their party?
9. Do you agree or disagree that Richmond is broken – for instance, the tremendous influence of money, lobbyists and corporations (e.g., Dominion Virginia Power, car title/payday lenders) on legislation – and needs major ethics reform? More broadly, if elected to the House of Delegates, would your general attitude be more “go along, get along” with this system or to “shake things up?” Please be as specific as possible in your answer. For instance, would you support campaign finance reform that sharply curtails the power of corporations, lobbyists, and special interests?
I believe in campaign finance reform, absolute transparency and ethics reform with teeth. It is not enough to hold yourself to a higher standard and to live outside the gray area, but we must work to ensure that the systems and laws protect the power of those who matter most, the people. As the President of the Yorktown Civic Association I have witnessed firsthand the intrusion of TitleMax into our neighborhood and have learned how toxic these businesses can be. I have never been and never will be a go along to get a long person – I stand for what I believe in and am always willing and able to speak truth to power and injustice.
10. Would you be strong enough to stand up to party leadership, and even to a Democratic governor, if you believed that they were wrong about an issue and/or that it would hurt the 48th district?
If I am honored enough to be elected to this seat, I assure you that I will give 100% of myself every single day, listen to all viewpoints and stand and hold my ground for the things that I believe in. That is the least and the most you can ask of any leader.
11. Do you support the Columbia Pike streetcar project? If so, would you fight for it in Richmond, given the possibility that Speaker Howell et al. might try to deny Arlington funding to build this important, transit-oriented-development project?
As a leader of the Lee Highway revitalization project in Arlington, we have modeled our public process on the multi-year revitalization project on Columbia Pike. That is an exemplary example of a public- private citizen driven process that should be applauded. The streetcar project, as we all know, has had challenges identifying and explaining the costs, the funding streams and the benefits of the project. I believe in transparency and understanding the costs and benefits in any project before undertaking them, and am open to multiple solutions including a referendum that Alan Howze and Patrick Hope discussed in their campaigns. In Richmond, I will work every day to help Arlington, the 48th District and the Commonwealth embrace 21st century transportation solutions. If the Board or our delegation identifies funding support or opportunities to help the streetcar then I would work for those opportunities. That said, there is still a lot of work to be done at the County level. As for Speaker Howell, perhaps we can discuss this in our initial meetings.
12. Have you ever supported – voted for, donated to, attended a fundraiser for, etc. – a Republican candidate for elective office? If so, who, when and why?
No. That said, I am open to Republicans serving their community at a local level – but could never support a Republican at the state or national level. The Republican agenda today is too extremist for me knowing that even a good moderate Republican would be voting for Speaker Howell or Speaker Boehner or appointing Supreme Court Justices that see the world very differently than me and what I believe in.
13. What would you do, coming from this safe “blue” district, to help elect Democrats around the state and build a Democratic and progressive House majority?
Everything I can. I am not running for this seat to sit the fight out. As I said in my 2005 Commencement Address at the University of Maryland School of Business, “We must be leaders. We have not come this far to be timid, to gaze at the precipice before us and pontificate…. Trying and failing is surely the noble path in comparison to sticking to the safe harbors. The opportunities that we have created for ourselves should not indeed, cannot be squandered.”