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 (note that ALL of the candidates have now responded – thanks!). 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 Jacqueline Wilson.
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 believe my life experiences are so different than those of the other candidates. I have moved so many times and traveled the world, and hardly felt at home until I moved to Arlington. A few experiences along the way were life-changing, but one of the most powerful was observing the 2002 elections in Kenya when a long-serving autocrat turned over power in a free and fair election. I have seen democracy when it works, and I have seen it when it doesn’t. Effective democracy is a powerful, powerful force.
I also worked in state-level government in the Maryland capital, Annapolis during which time I learned much about the practice of government at the state level. That experience contributed to more insights-I didn’t know anyone when I first went to Annapolis, and few believed a true outsider could work her way up to the state capitol building. I was inspired by the dedication and sincere commitment of the government officials and legislators, most of whom were there for the right reasons and trying hard to do the right thing. At the same time, I found myself believing that public service required a true commitment and a strong character. I would not be running for office if I did not believe I have the temperament, the guts, and the persistence to legislate successfully in a tough Richmond environment.
2. What three issues are you most passionate about and why? What specifically have you done to further those issues? What would be the first bill you’d introduce in the House of Delegates?
The issues I am most passionate about are those that reflect my core values. I believe in the power of public education, and believe public education should be the great equalizer in terms of access to opportunity. I also believe gun violence is a horrible drain on our society, putting pressure on our public security resources and wasting precious lives. I believe more and better transportation options options from bike lanes to high speed rail, from bus rapid transit to street cars, are critical to improving our quality of life and restoring our economic vitality. The first bill I would introduce in the legislature would create a confidential link between mental health providers and those seeking to purchase a weapon.
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 believe I have taken on all of these ideological positions depending upon the issue. I have supported budget constraint when frivolous waste is a problem, yet believe government spending is sometimes the best path to a solution. In some cases public-private partnerships are suitable options, whereas in other cases the private sector needs to be held to account. My political ideology is generally socially liberal and tolerant, as a I have a strong social justice bent, but on fiscal issues I tend to believe public and private sectors need to work more in concert in some areas, in competition in others.
4. Who is your favorite and who is your least favorite Virginia politician and why?
I really liked Tom Perriello, as I knew his commitment to some of the international issues that concerned me also concerned him, but his defeat means he no longer serves Virginia. I think Sen. Tim Kaine seems like a man of character and substance, though I have never met him.
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.
One of the first things you learn when working with a legislature is that you don’t know what is in a bill until you have read it-all of it. The devil is in the details, and I haven’t read these bills in total. In addition, these questions are phrased as leading questions with simplified descriptions of one perspective of these bills. I cannot answer the question for that reason.
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?
I would never say never, but certainly each of these options presents challenges, some of which should perhaps be unacceptable to all of us. Should it be ok for us to deface a mountain (which will not regrow itself) or to inject chemicals into underground water reservoirs? The answer depends upon a cost/benefit analysis that we as citizens need to discuss and weigh. If we were in another gas crisis as we were in the 1970s, perhaps these options would be palatable. Instead, I support exploring all types of renewable sources of energy. In the past years, car engines alone have seen tremendous creativity, and the possible options for hybrid engines continue to grow. These types of options and this research can increasingly take unpalatable or unacceptable options off the table.
7. Yes or no answers. Do you support: a) a strongly progressive tax system, including a reasonable estate tax on the wealthy; Yes b) a “Dream Act” for Virginia; Yes c) allowing gay couples to adopt; Yes e) closing the “gun show loophole” and taking other commonsense gun measures; Yes f) raising the gas tax and/or instituting a carbon tax (revenue-neutral or otherwise) Yes?
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?
My plan to support more democrats getting elected is to put my ideas into the arena and let them compete! New ideas from outsider, independent candidates previously not fully integrated into party politics can bring an infusion of ideas and energy into a party and energize new constituencies.
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?
When I worked for the governor of Maryland, the Deputy Chief of Staff who was my direct supervisor said that she would not accept any gift of greater value than a cup of coffee. No dinners, no trips, nothing. She felt, and I agree, that this kind of unequivocal, non-negotiable standard leaves little room for doubt. If Richmond is broken, it is because legislators themselves have convinced themselves that it is ok. Ethics reform is fine, but I will prefer to set my own standards for not accepting gifts. Regarding special interests and lobbyists, however, I somewhat disagree. Lobbyists provide important sources of information, as do special interests. Everyone has interests. It is the legislator’s job to listen to (and have an open door to) all sides of an issue, not just the powerful ones or the ones who donate to campaigns.
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?
I certainly hope so.
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?
I feel certain there are aspects of that project that are being misinterpreted in the press or that I fail to understand. The county council would not support the project simply for caché. They must believe it is a solution to valid transportation concerns, or they would not have supported it.
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?
Yes, and independents too. I campaigned for and voted for Ronald Reagan when I was in college. I voted for Ross Perot when I was really frustrated with government budgets and wondered what a third party could achieve. It is important to remember that the Republican party of today is a very different creature than it was in 1980.
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?
I believe the best thing I can do is to raise my creative ideas to a higher level of visibility, which is why I am running. I believe that getting Democrats to see that working across the aisle has value and that relationships are worth the effort, will strengthen the party, its candidates, and its solutions to problems.