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 6 of the 7 candidates have now responded). 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 Arlington County Human Rights Commissioner Yasmine Taeb.
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.
As long as I can remember I have had a sense of civic responsibility. I believe participating in our political system by voting, joining political parties, calling our elected officials and publically supporting or opposing policies are all fundamental pillars of our democracy. As such I have always been engaged in civic life; whether it is by serving as a Commissioner on the Arlington County Commission on the Status of Women, or on the Human Rights Commission.
Over the last several years, I have worked with and listened to the ideas of constituencies across the Commonwealth to help get Democrats elected. Furthermore, while working on Capitol Hill and serving as the national advocacy director for a civil and human rights advocacy group, I championed women’s issues, immigration reform, and voting rights, among other pressing issues facing Virginians today.
My immigrant background has also shaped my perspective on the significance of civic engagement, and the power of voters to lead change for the betterment of their community. As an undocumented immigrant as a child, I went on to earn my citizenship and gain an immense appreciation for the values I believe make America great: equality, economic opportunity, and political rights for all. If given the opportunity by voters of the 48th district, I am hopeful that my experience and background will allow me to serve their interests to the utmost.
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 three most important issues to me include equality, immigration reform and healthcare.
I currently serve as a Commissioner on the Arlington County Commission on the Status of Women and on the Human Rights Commission. My work has advanced policies and initiatives that empower the community.
I have worked to develop a bi-partisan human trafficking bill in the U.S. House of Representatives. I helped draft legislative language addressing racial profiling and protections for DREAMers in the U.S. Senate’s comprehensive immigration bill (S.744), and have worked on the passage of legislative proposals to challenge last summer’s Supreme Court Ruling that struck down the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
I will work tirelessly to pass Medicaid Expansion. The 400,000 Virginians in the “bubble” are losing out on their livelihood. The taxpayers lose out on federal money. We can choose to create a healthier, more vibrant Virginia instead of risking a healthcare crisis.
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 don’t like labels but if I had to choose one, it would be progressive. Service to the community and defending civil and human rights will guide my moral compass when making political decisions. At the same time, it will be important to listen to the community and talk to constituents regularly. That is how I will know I am representing the interests of the 48th District.
4. Who is your favorite and who is your least favorite Virginia politician and why?
I have a great level of admiration and respect for Attorney General Mark Herring and State Senator Adam Ebbin. Mark Herring has done a remarkable job as Attorney General. I admire his leadership for defending Virginia residents by affirming the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals executive order and standing against the Defense of Marriage Act. Senator Adam Ebbin is a tireless worker and effective leader, both in working with constituents and reaching across the aisle while holding true to his values.
I will admit that my least favorite politician at least right now is Phil Puckett. He denied his constituents their voice on the state budget by resigning before it was resolved. It also put up a roadblock toward Medicaid expansion, something people need in order to have healthy lives.
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.
A) Yes, in spite of my opposition to the Hybrid vehicle fee. The benefits outweighed the issues with the legislation. The General Assembly had more than enough votes at the time to implement the Hybrid fee without the compromised legislation.
B.) No. The estate tax repeal is taking resources away from several of our needs, including transportation and education.
C.) No. Constituents deserve representation that reflects their views, not the other way around.
D) Yes. The reality in Richmond is that much of the change we want will be incremental. At the same time, we need to be steadfast in our resolve to make strong ethics reform is a reality.
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 support renewable energy by any means possible. I recognize that some non-renewable energies are necessary in the short term but any new initiatives should be toward renewable energy. New offshore drilling, uranium mining, and other outdated initiatives should be off the table. I would support our Commonwealth investing in new technologies. We also need to help communities in the parts of Virginia that rely on old energy get on board with new energy so that they may have a bright economic future ahead of them.
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)?
Yes to all. With the gas tax, I would be open to discussion but would not want to put an undue burden on the middle class.
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,3 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?
No seat is always safe. The best elected officials never take their positions for granted. They keep their seats safe by maintaining a tireless work ethic and responding to constituent needs. I do agree though that it is a benefit to the constituents in the 48th district to build a team of allies and that is our reason for expanding our work beyond the district and finding candidates across Virginia that share our values.
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
Anyone that has watched recent events unfold around Medicaid expansion in Virginia would agree that the state legislature in Richmond is broken. Voters have little reason to trust in their government or believe that their vote matters.
I’m running for the 48th delegate district because I believe in the power of state government to serve the public. For this reason, I would represent my constituents without the interference of outside interests and corporations, while balancing the input of diverse voices when making policy decisions.
Campaign finance reform would be greatly beneficial, but Citizens United would allow outside groups to get involved no matter what is passed in Virginia, making it difficult to enforce. As a result, my greater focus would be on ethics reform that makes it more difficult for elected officials to personally benefit from their contributors.
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?
As I brought up in regards to a previous question, I believe success as an elected official comes from a dedication to serve your constituents and respond to their needs. As an active member of the Arlington community, I know what matters to voters in the 48th district, and I promise that if elected, I would continue to prioritize the needs of my constituents – even if that meant standing up to party leadership or a Democratic governor. We send representatives to Richmond in order to do just that – represent us.
That being said, there are instances in which policymakers are faced with the challenge of balancing the demands of their constituents with the wellbeing of their state.
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?
Public transportation is a critical investment necessary to keep our community sustainable and thriving. I support the streetcar, but I can understand the frustrations of those who oppose it. As a young candidate, I can relate to the many residents that moved to Arlington in the last 5 or 10 years. Most of the planning around the streetcar happened years ago. Sound, long term planning is essential to grow a community the right way. Having said that, we need to make sure that our newer residents have a stake in the decision making process. I will use my capacity to make sure we can connect all residents to the political process and ensure that they know their input is valued.
We do need to settle the debate here at home first because we can’t make the case in Richmond if we don’t. Hopefully, my work in Richmond will secure funding for the streetcar. My job will be to give residents in the 48th district both in Arlington and McLean a fair return on their tax dollar investment. One of our highest priorities in this region is transportation and infrastructure. Making the case across the aisle will require making the argument that this is the most fiscally responsible way to use tax dollars as it can create new revenue and economic growth in the region.
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?
I have never personally supported or donated to a Republican candidate.
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?
As I mentioned before, no seat is always safe. Although the 48th district has a majority of Democratic voters, I would never stop working to understand and meet the needs of my community.
Furthermore, there is little that one delegate in Richmond can accomplish on his or her own. As long as the House of Delegates remains under Republican control, advancing progress will remain an uphill battle. If elected to represent the 48th district, I would work to support Democratic candidates around the Commonwealth, and especially those in closely contested districts; many recent elections have been won – and lost – by a small number of votes. (For example, my friend Atif Qarni, who ran against Bob Marshall) Through fundraising efforts, combined campaigns, and voter education and outreach, I am confident that we can turn Virginia – all of Virginia – blue, and move forward with policies that benefit everyone – from Arlington and McLean to Norfolk to Roanoke to Winchester. It’s going to take heavy lifting and a great deal of effort, especially on the part of those leaders in areas that are safely Democratic, and I’m committed to going above and beyond to help other Democrats get and stay in office. And by staying true to my values and upbringing, I hope to persuade others within our party to support the progressive ideals that will move Virginia forward.