As part of this site’s ongoing effort to learn more about Democratic candidates for office in Virginia, today we kick off a 3-interview series with the Democratic candidates in the 30th State Senate District. Those candidates are Del. Adam Ebbin, Arlington County School Board member Libby Garvey, and Alexandria City Council member Rob Krupicka. We presented the same questions to all three candidates, and also requested that they all return them at the same time (to be fair, so none of them knew what the others had answered). Today, we present Adam Ebbin’s interview. We hope you find it informative, and would be very interested in your reaction. Thanks.
P.S. We will also use these questionnaires as an important part of our consideration into whether we will endorse anyone in this district, and if so, who we will endorse. We will also be watching debates and the overall campaign to determine who we believe will best represent progressive values, and of course the 30th District, in Richmond.
Question #1. Tell us a bit about yourself, and specifically, what in your background and/or temperament makes you the best qualified of the three Democratic candidates to represent the 30th State Senate district on Richmond.
For eight years, I have represented Alexandria, Fairfax and Arlington in the House of Delegates, where I’ve proven myself effective and won progressive victories even while being part of the Democratic minority. I have worked within the legislative system, and established the relationships needed to be successful in the Senate. I’ve been recognized as a progressive leader by Equality Virginia and the League of Conservation Voters, and have consistently received 100% ratings from the AFL-CIO. Prior to my service in the House, I worked alongside local Democrats to advance our shared values. I was a founder of the Virginia Partisans Gay and Lesbian Democratic Club, and served as Chief Deputy Commissioner of Labor and Industry under Governor Mark Warner. I have been a tenacious fighter for progressive values, and will continue to be in the Senate.
Question #2. On a related note, given the fact that there are only a handful of women in the Virginia General Assembly, and also given that two leading female Senators – Patsy Ticer and Mary Margaret Whipple – have announced their retirements, how important do you believe it is that another woman replace Patsy Ticer in this seat?
There is no question that members of minority groups serve as significant voices for the groups from which they come. We need more diversity in our General Assembly, including more women, Hispanics, African Americans, Asian Americans and GLBT Virginians. Most importantly, the 30th District needs a Senator with a proven record of effectiveness on issues especially important to women and other groups. As the first openly gay member of the House of Delegates (and hopefully the first openly gay State Senator), I certainly recognize the value of having a legislative body composed of members with varied backgrounds and perspectives. I believe that my background has enabled me to be a voice forthose who are underrepresented in the General Assembly. I have earned a 100% rating from NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, and have led the fight against human trafficking in Virginia, a crime that disproportionately impacts immigrants and women. I also have worked with the Speaker and other senior Republicans on prenatal care for immigrant women. I will continue to represent the needs and interests of all of my diverse constituency in the Senate.
Question #3: What three issues are you most passionate about and why? Also, what specifically have you done to further those issues?
During my time in the House of Delegates, I have worked to advance many progressive causes, including the rights of Virginia workers, protections for senior citizens and disabled Virginians, and equal opportunity for GLBT state employees. In the Senate, I hope to work to improve our environment, address our growing transit needs, and to continue to be a voice for those often left out of our political process.
Cleaning up Virginia’s environment and moving our state in the direction of renewable energy is a key investment our future.
1. In the House, I created the Solar Resource Loan Fund to expand the use of green energy, worked with Governor Tim Kaine to establish green standards for state buildings, and have led the fight against the use of throwaway grocery bagsthat pollute our streams and environment. I’m proud to have been recognized five times as a Legislative Hero by the Virginia League of Conservation Voters for my work in this regard.
2. Transportation is always a major issue in Northern Virginia. We must protect our environment, reduce sprawl and expand transit. I helped bring $2 billion in Federal funds to Metro for capital improvements by adding a Federal representative to that Board. This year, I spoke against removing a local representative from the Metro Board. I worked this past session to find solutions to the traffic problems that loom when the BRAC building at Mark Center opens, and will continue to do so in the Senate.
3. Even today, too many members of our society do not have a voice in the political process. I have been a voice for these Virginians by working on behalf of the victims of human trafficking, exploited workers, GLBT people and bullied youth. I secured funding to establish a Public Defender’s office in Arlington to ensure that those who cannot afford an attorney are still properly represented in court. I led the bipartisan coalition that has passed several bills addressing the scourge of human trafficking, and served as the chair of the Virginia Commission on the Prevention of Human Trafficking.
Question #4. How would you describe yourself ideologically – “progressive,” “moderate,” “liberal,” or something else? How does your record of votes, endorsements, and other activities reflect your political ideology?
I consider myself to be a liberal, and have a solid record of supporting progressive causes. My values are reflected in my voting record in the House of Delegates, where I have been honored five times as a Legislative Hero by the Virginia League of Conservation Voters, and where I’ve earned perfect legislative scorecard ratings from NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, Equality Virginia and theAFL-CIO. I’m a founding member of the Progressive Caucus in the General Assembly, and am proud to have the endorsement of progressive leaders including former Congresswoman Leslie Byrne and Progressive Caucus founder Patrick Hope.
Question #5. Who is your favorite and who is your least favorite Virginia politicians and why?
My favorite politician from Virginia’s history is Thomas Jefferson, for reasons beyond his obvious role as a great statesman. Jefferson once said, “I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and Constitutions. But laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times.” To me, he was speaking to the future, and the eventual expansion of American freedoms to include the descendants of slaves, Native Americans, Suffragettes, GLBT people and those who are different.
Harry Flood Byrd’s embrace and defense of segregation makes him my least favorite political figure from Virginia’s history.
Question #6. This year, Virginia politicians have been busy dividing up the Commonwealth into new legislative districts, with the clear #1 goal being incumbent protection. With that in mind, do you support nonpartisan redistricting as opposed to the system we have now? Also, if you had been a member of the State Senate this year, would you have voted to approve the plans drawn up behind closed doors by the politicians, or would you instead have fought to incorporate the bipartisan redistricting commission’s recommendations and/or the redistricting maps drawn up by university students?
I have long been an advocate for open, non-partisan redistricting. I co-sponsored HB 5002, a redistricting plan that was based on nonpartisan criteria designed by students from the University of Richmond. I have cosponsored measures in the past to require non-partisan redistricting. I voted against this year’s gerrymandered House map.
Question #7. On the subject of transportation, three questions. First, if you had been in the State Senate this past session, would you have voted for HB 1998, a bill strongly opposed by “smart growth” and environmental group as encouraging sprawl and highway construction over public transit? Second, how do you propose paying for the tens of billions of dollars in transportation maintenance and improvements Virginia is estimated to require in coming years? Finally, what are your thoughts on the BRAC relocation to the Mark Center in Alexandria, and most importantly, what should be done at this point about that impending transportation mess?
I was proud to vote against HB 1998, and encouraged my fellow Democratic House members to do the same. We need to expand our transit system, particularly in Northern Virginia, to combat the impact of sprawl-related traffic on our environment. The BRAC building at Mark Center poses particular challenges to our local infrastructure and will create enormous traffic. I withheld my support fromthis year’s transportation bill until funds were promised to provide a ramp off of 395 to partially address the coming congestion. Helping our community address the issues related to BRAC will be among my priority concerns as a Senator. Workers at BRAC should be given extra inducements to carpool, such as cash incentives.
Question #8. If you had been in the State Senate this past session, would you have voted “yea” or “nay” on Majority Leader Dick Saslaw’s bill, SB 1367 (motor vehicle title loans to nonresidents)? In general, if elected, would you always do what you believe is right or would you follow your leadership, even if you don’t agree with it?
I believe that elected officials should do what they believe is right. We areelected to represent our communities and we owe our first allegiance to thevoters who sent us to Richmond. Regarding procedural votes, there are some instances where members need to follow their caucus leadership in a narrowly divided chamber such as the Senate. As a member of the House, I have learned how to balance my role as a partisan member of the General Assembly and my responsibility to put my district’s needs first.
I voted “nay” on SB 1367, and have consistently voted to curb payday and car title lending. I co-patroned measures to reign in car title lending.
Question #9. What is your vision for Virginia’s energy future? For instance, if you are elected to the State Senate, will you push for legislation like Chap Petersen’s Clean Energy Future Act? Will you support any of 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?
My vision for Virginia’s energy future calls for clean, renewable energy, and a lessened reliance on dirty energy sources. I have been a leader in the House in supporting the use of green energy. This year, Senator Mary Margaret Whipple and I created the Solar Loan Fund, which will provide low-interest loans to Virginians who wish to generate clean solar power at their homes. The environmental harm done by “fracking” is only now becoming evident, and we must prevent the widespread use of this practice in Virginia. The damage done by mountaintop removal, whichdumps thousands of tons of dirt, rock and pollutants into our waterways, and forever scars the natural beauty of our state, is plainly evident. I will be a vigorous champion for our environment in the Senate to draw the line against the further use of this damaging, shortsighted practice.
Question #10. Given that the 30th State Senate 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 30th for statewide and Congressional elections. Do you agree with this vision for the State Senator from the 30th district, and if so, what exactly is your plan to accomplish it?
I will use my position as the Democratic nominee in the 30th District to support the candidacies of Democrats in more challenging districts, just as I have from my position in the House of Delegates. Since taking office, I have raised and contributed more than $400,000 for General Assembly candidates. I forewent any general election mailings for my own campaign in 2003, and instead contributed to Mark Sickles and Steve Shannon’s first elections to the House. I also contributed $20,000 to David Poisson’s campaign against Dick Black. In past elections, I have funded postcards in support of Tim Kaine and our statewide ticket, and made robocalls to turnout Democratic voters in my district.
Prior to my first election to the House, I spent years as a progressive activist. I organized, authored and raised funds for ads encouraging the GLBT community to support Democrats. Part of this effort included founding the Virginia Partisans Gay & Lesbian Democratic Club, which contributed more than $25,000 to Democratic candidates. As early as 1992, I recruited and organized volunteers, including more than 25 for Chuck Robb and Leslie Byrne. I wrote and targeted special mailings to the GLBT community for Senator Patsy Ticer andSenator Mary Margaret Whipple in their first elections in 1995.
I ran the campaigns of Jay Fisette in 1993 for Arlington County Board, Paul Smedberg for Alexandria City Council in 2000 and for former Alexandria Councilwoman Lois Walker.
Question #11. Do you agree or disagree that Richmond is broken in many ways – for instance, the tremendous influence of money and lobbyists on legislation – and needs major reform? If elected to the State Senate, would your general attitude be more “go along, get along” or “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 and powerful special interests?
I believe that our system does have some problems and my style is more to shake things up. The compressed legislative sessions causes subcommittee hearings to be held at times that are challenging for many members of the public, particularly those from outside of central Virginia, to attend and testify. Subcommittee rooms are small, often without enough seating and space for all members of the public to attend and follow what is going on. Subcommittee votes are not on the Internet for thepublic to see. In some cases, members have two committees that meet at the exact same time (as I do on Thursday mornings). Full committees often rush through subcommittee reports, causing some bills to receive only cursory consideration, and other bills are not heard at all. Alonger legislative session would ameliorate many of these problems, but many members of the House and Senate would have a hard time staying in Richmond longer, given the personal costs incurred and low pay received by General Assembly members.
My voting record has shown that I have never been one to “go along, get along.” For example, I have often voted with former Delegate Kenny Melvin, former Delegate Al Eisenberg, Delegates David Englin, Scott Surovell and Patrick Hope on lopsided votes that were matters of fairness and principal. I have consistently supported prison reform with Delegate Patrick Hope. We held a town meeting dedicated to prison reform and have visited one correctional facility. I have consistently opposed thedeath penalty.
I support comprehensive campaign finance reform.