Several weeks ago, I had the opportunity to interview Barbara Favola, one of two candidate for the Democratic nomination in the 31st State Senate district (Arlington, McLean, Great Falls, eastern Loudoun County). Today, I present my interview with the other Democratic candidate, Lt. Col. Jaime Areizaga-Soto, in this race. Among other things, Jaime has some strong words for Barbara Favola, including calling for her to either resign from the County Board or return developer money immediately. Areizaga-Soto also responds to Favola’s charge that he was not really a “senior advisor” to Senator Whipple, and asserts strongly that he “will not support Phil Puckett or any candidate that is not a progressive for Caucus Chair.” There’s lots more, check it out! Also, thanks to both 31st State Senate district candidates for answering our questions, albeit in slightly different formats and non-simultaneously (due mainly to scheduling issues).
1. First, can you please briefly tell Blue Virginia readers what your top three reasons are for running for State Senate in the 31st district, and also specifically why you believe you’d make the best choice – both in terms of electability this November and as a Senator in Richmond – for Democratic voters in the primary with your opponent?
Since 2009 we have seen abortion rights under fire, gay rights stifled and education funding slashed. Ken Cuccinelli even sued to stop the President’s healthcare reform legislation. Enough is enough. I want to fight back against the extremism that has taken over our Commonwealth. That’s why I am running for State Senate — to fight for our Democratic values. In terms of electability, Democrats win when we offer a stark contrast to Republicans; I offer the starkest contrast to Caren Merrick. I will hold her accountable for her extreme anti-choice, anti-equality positions, as well as her support for funding policies that will undermine our public schools.
2. With Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple retiring, the Senate Democratic Caucus chair position will be opening up. One possible successor to Sen. Whipple is Deputy Caucus Chair Phil Puckett. If you’re elected to the State Senate, would you support Phil Puckett or would you support someone else for Senate Democratic Caucus Chair? In general, would you ever support an anti-choice, or anti-progressive in any other way, Democrat for Caucus Chair?
I will not support Phil Puckett or any candidate that is not a progressive for Caucus Chair. I was surprised to hear my opponent would not rule it out. Phil Puckett holds positions on choice, equality, and the environment that are out of sync with our Democratic values. I will always stand up for a woman’s right to choose and for a clean environment – including in intra-party battles for leadership. Any Democrat in this district that won’t make the same commitment is not well-representing the 31st.
3. How do you feel about the reconfiguring of the 31st Senate district, so that Arlington is now lumped in with Great Falls and parts of Loudoun County, which many would argue aren’t “communities of interest”? In general, do you believe that redistricting should have been done in a totally nonpartisan way?
If you look at how the 31st Senate District has been drawn it is obvious politics was at play. I support non-partisan redistricting and will support it in the State Senate. That being said, my close relatives have lived in Great Falls since 1985 and I first move into Arlington in 1994 – there is much that these communities have in common and I’m confident I can represent all of the district’s neighborhoods.
4. 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 would have voted Nay. One of the things that differentiate Democrats from Republicans is that we are a diverse party and we don’t always agree on everything. However, if we can’t agree that the least advantaged among us should not be taken advantage of, I don’t know what we do stand for. As a Senator I will be accountable to the people in my district and will stand up to anyone, Republican or Democrat.
5. The Arlington County Board has an informal agreement that members will not accept campaign contributions from real estate developers with business before the board. I’m wondering if you think this policy is a smart one. Also, do you believe that your opponent, Arlington County Board member Barbara Favola, should step down from the board, or should she recuse herself from any business pertaining to the Shooshan Company and other Arlington development interests with past or current business before or the board?
Barbara Favola should resign from the board or return the money immediately. Voting to approve projects and then accepting large amounts of money, as much money as some families make in a year is not ethical – which is why the Arlington County Board has a tradition of refusing to take money from developers.
6. As you know, Barbara Favola, played a significant role in initiating and pursuing Arlington’s HOT lanes lawsuit. For a number of reasons, rightly or wrongly, this lawsuit became a lightning rod in Richmond. What is your view of this lawsuit, and how – if at all – do you think it will affect the ability of the next State Senator from the 31st district to work effectively in Richmond?
As a lawyer, I know that lawsuits aren’t always the best way to arrive at a great policy solution and can create unnecessary foes. Having served as Senator Whipple’s policy advisor in Richmond for two sessions and getting to know many of the Senators and Delegates on both sides of the aisle, I also know that no issue is considered in a vacuum. I have the policy knowledge, the political savvy, and the relationships in Richmond to be an effective Senator for the 31st.
7. As I’m sure you’re aware, Sen. Whipple voted for a Dominion Power re-regulation bill that favored 19th-century energy sources over things like efficiency & renewable energy, leaving Virginians to face steadily increasing power rates and bills to pay for the new billion-dollar coal plants the General Assembly has called for. Do you believe that Sen. Whipple’s vote for that bill was a mistake, or not?
Utilities need to be well regulated to protect the environment and protect consumers from price gouging and dramatic rate increases as we
saw in neighboring states. The 2007 “Re-reg” bill was a tough call,it did neither well, but was a step in the right direction in terms of voluntary emissions standards and rate protections. It’s an imperfect bill but protected Virginia from massive and sudden rate increases. I
would have voted with the other 37 Senators in favor of this bill.
8. 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 progressive. I want to go to Richmond to fight for Democratic values of choice, equality, justice, and a fair shake for everyone. I am an Obama Administration Appointee, active in the Arlington Democratic Committee, Vice-President of the Democratic Latino Organization of Virginia, a JAG Lt. Colonel in the US Army National Guard, and have worked for numerous Democratic Campaigns. I will go to Richmond and take on the extreme McDonnell/Cuccinelli agenda. I have made standing up for a woman’s right to choose, fighting for gay rights and protecting education-funding central to my campaign.
9. 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, as recently passed in Maryland; c) allowing gay couples to adopt; d) ultimately, repealing the Marshall-Newman Amendment; e) closing the “gun show loophole” and taking other commonsense gun measures; f) raising the gas tax and/or instituting a carbon tax?
10. In my interview with Barbara Favola, she challenged your characterization of your role as a “senior advisor” to Sen. Whipple. According to Favola, “[Whipple] would not characterize his job that way and of course she has endorsed me.” How would you respond to this?
If my opponent is going to go negative it should at the very least be based in fact.
In an article written by Senator Whipple in the Falls Church News-Press on January 27, 2010,this is how Senator Whipple described my service:
“Finally, this year I am fortunate to have the extra help of Jaime Areizaga-Soto, Esq. as my Policy Advisor. He is an Arlington resident, a former White House Fellow at the U.S. Treasury Department, a graduate of Stanford Law School, active in the Democratic Party, and a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army National Guard. As the Caucus Chair of the Democratic Caucus in the Senate, I coordinate the operations (communications, coordination, and position-making) of the majority Caucus in the Senate. Jaime supports and advises me on legislation and Caucus-related issues.”
I think there is some revisionist history at play here. The fact is that during the last two General Assembly sessions, I had the opportunity to participate in every Democratic Senator’s Caucus meeting and every Monday night caucus working dinner. The Senate caucus even paid my way to the annual Joint Democratic Caucus retreat at the Homestead.
At the end of the day, quibbling about a title is not what is important. What I learned while serving Senator Whipple’s Policy Advisor is that Richmond needs a strong progressive voice. The extreme McDonnell/Cuccinelli agenda is dangerous, and our future is worth the fight.
11. Do you agree or disagree that Richmond is broken – 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, lobbyists, and special interests?
I think the fact that I am running when the establishment tried to pick a Senator for the 31st District is a testament to how I will operate in Richmond. I will fight to shake things up. I will fight for campaign finance reform. Big business, developers and lobbyists should not be able to overwhelm the interests of every day voters with massive contributions. I will also join the ongoing battle for non-partisan redistricting.
12. If elected from this generally “blue” seat, what is your vision for helping elect Democrats – preferably progressives – across Virginia? That includes fundraising, organizing volunteers, and maximizing turnout in the 31st district for statewide and Congressional elections.
For my race, I am already building an army of volunteers and a fundraising operation. If I am elected to the State Senate I will continue to cultivate and maintain this operation. I want to help Democrats maintain the State Senate, regain the House and win back the Governor’s Mansion in 2013.