Home 2019 Elections Grading the 48th House of Delegates Candidates’ Blue Virginia Questionnaires

Grading the 48th House of Delegates Candidates’ Blue Virginia Questionnaires


I wanted to do this ranking for a few main reasons. First, to give people a one-stop shop for links to all 7 of the 48th House of Delegates candidates’ Blue Virginia Qs and As. Second, to provide a summary of the responses by each candidate. And third, to grade them, from a progressive and environmentalist perspective. So, first, here are the links to the interviews, in the order they were turned in.

1. Andrew Schneider; 2. Atima Omara; 3. Dave Boling; 4. Paul Holland; 5. Rip Sullivan; 6. Yasmine Taeb; 7. Jacqueline Wilson

Now, here’s a summary of each candidates’ responses, plus a grade. The candidates will now be ranked from best to worst (on an “A+” to “F” scale), based on their answers.

Paul Holland gets an “A” for his answers, which are excellent across the board. Nice job — Holland is definitely one of the top choices for Democrats going to the caucus Sunday to consider voting for, either #1 or #2!

Rip Sullivan also gets an “A” for his answers, which are also excellent across the board, and which also put in in the top 2 candidates I believe Democrats should seriously consider Sunday! I particularly like his pledge ” to NEVER accept any campaign contributions from Dominion Power” and his thoughts on how to help elect Democrats around the state and build a Democratic and progressive House majority. I’m also impressed that he called out Governor McAuliffe for his wrong-headed support for offshore drilling and Tim Kaine for his “biggest mistake” – signing the estate tax repeal into law. I do disagree with Sullivan that criticizing Bill Howell’s outrageous behavior amounts to getting “caught up in negativity,” or that we’re ever going to get anything done with the likes of these Tea Party crazies. But that’s a minor quibble, more stylistic than anything I think. Other than that, though, Sullivan’s answers are superb.

Yasmine Taeb gets an “A-“ for her answers, which are very strong across the board, with one or two relatively minor exceptions (e.g., on the gas tax, there are most certainly ways to make it less regressive, such as by making the rest of the tax code more progressive, or by subsidizing public transit and/or high-fuel-economy vehicles). Other than that, my only issue with Taeb is that her experience has overwhelmingly been at the national level, albeit on important issues of women’s equality, voting rights, human rights, etc. I guess I’m just wondering why Taeb, given her interests, would want to trek down I-95 to Richmond, into the swamp of Virginia state politics (where Democrats currently have basically zero power in the House of Delegates)…

Atima Omara gets an “A-” for her answers, which are solid across the board. My main concerns about Omara have nothing to do with her answers to the questionnaire, but with people have been telling me over the past few days (I didn’t know anything about Omara before this race and had absolutely no preconceived notions), such as that she’s “not a hard worker” and that she has “no substance.” Is any of that true? Got me, but I keep hearing it from Arlington Democrats who know her well, so I’m not sure what to believe at this point. Also, she ran into a buzzsaw of criticism yesterday after her campaign claimed an endorsement from NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, which that organization quickly made clear they did NOT make. So, while she gets an “A-” for her answers to my questionnaire, there are many questions in my mind about her candidacy.

Andrew Schneider gets a “B” for his answers, which are a mixed bag of (mostly) good, (some) mediocre and (a couple) not-ideal. For instance, I LOVE his clear passion for “expanding the economic pie for all Virginians,” for “reforming our mental health care system and working to ensure that those who need care can get it,” for campaign finance and ethics reform, and for being a “fierce proponent of closing the loophole and other stronger and safer gun laws.” I’m not sure I fully understand where he’s coming from regarding my progressive taxation question. And I’m not thrilled with his answers on the streetcar or about being “open to Republicans serving their community at a local level.” Still, Schneider’s an interesting candidate who would probably do a decent job in Richmond overall.

Dave Boling gets a “D” (and I’m probably being generous) for his answers, for several reasons. First, his background is mostly working for a Congressman from Arkansas, then running for Congress from Arkansas (in 2010). How any of that shows interest in the Virginia House of Delegates is beyond me. Second, his answers on the energy question are truly abysmal. Sorry, but comments like this (“natural gas revolution in the U.S. offers great potential for reducing the cost of energy and boosting U.S. exports. And it offers the prospect that America will become less dependent on the Middle East for energy.”) are just non-starters in my book – simply NOT the way we need to be going! As for exporting natural gas? That would mean more fracking (including in places like the GW National Forest), more methane (a potent greenhouse gas) emissions, and more destruction of our environment. No thanks.

Second, Boling’s opposition to “raising the gas tax and/or instituting a carbon tax (revenue-neutral or otherwise”) is another non-starter. I asked him when I saw him in person to clarify his answer, and he actually dug the hole even greater,  with a comment about how he was for “cap and trade” not a revenue-neutral carbon tax or a gas tax increase. That’s just ridiculous, frankly, especially given recent studies indicating enormous benefits from a revenue-neutral carbon tax, and also the desperate need to fund our crumbling infrastructure through an increase in the dedicated gas tax. Heck, even the corporatist Washington Post editorial board agrees with that one!

Finally, Boling sidesteps his real views on the Columbia Pike streetcar project, which is that he strongly opposes it, even having attended a fundraiser with former U.S. Rep. Tom Davis (R) against the streetcar. I really don’t appreciate the lack of candor and the politician-speak on this one. Just tell us you oppose the project and let the chips fall where they may. Ugh. Bottom line: under absolutely NO circumstances should any environmentalist or transit-oriented development advocate vote for Dave Boling in Sunday’s caucus.

Jacqueline Wilson gets an F for her answers, for several reasons. First, I’m not seeing any particular involvement in Arlington or Virginia politics, grassroots campaigns, etc. I asked a leading Arlington Democrat about Wilson yesterday, and his answer was, verbatim, “Never heard of her before in my life.”

Second, she makes it clear that while she’s socially progressive, on economic and fiscal issues she’s more a “public-private partnerships” type of person. Meh.

Third, her non-answer on the specific bills that “you don’t know what is in a bill until you have read it-all of it” simply tells me she hasn’t been following Virginia politics closely over the past few years, as these are all high-profile bills that have received a great deal of coverage and discussion. I think it’s totally fair to ask our prospective delegate how they would have voted on these bills, and I don’t think it’s cool at all to blow off the question.

As for her answers on mountaintop removal, etc. that they depend on “a cost/benefit analysis,” we’ll just have to agree to disagree, as I believe the costs have already been shown, time and time again, to FAR outweigh any “benefits” of fossil fuels.

I also have no idea how “put[ting] my ideas into the arena and let[ting] them compete” constitutes a plan to help elect Democrats – preferably progressives – across Virginia. And I’m not sure I’m following her answer on ethics reform, that it “is fine, but I will prefer to set my own standards for not accepting gifts.”

Finally, I appreciate honesty, but as a “bleeds Democratic blue” kinda guy, I’m not feeling it on her admission that she’s voted for Republicans, even “campaigned for and voted for Ronald Reagan when I was in college.” Gack.

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