Check out the following video from Friday night’s VERY well-attended Indisivible NOVA West “Views & Brews” VA-01 Democratic candidate forum in Warrenton. The candidates are Edwin Santana, who I’m supporting; John Suddarth and Vangie Williams. Following the video, I’ve included a brief summary of the responses to the opening/closing statements and to each question. Excellent forum; nice job by everyone who helped organize it!
John Suddarth: Mainly autobiographical. Emphasizes that it “takes a village,” empathy for people in need, the “unique and important role that only the government can play in our lives.”
Vangie Williams: Also mainly autobiographical. Says she’s running on “jobs and prosperity…an economy that works for everyone…we have to invest in our community.” Says she supports single-payer healthcare, argued that the government should balance its budget, and concludes, “I’m not running as a liberal congresswoman, I’m not as a conservative congresswoman, I’m running to be the people’s congresswoman.”
Edwin Santana: Says that “a young Marine running as a proud progressive in a conservative district can win right here [in VA-01].” Says his “eyes were opened in a way that I’d never experienced before” after Trump’s election. Concludes that his issues are “instituting a single-payer healthcare system, improving our public education system, building a 21st century economy that works for all Americans in every single zip code, protecting the environment, expanding access to and improving quality of broadband, doing something to address the culture of sexual violence we have in this country.”
QUESTION #1: THOUGHTS ON PREVENTING GUN VIOLENCE
John Suddarth: Advocates for an assault weapons ban, universal background checks, gun violence restraining orders. Says the idea of arming teachers is “one of the craziest ideas I’ve ever heard.” “The solution is to get the weapons of war off the street.”
Vangie Williams: Says she’s for “commonsense gun control,” including “federal universal background checks,” “stricter state reciprocity rules.” Says “we are not going to be able to ban the weapons,” but we can “think outside the box” and do things like a “buyback program so that we can get the guns off the street.”
Edwin Santana: Says he carried “just about every weapon imaginable” as a Marine overseas and knows what they can do. Notes that as a Marine, he spent hundreds of hours earning the right to carry weapons and that he could have the weapon taken away from him if he wasn’t qualified to use the weapon or if he was deemed a potential threat to himself or others. He says those rules could be applied to the civilian population. He supports universal background checks and an assault weapons ban. He concludes that the new generation of leaders and voters gives him hope on this issue.
QUESTION #2: WHAT TO DO ABOUT ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT OF SEA-LEVEL RISE
Vangie Williams: Says we need to be “proactive” and says we should listen to the experts, like the Army Corps of Engineers. Says she is “very conservatively fiscal.” Talks about dredging and says she will “protect our waterways” by opposing offshore drilling and fracking. Doesn’t mention climate change per se, but does say “we only have one world, we need to protect it.” Says we have to “stop the us/them debate,” pledges to do an “infrastructure study,” including a “proactive plan to stop environmental damage.”
Edwin Santana: Says this is an infrastructure problem, that “we also need to address climate change as a real issue” and that it’s sad the GOP “bur[ies their] head in the sand” on the issue instead of doing something about it.
John Suddarth: Says “on a global level, we have to do everything possible to reduce our carbon footprint,” including more efficient energy, cap and trade, a revenue-neutral carbon tax and the Paris Climate Agreement. On a local level, he says we need to work on better drainage, protect the shorelines, build higher roads.
QUESTION #3: HOW TO SUPPORT PUBLIC EDUCATION
Edwin Santana: Pay teachers “in accordance with the responsibility that they have in this country.” We need to invest in public education as the “national priority that it is” or “we’re going to have a problem,” because education “is the great equalizer in this country.” Need to “get Betsy DeVos out of there.” Need to listen to teachers and put educators in leadership roles, such as Gov. Northam did in Virginia. Need to treat education like retirement – “invest early, invest heavily, and you can see the results you’ll have over the span of those children’s lifetime.”
John Suddarth: Says vouchers are “a way of taking something from those who have the least and giving it to those who already have the most.” For universal pre-k, for better pay, giving teachers the autonomy they need…giving each child a great education.
Vangie Williams: Also calls for firing DeVos and says “no to charter schools.” Calls for the “Invest Initiative” to invest in our teachers, first responders, veterans, etc. by closing tax loopholes. Again, calls for a balanced budget and having a living wage.
QUESTION #4: PREVENTING RAPE AND SEXUAL ASSAULT
John Suddarth: Take it “very very seriously,” arrest serial abusers, don’t make any excuses for criminal behavior, take action. One of the people who has been getting away with sexual abuse for a long time “might be in the White House.” “We have a situation where there is a legal dispute between a porn star and the president of the United States, and most people are rooting for the porn star.”
Vangie Williams: Rape is not just a woman’s issue, it’s “a human issue.” The “laws that are out there just aren’t working.” Need to “educate our police forces…our hospitals…get these guys off the street and throw away the key.”
Edwin Santana: This is a “major plank” in his platform. Has developed legislation that he’d introduce on his first day in office, including “affirmative consent as the standard across the country,” “teach that at age-appropriate levels in schools,” “take this issue out of the military chain of command.”
QUESTION #5: SUPPORTING MILITARY VETERANS AND THEIR FAMILIES
Vangie Williams: Again mentions the “Invest Initiative.” Says it’s a “national shame” that “35% of our enlisted military persons in our district are on food stamps.” Says if you’re a veteran and have served in a war, “you deserve a break today.” “People before profit, our military deserves the best.” Says Rob Wittman does not care about the military, only about military contractors, and that we need to reverse Citizens United.
Edwin Santana: Says he will bring to Congress his perspective as a military veteran, married to an active duty Marine with a brother who’s a disabled veteran. Says it’s not true that Rob Wittman’s worked hard for military families.
John Suddarth: Points to single-payer healthcare, which will “enable the military hospitals and the veterans hospitals to focus on unique illnesses and syndromes to veterans.” Says he’s a strong supporter of a $15/hour minimum wage.
QUESTION #6: COMBATING THE OPIOID EPIDEMIC
Edwin Santana: Says the exact worst way to deal with this is what Trump’s saying, to execute drug dealers. Instead, need to treat it as the health care crisis that it is. Says we need single-payer healthcare as the “morally right thing to do” and also the “fiscally responsible thing to do.” Also need to expand Medicaid. Can’t have another war on drugs in this country – “all it led to was higher incarceration rates for men and women of color.”
John Suddarth: Says we need to treat it as an illness, not as a crime, and move to single-payer healthcare to take the profit motive out of the provision of healthcare.
Vangie Williams: Says she’s the child of a woman who was addicted to drugs. Says we have too many people on Capitol Hill taking money from pharmaceutical companies and vows never take money from a pharmaceutical or a health insurance company. Also need to address other drug problems in this country.
QUESTION #7: IMMIGRATION POLICY
John Suddarth: Says he’s for “e-Verify,” NOT for “open borders,” NOT for “letting illegal people doing what they want.” Supports a “seasonal immigration visa” and a “way of bringing in talent.” Says we are a “country of immigrants’ but we must “not use illegal immigration to suppress the working person.” Supports the Gang of 8’s comprehensive immigration reform plan.
Vangie Williams: Agrees that the Gang of 8’s immigration reform plan was a good one. Need a path to citizenship for hard-working, law-abiding, tax-paying persons who want to be citizens.” Need to give permanent citizenship to the DREAMers – “the hardest-working young people I’ve ever met.” Says Democrats are not to blame for the DACA situation; the person to blame is Donald Trump.
Edwin Santana: On DACA, says Democrats shouldn’t have caved so quickly on the government shutdown. Says first-generation immigrants commit crimes at lower rates than non-immigrants. Second generation immigrants commit crimes at higher rates because “they become more American…we have a culture of violence in this country.” Would support stronger border enforcement but would not support expanding the mission of ICE “which has done nothing but terrorize communities of color throughout this country.”
QUESTION #8: HELPING THE LGBTQ COMMUNITY BE MORE EQUAL AND LESS OF A TARGET
Vangie Williams: Says she is the mother of a child who is “binary.” There should be “equal protection for everyone.” “Protect those who can’t protect themselves.” Punish those who target the LGBTQ community. Also need equal pay for the LGBTQ community. Says she sees people as they are.
Edwin Santana: Says discrimination against LGBTQ people is “just a new way to discriminate in this country,” that it’s “absolutely unacceptable in this country in 2018.” Says when he’s in Congress, he will have LGBTQ people there with a voice on his staff.
John Suddarth: Says we “need to come down on people who abuse people in the LGBTQ community like a ton of bricks.”
QUESTION #9: BIGGEST FOREIGN POLICY THREAT
Edwin Santana: Russia meddling in our elections and Trump not doing anything about it. North Korea also a big threat, as is the threat to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal.
John Suddarth: Too much money in politics; the “military-industrial complex.” Investing too much in weapons when the real threats are things like the cyberthreat from Russia and China. Need to beat our swords into plowshares.
Vangie Williams: Russia. Need to invest in cybersecurity, FBI, CIA. Let Mueller do his job to the end. Reverse Citizens United. The trade war will hit VA-01 hard.
QUESTION #10: ATTRACTING INDEPENDENTS OR INDEPENDENT-LEANING REPUBLICANS
John Suddarth: Says 40% of people in VA-01 are progressives but a lot don’t vote. Need to give them good reasons to come out and vote. There are 20% in the middle “who just want the system to work” like when you hire someone to do your lawn. Plans to appeal to the 20% in the middle by arguing that all the progressive policy he’s advocating for make him a “true fiscal conservative.”
Vangie Williams: Says she is an “independent-minded Democrat with progressive values who is fiscally conservative.” Says she talks to everyone, has been called the “Tea Party whisperer.” Need to stop the “us/them conversation.” “I am more fiscally conservative then, sorry guys, either one of these gentlemen and Rob Wittman.”
Edwin Santana: Says he’s a “proud progressive,” that “progressive ideas are very popular.” Says he’s a Marine, can “have conversations with folks that I wouldn’t have been able to have otherwise.” As a Marine, worked with diverse people from all over the country getting difficult, complex tasks done.
QUESTION #11: PROTECTING SOCIAL SECURITY
Vangie Williams: Says Social Security “is protected..is not going anywhere, don’t let that threat scare you.” We need to stop Congress from borrowing money from Social Security. Says Social Security will not be her main focus when she first gets up to Congress. Says we shouldn’t focus on labels but focus on the people who need the help the most. Corporations should have a minimum tax, no tax loopholes that are a burden to our country – “they are not human beings, we are.”
Edwin Santana: Says we should fight to defend Social Security, that anyone who works their entire life should be able to retire with dignity. Remove the cap on income that can be taxed for Social Security. Don’t let the Social Security money be spent on anything else but Social Security.
John Suddarth: Social Security and Medicare have “never ever run a deficit, and they will not until 2042; they have been paying for the deficits caused by the tax cuts the Republicans have been giving for the last four years.” “The real threat to Social Security is the Republicans have created a huge deficit which will lead to recession and this crisis that they are creating they will use as an anvil to try to pound out cuts to Medicaid, to Medicare and to Social Security.”
QUESTION #12: WILL YOU SUPPORT THE NOMINEE?
Edwin Santana: Yes. It’s great there’s a primary. Whoever comes out of this as the nominee will have participated in “almost as many debates as Rob Wittman has had in the 10 years he’s been in Congress.” “I hope that that candidate’s me; I will continue to fight for whoever the candidate is on June 13.”
John Suddarth: Yes, “regardless of who she is.” Compare the three Democratic candidates in VA-01, “the way we treat each other with the Republican presidential primary [in 2016]…which type of behavior would you like foreigners to see or your children to see.”
Vangie Williams: Yes. “This is what democracy looks like.” Should vote “based on priorities” – “listen, learn and pass the word…sharing is caring.”
Edwin Santana: Says he’s really excited, believes his campaign has the best chance to win in November as a veteran who can bring a “new generation of leadership to government.” Says he’s a veteran who’s worked with diverse people from all over the country. As a working person, he can “represent working families” because that’s his “reality every day.” Rob Wittman is “so far removed from the people he’s trying to represent that that’s why he’s not an effective representative.” Urges everyone to get involved.
Vangie Williams: Again says she’s not running to be a liberal or conservative congresswoman. Says labels can “restrict someone from voting for you.” “I am black woman running in a red district.” “I am a 50-year-old…who has been serving our government consistently since I was 19 years old.” “My experience spans all levels of government…I understand how life truly works.” Mother, full-time student, full-time employee. “I’m a woman, and women are out to rule this year.”
John Suddarth: Asks for contributions. Says he was Army Ranger qualified – only 1% volunteer to go to Ranger school and only 1/3 graduate. Also has been a corporate executive. “I have been in tough situation after tough situation, time after time, and I have succeeded where others have failed.” Says he could actually go to Congress, “deal with the difficult people on the other side…[and] get something done.”