Home 2019 Elections Video: Gene Rossi Moderates VA-02 Democratic Debate Between Karen Mallard and Elaine...

Video: Gene Rossi Moderates VA-02 Democratic Debate Between Karen Mallard and Elaine Luria


Unfortunately, the person videotaping Wednesday night’s VA-02 Eastern Shore Democratic forum between Karen Mallard and Elaine Luria didn’t get the opening statements, but other than that, it’s all here. Highlights for me, other than my friend Gene Rossi moderating the debate (does Gene ever NOT have fun or do a great job moderating debates?), are below the video. Also note that after watching this, I find myself continuing to lean in Karen Mallard’s direction, for two big reasons: 1) Mallard’s been a passionate, life-long Democrat, whereas Luria voted for Teapublican Scott Taylor twice in 2016 (in the GOP primary and in the general election against the Democratic nominee), even though Taylor was clearly running as a hard-right Republican (note: I don’t buy Luria’s explanations for why she voted twice for Taylor; in short, Luria doesn’t pass my “Jim Webb test” on why she moved from “R” to “D” since 2016); and 2) Mallard comes across as a “happy warrior,” whereas Luria seems not particularly thrilled to be at the forum. Check it out yourself, and if interested, my highlights below the video. Thanks.

  • I agree that Mallard’s fundraising so far has been anemic, but I still think that she can win if she has a) sufficient money to communicate; b) a “ragtag army” of passionate supporters and volunteers (“boots on the ground”), and also because – as she points out – she’s been in the community for 30 years as a teacher, Democratic activist, etc. Still, no doubt that Luria’s cash advantage is going to help her communicate with voters, and possibly win the nomination; we’ll see.
  • Again, I don’t buy Luria’s explanation for why she voted twice for Republican Scott Taylor in the 2016 VA-02 GOP primary. For instance, Luria claims that Taylor was claiming to be a “moderate at the time,” but that’s simply not the case, as a quick perusal of Taylor’s 2016 website clearly demonstrates. I’m also not sure how on earth Taylor was less extreme than Randy Forbes, so I don’t buy that explanation either.
  • I liked Mallard’s strong statement regarding racism and the Charlottesville white supremacist rally, that “there is no both sides.” Also strong answer by Luria, that the bigotry we’re seeing “spreading around the country” starts at the top, with Trump, and also “permeating from the far right,” which Scott Taylor is NOT standing up to in any way.
  • On combating gun violence, both candidates gave strong answers – Luria mentioned repealing the Dickey Amendment, “no-fly, no-buy,” implementing universal background checks, stopping domestic abusers from owning guns, also looking at something like the 1994 assault weapons ban; Mallard added that we need to outright ban assault weapons; also that we need more health care professionals/guidance counselors in schools to help kids with mental health issues. I’d add that Mallard really showed me something when she didn’t back down to the abusive, vicious, misogynistic hoard of gun nuts who swarmed her Facebook page after she destroyed an AR-15.
  • On health care, Luria supports protecting the Affordable Care Act and adding in a public option for people to buy in to Medicare. That’s pretty much Sen. Kaine’s “Medicare X” proposal, and that’s where my head’s basically at right now. Mallard says we need to protect Obamacare, but work towards “Medicare for all.” That’s fine with me, but for now, I’d add a strong public option and see how that goes, then hopefully move over time towards true universal health care, like in every other industrialized country. Mallard noted that she didn’t vote for Scott Taylor in 2016 because, among other things, he said repeatedly that he’d vote to repeal Obamacare. That gets back to my earlier point about Luria voting twice for Taylor in 2016.
  • On school vouchers and charter schools, Mallard said she’s the “proud product of public schools” and said she will “fight for public schools,” including universal pre-k. Luria said education is the “bedrock of our community” and said she’s against taking funding away from public schools for vouchers or charter schools.
  • On helping African-American women, Luria talked about government “straightening out the road” (not sure what that means exactly) so that people can have a “better future for the next generation” – “better paying jobs,” “better wages,” access to high-quality/affordable health care, making our communities safer, protecting women’s reproductive rights, fighting the influence of corporate money in our political system. Mallard said we need a $15/hour minimum wage immediately, that “noone who works a 40-hour week should be living in poverty,” that she “came from a working family” and watched her parents struggle.
  • On abortion rights, Mallard said she totally supports women’s reproductive rights and Planned Parenthood, that women should have access to contraception and health care so we don’t have unplanned pregnancies, but that “we can never go back” in terms of women’s reproductive rights. Luria said she believes strongly in a woman’s right to choose and Planned Parenthood funding, and that we need to expand access to women’s health care services.
  • On combating cyberwarfare, Luria said we need to emphasize this area more in the military and our intelligence agencies. Mallard said we need to expand full disclosure regulations to internet advertising. Mallard cited the “coordinated attack” on her social media after she destroyed the AR-15 and that most of them were from Texas IP addresses.
  • On offshore drilling, both Mallard and Luria said they oppose it. Mallard talked about being an environmental advocate since she was 11, when she found out the town was dumping sewage in “the river I was baptised in” – and took action to stop it. Luria said offshore drilling is harmful – and could be disastrous – to the coast of southeastern Virginia, the environment, the regional economy and the military. Luria went even further and said that we need to move towards renewable energy and not explore further for fossil fuels.
  • On marijuana legalization, Mallard said she supports legalizing medical marijuana. Luria said she supports legalization of marijuana, that criminalizing it fuels our high incarceration rate which disproportionately hurts African-American communities. Stronger answer by Luria than Mallard on this one, by the way. [UPDATE: I’m told by Mallard’s campaign that “she does support decriminalization of marijuana and has said that many times in the past.”]
  • On supporting the Democratic nominee, Luria said she would “stand behind Karen” if she wins the primary. Mallard said she has a “long track record” of electing Democrats, and that she will do the same if Luria wins the nomination. Good for both!
  • In her closing statement, Mallard emphasized being an 30-year educator and a “diehard,” “true blue,” “dedicated” Democrat for many years. Mallard said there’s a “clear contrast in this race” between her and Luria, that she would never have voted for a hard-right person like Scott Taylor and is concerned that Taylor could use Luria’s two votes for him against her in the general election. Mallard talked about working hard with Kelly Fowler and Cheryl Turpin to help them win their House of Delegates races last year. Luria talked about the “chaos” in Washington and how we need someone who can win this seat in November and stand up to the Trump administration. She cited the Cook Political Report moving the district from likely to lean Republican after she entered the race. She also cited a recent poll showing her with a small lead over Taylor among the most motivated voters. And she cited her endorsements, including Sen. Lynwood Lewis and Rep. Donald McEachin. She said her philosophy overall is “be good and do good work.”

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