Home 2020 Elections Video, Highlights: Fredericksburg Area Candidate Forum with VA-01 Democratic Candidates Qasim Rashid...

Video, Highlights: Fredericksburg Area Candidate Forum with VA-01 Democratic Candidates Qasim Rashid and Vangie Williams

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See below for video of the Fredericksburg Area Candidate Forum – produced along with the Stafford Democrats and the King George Democrats – “featuring both of our candidates for Congress, Qasim Rashid and Vangie Williams for Congress. Watch via Facebook live on Saturday, May 9th at 10 AM.”

  • In opening statement, Rashid emphasizes that he was an immigrant and had to make sacrifices/struggles to make it in America. Today, his family is all successful. He says he always thought life would get better in this country, but they’ve actually gotten much worse – for instance, in terms of wealth inequality. His responsibility is to take his “lived experience” to help make better policy. Says he has the financial resources to run a strong campaign against Rep. Rob Wittman (R-VA01). Also says he has a social media presence 10x greater than Wittman’s. Adds that he ran for State Senate last year, so his name ID is high, and he “overperformed” last year, showing that people are “ready to vote for a brown, Muslim immigrant.” His campaign is focused on “compassion through action” and “lead[ing] by example.”
  • In her opening statement, Vangie Williams says “this is what democracy looks like.” Talks about her work experience, says “we deserve better than Rob Wittman,” we need “more women on Capitol Hill,” “people of color in this district deserve a voice,” running to represent the entire first district.  Opportunity from the ashes of the COVID-19 crisis to build a new American economy that works for everyone. We need to rebuild capitalism and include opportunities within every community. New American Economy grounded on 1) agriculture/aquaculture (bring back the Trans-Pacific Partnership); 2) a new transportation grid for the 21st century, one that’s founded on light rail; 3) alternative energy sources; 4) reestablishing the American manufacturing base. No “us/them” arguments from her, she’s here to talk about solutions, “not just the problems” or “what should be done.”
  • Question on bailouts to large corporations due to COVID-19 losses. Williams – doesn’t believe in giving bailouts to airlines alone. “We should focus on the people of the community,” make sure they’re taken care of. This crisis has exposed every weakness that we have based on what this administration has done. We should never bail out the airlines. They have the money, we don’t.  Rashid – Not in the current form. We have enabled bad behavior for these major corporations, such as stock buybacks to boost their profits, executive pay, etc., but then when something bad happens, we bail them out with taxpayer money. The bailouts should be for the workers, not the executives or to pay corporate debts. We have 33.5 million unemployed, while April saw the highest stock market performance in 33 years. The stock market is not the economy. Solution – better regulations, restrictions on how corporations can use money, making sure workers benefit.
  • Question on Warren/AOC’s Pandemic Anti-Monopoly Act’s limits on mergers/acquisitions.  Rashid – Too often mergers/acquisitions lead to layoffs, and that’s the last thing America needs right now. Wittman has carried water for these large corporations and the wealthiest Americans. Need to look at the impact of mergers/acquisitions on workers; that’s the litmus test/bottom line in everything we do. Williams – Says she supports stopping predatory acquisitions/mergers, period, not just during an economic downturn, but every single day. Small businesses help form the backbone of our economy; government should support small businesses, who are now potential targets of bigger corporations through predatory, anti-competitive mergers.
  • Question on falling life expectancy, including “deaths of despair.”  Williams – We need a new American economy. Education. Destigmatize mental illness/disabilities. Healthcare needs to include access to mental health treatment. Need to have an economic vision post-coronavirus. Bring back manufacturing jobs. Primary culprit is this bad trade policy. Need to renegotiate the TPP to help working class Americans. Big multinational corporations have hurt small business in America. This is our land, this is our life, we need to make sure we bring jobs back to America. Rashid – Works with many lower-income community members who are suffering. Financial approach; even a $1 increase in the minimum wage leads to 6% decrease in suicide rates…people need a living wage; also need tax reform, reverse 2017 GOP tax cuts to the wealthy, major corporations. Healthcare expansion. Infrastructure…bring broadband infrastructure to rural communities, strenghten rural hospitals.
  • Question on access to affordable and reliable broadband internet. Rashid – Only candidate in this race who has called to make broadband a regulated utility. It’s not a luxury, it’s a fundamental necessity of human life in the 21st century. Right now, about 40 different federal programs on this, and that’s inefficient and wasteful. Wittman has completely failed over the last 15 years, continues to make the same empty promises on this. $300-$350 billion to ensure broadband internet access to all Americans who don’t have it now. Federal government should work directly with municipalities, and we could get this done. This will revitalize rural hospitals and schools, help small businesses as well.  Williams – This is a critical question, been talking about it for more than just three years. Wittman hasn’t done as much as he’s claimed. Spanberger introduced the Rural Broadband Act. Wittman hasn’t helped rural communities. Most of VA-01 is rural. It’s more than just a number, it’s about a fundamental right. Broadband needs a substantial, large-scale public works program…”a public commitment is needed,” don’t just leave it in the hands of the private sector, “make it a public utility.”
  • Question on roads, traffic. Williams – Says she ran on this in 2018, but we’re still talking about it in 2020 because “our congressman has not done a thing.” We need a robust infrastructure plan for highways and transit. Need to study I-95, I-295, I-64, I-81, as well as Route 1 and 301 corridors. “I have a plan in hand right now, ready to go on day one when I get sworn in.” Rashid – Harsh reality is that Virginia rates a “D+” on transportation infrastructure; that’s a fundamental breakdown of public accountability. I-95/Route 1 is the worst corridor in the entire country. Wittman has failed badly. There’s a $2 trillion infrastructure plan sitting on Mitch McConnell’s desk. We need to flip the Senate and White House and pass that plan. Don’t just build more roads/wider lanes, need to make this an “intersectional approach” in concordance with a green economy. More public transportation.
  • Question on food security, free-and-reduced lunch qualifications. Rashid – First need to ensure that every child has access to at least two healty, simple meals a day. Second, should be run by the federal government to ensure that every child has equal access. Food is a fundamental and basic issue. Third, need to reject Republican efforts to enforce any kind of work requirement for things like SNAP. This is “cruel.” Wittman supports that cruel policy; “it’s unconscionable.” His own family spent year on SNAP, and it was not laziness preventing them from getting off of SNAP. Williams – First, send President, Rob Wittman “packing in November” and getting people in Washington who care about all children. Need to elect a Senate and president who have their priorities straight. Schools need to provide free breakfast/lunch to children, cancel meals debt. Nobody should have to go into debt over a nutritious meal. Also provide meals over the weekend. Expand farm-to-school program.
  • Question on bankruptices related to cost of healthcare, what to do about that, also “balance billing.” Rashid – Healthcare is a human right, needs to be provided in a way that’s accessible and high quality. 2/3 of bankruptcies due to medical costs because we’ve decided profits are more important than people in need. Insurance companies need to pay for services they’ve authorized. Need a Medicare-for-All system. Williams – She had to file bankruptcy over medical costs. Surprise medical billing is a major problem, can put a family directly into financial hardship. You don’t have a choice which ambulance transports you, or that the physician at the hospital is in your network. Her preferred bill is HR5800 (Sponsor: Rep. Bobby Scott). “We have to take action and make sure we are protecting the consumer and human beings.”
  • Question on opioid epidemic. Williams – Congress is fighting this in a piecemeal fashion and this insufficient; we need a massive national program. Would sponsor legislation that guarantees you could sue an opioid manufacturer if your loved one passed away from it. Fully fund education, treatment, recovery programs. Lobbyists shouldn’t pave the way to our healthcare decisions. Rashid – 1) criminal justice reform, protect those suffering from addiction, which is an illness not a crime, so need to decriminalize addition; 2) expand healthcare access, particularly to low-income people; 3) remove protections that prevent lawsuits, legal accountability to the opioid industry, both on a corporate and a criminal level.
  • Question on high prescription drug prices.  Rashid – 1) Need to forbid any exclusive patent on any medication developed with U.S. taxpayer money; that should be a “slam dunk”; 2) need to have strict price caps, such as on insulin… Williams – this a complex but easy question to answer; need price caps, government licensing production of drugs like insulin. We need to take control of our healthcare and pharmaceutical industries, make sure they’re not profit-based. People need to come first.
  • Question on maternal mortality. Williams – For black mothers, particularly in rural communities, it’s an epidemic. Need to address structural racism. Expand Medicaid for mothers. Supports black maternal health caucus. We have a long way to go in this country, particularly seeing that since this administration. We have to protect our community, starts with a new Congress and new president. Rashid – We’re seeing the consequences of a Republican legislature. Trump just said he wants to dismantle the ACA. Of all developed nations, we have the highest maternal and infant mortality rates, the result of a for-profit healthcare system. Would suport Healthy Mommies Act. Ensure new mothers have access to basic healthcare. Look at what actually works, such as Medicaid expansion in Virginia.
  • Question on labor rights. Rashid – Republicans talking about “Right-to-Work” laws is really corporate intrusion into our livelihoods, our right to have a living wage. We need to repeal “Right-to-Work” laws. Need to educate people about the benefits unions offer. There’s a GOP myth that unions harm small businesses; this is fundamentally untrue. The only people who lose when unions become strong are the billionaire class. Need to fight for the other 99.9% of Americans. Williams – supports ending “Right-to-Work” laws, heavily supports unions, is a “union baby” literally. Having unions protect our workers is fundamental.
  • Question on oversight into coronavirus relief money. Williams – Need increase in oversight of coronavirus funds. Ban on firing inspector generals overseeing COVID-19 funds. COVID-91 relief funds should come with heavy strings attached. Need to streamline the definition of a small business. Rashid – 1) revive effective financial regulation (e.g., Securities Act of 1933, Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the Great Depression); 2) ban stock buybacks; 3) ban members of Congress from buying stock; Wittman bought pharmaceutical stock.
  • Question on increasing minimum wage to at least $15/hour. Rashid – Agrees, because wages have increased far slower than worker productivity…they’re not being paid fairly or repaing the benefits of the hard work they’re putting in. If minimum wage had kept up with productivity, it would be around $19/hour today. It’s a myth that small businesses will be hurt by raising the minimum wage. The real scandal is that Wittman has taken a $10,000 pay raise but has voted against raising the minimum wage. Williams – Agrees on $15/hour, indexed to inflation subsequently. Current minimum wage is not a living wage. People are forced to live far away from jobs, have long commutes. Make sure we raise minimum wage in a way that doesn’t harm small businesses, such as when businesses spend resources on training employees.
  • Question on violence against the transgender community, particularly transgender women of color. Williams – her cousin was killed in Washington, DC when she revealed to her boyfriend that she was transgender. It’s a crisis in America, nobody should have to go through this. Train local law enforcement in fairly/consistently reporting bias-based crimes. Make sure we define transgender violence as a federal hate crime. Rashid – 1) legislative approach – pass the Equality Act that Wittman opposes for no good reason; 2) education – “all people are created equal” has to include all people; 3) accountability – prosecute these as hate crimes…ensure there are consquences for these horrific crimes.
  • Question on non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ. Rashid – We need to pass the Equality Act on a federal level, this is basic stuff folks…a disgrace that Wittman hasn’t had the integrity or dignity to push for this. Williams – Absolutely, yes. Supports universal Equal Rights Amendment. We have “nickled and dimed” this issue for way too long. We are America, we can do better than this…
  • Question on addition of third gender option. Williams – yes. Rashid – yes.
  • Question on marijuana decriminalization. Rashid – Supports legalization of marijuana. Disproportionate arrests, incarceration rates among communities of color, it’s a “new Jim Crow.” Need to decriminalize, expunge criminal records. Need to legalize in a way that protects young people, ensures opportunities/resources to communities of color that have been particularly harmed by the war on drugs. Need a comprehensive federal plan. Williams – Decriminalize at the federal level, let the states handle how they want to legalize marijuana. Get young men and women out of jail for having marijuana, expunge records, take the question off of all applications whether you’ve been convicted of a felony.
  • Question on community-oriented policing. Williams – In light of what just happened in Georgia with Ahmaud Arbery, need to make sure police are seen as protecting black and brown communities, not a threat. So many incidents where community activists became vigilantes. Fund COPS Program. Rashid – 1) relationship building between police departments and communities; 2) leadership at the federal level; 3) demilitarizing police, definitely not incentivizing police to engage in more arrests. Don’t dismiss murder of Arbery as vigilante justice.
  • Question on civil asset forfeiture. Rashid – It’s completely like the wild, wild west….100% absurd, complete violation of our civil rights, our 4th amendment rights, due process. Once convicted, criminals absolutely should forfeit anything gained due to their crimes, should go to communities. Need to protect due process of law. Williams – Civil asset forfeiture is an abuse of power and it should be curtailed. You must be convicted of a crime before property is seized. If you are innocent, you should get all of your property back.
  • Question on excess incarceration. Williams – black and brown communities are the main ones placed in jail, and it’s done for the wrong reasons. This is an issue we have to confront.  Rashid – U.S. has one of the largest prison populations per capita around the world. This is fundamentally a human rights problem at its core. Even China has fewer people in prison than the U.S. This is a choice we’ve made and it can be unmade. Would revise our constitution to actually abolish slavery, not just move it to the prison system.
  • Question on mandatory minimum sentences. Rashid – Eliminate them, base criminal justice system on reform and rehabiliation. Focus on reviving human digniity. Minimum sentences often apply to crimes committed by certain groups (e.g., “crack” cocaine vs. powder cocaine and massive racial disparity in incarceration). Get rid of mandatory minimums. Williams – Mandatory minimums often lead to situations where the punishment doesn’t fit the crime. Need to change how we judge people. Sentences need to fit the crime.
  • Question on Fones Cliffs, protecting our waterways. Williams – Elect a Democratic president and Congress. Will seek to reimplement Stream Protection Act. Rashid – This should be a national park, wildlife refuge, historical landmark. Wittman fundamentally doesn’t care about the environment and is getting worse as time goes on.  Strengthen the EPA, which has been decimated under Trump and with Wittman’s acquiescence. Wittman has supported repealing clean water rules. It’s bizarre that anyone can consider Wittman as being anything but contrary to the environment.
  • Question on renewable energy.  Rashid – Extraordinarily passionate about this, need to expand clean energy access. Don’t buy into the myth that it hurts the economy to switch to clean energy. Dominion deters us from putting solar on our houses. They have no incentive to create new green jobs. We need to create a legislative model where companies like Dominion are incentivized to create new, green jobs. Climate change is a massive threat to our existence, the future of humanity. We look to newer technologies and invest in them. Clean energy jobs pay well.  Williams – Environmental protection IS economic protection. Strongly supports more investment in renewable energy. Workers in the fossil fuel industry deserve a just transition. Congress should be generous with these allocations. Train individuals to transition into a new future.
  • Question on Virginia Clean Economy Act, what can be done at federal level. Williams – 100% carbon free goals are laudable, but these targets won’t be enough. Need aggressive action by federal government to require states to comply with aggressive climate goals and provide resources to help them do so. New American Economy.  Rashid – VCEA a good step in the right direction, but doesn’t go far enough. We have about 10-12 years before irreparable harm will be done…we need structural change in how we’re generating our energy. Climate change is already disrupting people’s lives. Wittman continues to deny the reality of the climate crisis. We need to act quickly. Rapidly switch to a greener infrastructure. 25 years is too long to wait. Have a member of Congress not beholden to fossil fuel industry, who recognizes the urgency of now.
  • Question on menhaden/Omega Protein. Rashid – Why are we even in this situation? It’s due to the recklessness of people like Rob Wittman. Omega Protein pretty much controls all the menhaden harvesting in Virginia. Why is that?  Give local fishermen the tools to harvest sustainably, harvest fish on a smaller scale, create competition. Don’t destroy the ecosystem for cheap cat food. These fish are critical food for birds, etc. Williams – Her family’s been here for 350 years, and many are watermen. Doesn’t support a moratorium, but Omega Protein be fined/restricted. Virginia Marine Resources Commission should regulate this, science not politics should determine the decision. “I trust the experts, I trust science.”
  • Question on protecting prisoners from COVID-19. Williams – Provide frequent testing, PPE, properly prisoners and the workers. Let folks out if the crime is not violent. Rashid – People are, unfortunately, already dying in jail due to COVID19. Need proper testing, PPE, contact tracing, all of which have been denied to the American people…another broken promise by Rob Wittman. Commonwealth’s Attorneys should revise their parole guidelines. COVID-19 didn’t break America, it showed where our system is broken…including the level of mass incarceration based on revenge, resulting in an overcrowded system.
  • Question on stopping gun violence. Rashid – Has been endorsed by Brady PAC. Elect officials who understand the scourge of gun violence, need for commonsense gun violence legislation that upholds the 2nd Amendment as it was intended, not as a means of unregulated firearms. Women 100x more likely to be killed by a firearm than to defend themselves with a firearm, thus the need for red flag laws. Mike Pence passed a red-flag law in Indiana. Virginia passed almost a carbon copy of that same law.  Wittman praised Pence and condemned Northam for the exact same law. Wittman’s only interested in doing what the gun lobby wants him to do.  Williams – “This is one of those us/them arguments I said I wasn’t going to be a part of. “A bullet doesn’t know a Democrat from a Republican…”  Her cousin was gunned down while leaving high school. Wants to see commonsense gun legislation – universal background checks, “which are already there, we already have that”; need comprehensive red flag laws at the federal level. “I’m a strong proponent of the Second Amendment.” “I always say, lock and load, but with commonsense.” Need to protect women, children, people with mental handicaps…support Moms Demand Action platform. A well-regulated militia is not a man by himself.
  • Question on lessons from running for office previously. Williams – “I didn’t lose, I learned.” Learned that people are compassionate in so many ways. “I saw the red, white and blue,” not “red/blue.” “We’re still in the communities.” “We are excited about this race.” Rashid –  Building relationships…thousands have already donated to the campaign this year…Building out effective resources to win a campaign…our fundraising is strong, have outraised Wittman…we have the communication resources and the human resources, full staff of high-quality individuals who know the district inside/out…also have the experience from having run previously.
  • Question on white nationalism, including people using Nazi slogans/rhetoric at recent protests. Rashid – Has been the receipient of death threats from Nazis/white supremacists. This is a lived experience for him. We’ve seen a spike in hate crimes the past few years. Responding with education and action. Trying to live our values. Actively in the community to build relationships. Cannot allow extremists to influence people who are struggling. Williams – Back in 2018, had several incidents that raised alarm with the campaign. It takes one-on-one conversations, education. The threat is always there for her, her husband, children. Not running for Congress because she isn’t worried, but because she’s tired of hearing that argument. Met with the Tea Party earlier this year. Running for Congress because she wants to protect people. Understands the threat is always there.  “I’m in this community to stay, and if they don’t like it, they can leave.” Need to recognize and prosecute hate crimes for what they are.
  • Question on Wittman’s major shortcomings. Williams – We only have two minutes for that answer? Never held an in-person townhall where he allowed people to speak to him. He’s “not exactly a people person”; he’s not a nice guy. Doesn’t understand that he’s representing everyone, not just Republicans or those who donate to him. He is not for all people, he’s for only some people…and corporations. It’s time for him to retire because of what he hasn’t done for us. Rashid – Complete failure on broadband. He has made empty promise after empty promise. Failure on protecting our basic safety as citizens…voted against Violence Against Women Act, Voting Rights Act of 2019, etc. Has been a complete failure on the pandemic and a complete failure on economic policy. He is focused on partisan politics, not on the needs and equality of every citizen of the 1st district.
  • Question on potential colleagues you’re most excited to work with. Rashid – Focus on principles, values not on individual personalities. Very much likes Eric Swalwell, Tammy Duckworth, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Ayanna Pressley…all lead by example, serve marginalized and diverse communities because they come from struggles themselves. Williams – So many she can’t name them all. Just a few…”our Virginia legislators are the best ever.” “Name dropping is not what I’m going to do.” Going to Congress to work hard for the people, reach across the aisle…”I can get along with anyone.”
  • Closing remarks. Williams – Service will be about what *we* want. New American Economy that works for everyone. Focus on people and their needs. In 2018, “we came that close to beating Rob Wittman.” Came closer than any Democrat since 1990, and that was not done by accident. “The team I have now is a strong team.” “We’re going to take it to a new level.” “I’m not running to be the liberal congressoman or the conservative congresswoman, but the people’s congresswoman.” Will hold in-person townhalls, won’t hide in Washington. Not trying to start a new organization, but to serve people from Congress. Will be historic if she wins.
  • Closing remarks. Rashid – “This is what the American dream is all about.” Doesn’t matter where you live exactly, it matters how you serve the community. Works as a human rights attorney. Has worked to protect victims of domestic violence, to combat wage theft, protect religious freedom to people of all faiths and no faith. Has fought for lower-income communities. Is willing to engage and extend himself, even if sometimes that gets him death threats. Wittman has continued to abdicate his responsibility to serve his constituents. Says he is best equipped to beat Wittman in November. Has over 1,000 donors from Virginia alone. Wittman already attacking Rashid because he’s frightened. Has a great team, social media platform to communicate. Has proven name recognition, team knocked on 100,000 doors.