By Michael Hamar
For non-political junkies (for the record I will admit that I am a political junkie!), living in Virginia can be exhausting given its off year state elections which result in Virginians undergoing political campaign overload literally every year. But every year’s election cycle does matter and the outcome can have a huge impact on our lives and the society in which we live. The 2014 mid-term national elections are no exception and, if voters are complacent, the wrong candidates could end up being elected to the detriment of many Virginians. This year’s important contests are for (i) the United States Senate between incumbent Democrat, Mark Warner, and former lobbyist and GOP candidate Ed Gillespie, and (ii) for the 2nd Congressional District between GOP incumbent, Scott Rigell and Democrat Challenger, Suzanne Patrick.
I have the distinct advantage of knowing three out of the four candidates involved. From my perspective, the November election in these two contests is a very clear choice between moving Virginia and the nation forward or a destructive effort to move backwards in time to a mythical time that never existed. Despite my long Republican past, the two candidates that deserve election and who will move Virginia and America forward are Democrats Mark Warner and Suzanne Patrick for the reasons that I will set forth.
For most Virginians, Mark Warner is a known commodity, having served as a popular governor (he ran against and defeated one of my former law partners) and a very good U.S. Senator for Virginia. Mark has a track record of putting the nation first and political party second, and has demonstrated that he will strive to work on a bipartisan basis despite the Republican Party obstructionism which has made the current Congress one of the least productive in history. As I have noted in past columns, America has one of the most expensive and least cost efficient health care systems of any advanced nations where those with insurance coverage pay exorbitant bills to pay for the treatments written off by non-profit hospitals. Recognizing this reality, Mark Warner has supported the Affordable Health Care Act which, although not perfect, over time will decrease the rise in health care costs and expand the number of Americans who have health care insurance. He also supports legislation that will aid increasing jobs and boosting the economy. He also understands that our broken immigration system needs reform. On social and civil rights issues, Mark supports equal rights for LGBT individuals, supports immigration reform and minority rights and respects a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions with the counsel of her physical and family.
Mark Warner’s opponent, Ed Gillespie, in contrast is supportive of all of the failed Republican policies of the last 35+ years. Gillespie talks in generalities about jobs, the economy, and energy resources, but offers few specifics beyond the typical GOP approach of slashing taxes for the wealthy, slashing social programs (using subtle race baiting code words, of course, in his ads to suggest that some undeserving individuals are free loading off others), seeking to repeal safety and environmental regulations, and over all leaving the middle class to slowly regress further economically. With upward social mobility now higher lower in America than “Old Europe” as the Republicans derisively call it, Gillespie offers nothing except the canard that cutting takes and cutting regulations will create jobs to reverse this downward spiral. On health care, Gillespie would repeal the Affordable Health Care Act and return us to the totally broken health care system that predated it where insurance companies control the market place. Worse yet, on social issues, Gillespie would keep LGBT Americans second class – if not 3rd class – citizens and would have women’s health care decisions made by aging white men and/or religious extremists such as those at The Family Foundation who believe women should be subordinate to men and basically bare foot and pregnant in the home. In short, Gillespie seems to yearn for a recreation of a misogynist version of the 1950s when gays, blacks, Hispanics, and women “knew their place.” Oh, and did I mention that Gillespie was a lobbyist for Enron?
Given the contrasts between Mark Warner and Ed Gillespie, anyone who wants to see Virginia and America move forward in the coming years needs to vote for Mark Warner.
A similar contrast is presented to voters in the 2nd congressional district between Scott Rigell and Suzanne Patrick. Like Gillespie, Rigell’s main mantra to improve the economy is to (i) cut taxes for the affluent, (ii) repeal the Affordable Health Care Act and leave millions of Americans without health care coverage, and (iii) allow offshore oil drilling off Virginia’s coast. As a former in-house counsel for a Fortune 50 oil company’s oil and gas subsidiary, I suspect I know far more about oil exploration than Mr. Rigell. First, should such drilling be permitted, most of the jobs created would go to oil industry companies based outside of Virginia that would bring in personnel from outside Virginia. If jobs were created as Rigell boasts, few would be Virginia jobs. As for offshore oil production being a quick fix for America’s foreign oil dependency, even if oil were to be found in economically feasible quantities off Virginia’s coast, bringing such production online would take a decade or more at the earliest and provide little relief.
On social issues and women’s rights, Rigell, like Gillespie is more than willing to prostitute himself to religious extremists at The Family Foundation. On gay rights, Rigell has followed the dictates of the Christian Right and, although invisible on his current campaign website, Rigell has been endorsed in the past by the founder of a leading anti-gay hate group. Rigell also was a leader of a far right group that broke away from Galilee Episcopal Church in Virginia Beach following the ordination of Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire. True to form, Rigell also opposes a woman’s right to access family planning services and would restrict access to contraception.
Opposing Rigell is Suzanne Patrick, a retired Navy Commander, who like myself has held government appointments from Republican office holders. Suzanne is a fourth generation military officer who has had overseas postings in Beijing, Berlin, Delhi, Seoul and Warsaw. In 2001, she was appointed by President George W. Bush to be Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Industrial Policy. In short, she knows the needs of our military from the inside out unlike Mr. Rigell. On job creation, Suzanne has ideas that go far beyond tax cuts for the rich and leaving millions of Americans without access to healthcare insurance, including the need to rebuild America’s infrastructure and to position Virginia’s port facilities to remain competitive in the changing international market place.
On social issues, Suzanne Patrick’s positions are 180 degrees from those of Scott Rigell. She believes in civil law equality for all Americans and Virginians, including LGBT individuals. Unlike Rigell, Suzanne has attended events of the local LGBT chamber of commerce and been willing to listens to the needs of the LGBT business community. On women’s issues, Suzanne believes that women and their doctors should make health care decisions for women, not aging white men in the House of Representatives. Suzanne understands that with America’s changing demographics, the 1950’s mindset of Scott Rigell (Rigell’s idea of “outreach” is joining the James River Country Club) will hold both the 2nd District and America back.
This column does not permit the space to go into an in depth analysis to fully compare the four candidates discussed. Suffice it to say, Ed Gillespie and Scott Rigell hold views that want to repeat the failed GOP policies of the last 30+ years which will in the process hold both Virginia and America back, if not move it backwards in time. In contrast, Mark Warner and Suzanne Patrick recognize that Virginia, America, and the world are changing. Therefore, our elected officials need to seek innovative solutions and recognize that the policies of the past no longer work. If you want to vote to move Virginia forward, get out and vote in November and support Mark Warner and Suzanne Patrick.
Disclosure: Michael Hamar is a former 8 year member of the City Committee of the Republican Party of Virginia Beach and held a four year state appointment under former Governor Jim Gilmore.