The candidate forum sponsored by the Goochland Chamber of Commerce at Benedictine Preparatory High School on October 23 for those seeking to represent the Virginia 7th Congressional District was not intended to produce a “winner.”
(The forum will be rebroadcast in its entirety on WCVE 88.9 FM on Sunday, October 26 at 6 p.m.)
Kudos to the Chamber for inviting all three candidates:Dave Brat, Republican (Davebrat.com); James Carr, Libertarian(www.jamescarrforcongress.org);and Jack Trammel, Democrat (http://www.trammellforcongress.com)to participate.
The auditorium was nearly full; Brat’s Tea Party supporters were notable by their absence, perhaps caused by the firearms free venue.
While “victory” in the event was in the eye of the beholder—few in attendance probably changed their minds—Carr definitely won the congeniality award. His remarks were thoughtful and free of rancor. He generously took issue with democrat hecklers who rudely disrupted Brat’s remarks a few times.
Regardless of political or attitudinal preferences, heckling has no place at events like this forum. It only belittles those making the fuss.
Brat, who turned the world of Virginia Republican politics upside down with his decisive primary defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, began his remarks by condemning Obamacare. He pledged to repeal it and replace it with options including Health Savings Accounts and reduce health care costs through free market access.
Trammel contended that the Affordable Care Act--what Democrats call Obamacare--saved everyone in America at least $1,000 last year. He said that the ACA is here to stay. Many of the gray heads in the audience shook an astonished “no” in response to that comment.
Carr said he absolutely favors repeal of ACA and characterized the notion that the system individual mandates can be fixed as “ridiculous.”
None of the candidates favored tax hikes to reduce the federal deficit. Carr literally waved a copy of the Constitution while saying that he favored a reduction of the federal government functions to those enumerated by the Founding Fathers. He advocated intelligent cuts and elimination of crony capitalism.
Trammell said that the federal government needs to balance its checkbook like everyone else. Taming the deficit, Trammell contended, is not a democrat or republican issue.
Brat, who figuratively waved the Constitution, said he favors unleashing the free market system by getting rid of governmental controls that stifle productivity, which would increase revenue without raising taxes.
The candidates generally agreed that Social Security, Medicare, and veterans benefits for those currently receiving them are untouchable entitlements.
Trammell said that those programs are “a promise we have to keep.”
Brat, who sniped at Trammell for falsely accusing him of wanting to eliminate benefits for current seniors, acknowledged that the programs will have soon have funding issues and need to be tweaked for future recipients by raising the retirement age. (Remember that 65 was an arbitrary number selected as retirement age more than a century ago because few people lived that long.)
Carr said he believes that the term entitlement has a negative connotation. He favors allowing people to opt out of Social Security and manage their own retirement benefits, which, he contended, provides a better return.
On the efficacy of background checks to prevent gun related violence:
Carr said that there is no need for additional checks when those currently in place are not being enforced and have no material impact on gun violence. He contended that the federal government’s “Fast and Furious” program that put guns into the hands of criminals is a blatant example of failure. “Do you want to trust the government that did that?” Carr asked.
Brat contended that the federal government’s job is not to manage, but rather protect, rights. He said that background checks should prevent guns from being in the hands of those who are a danger to themselves and others. He would make mental health a high priority.
Trammell said that the checks have an appropriate role in the management of Second Amendment rights, but mask a mental health epidemic.
Trammell and Brat both support the notion of impartial redistricting, probably knowing that it will never happen. Trammell decried the years of republican domination that resulted in gerrymandered majority republican districts, conveniently forgetting the days when things were the other way around.
Carr quipped that he has yet to see a majority libertarian district. He contended that more voters adhere to libertarian principles than those of the two dominant parties. “They just don’t know it yet.” He supports a truly transparent redistricting process.
Brat said that he already ran on his principles and won an election. Trammell said that he will “reach across the aisle” to work with like-minded legislators of both parties on important ideas.
Carr quipped that there are twelve people who run the Federal Government. “I will never get to talk to any of them.” But he also will not be beholden to power brokers. He acknowledged that the other candidates had made some valid points and, if elected, would take them to Washington with him.
Moderator Curtis Monk, president and CEO of Commonwealth Public Broadcasting, deftly handled the program. Timekeepers were Keith Flannagan and Robin Lind of the Goochland Electoral Board. Thanks to the Chamber and its president Ed Lawton and executive director Bonnie Creasey for staging the event. Thanks to the citizens who submitted questions for the candidates.
Citizens have the right to vote, which carries the responsibility to cast educated ballots. Please take the time to research each candidate and decide for yourself how to vote on November 4.