The race for the state House of Delegate’s 87th District – one of three seats Northern Virginia is gaining in the General Assembly – is one to watch.
Democrat Micheal Kondratick and Republican David Ramadan, both newcomers to elected office, vastly differ on their platforms on energy, transportation, healthcare and social issues.
The only issue the two may agree on is education reform.
Kondratick, a native of Stroudsburg, Pa., has lived in Loudoun County since 2002. He’s the director of grassroots advocacy for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, where he works to develop, expand and nurture a nationwide network of activists to communicate the need for Congress to expand funding for Type 1 diabetes research.
Ramadan, originally from Beirut, Lebanon, left the country in the midst of war 21 years ago and was later able to bring his family to America as well. He now is a successful certified franchise executive that helps companies expand their businesses and helps new business owners set up and become their own entrepreneurs.
A motivation to serve
The desire to serve his state, Kondratick said, is derived from the need to make sure his two children have what they need to be productive members of society in the future.
“You wake up one day and you realize you have far more skin in the game with the decisions that get made, or obviously, don’t get made down in Richmond that affect our kids’ futures,” he said.
His top focus, if elected, he said, will be education. He wants to make sure the research dollars are flowing into Virginia to prepare the next generation for a technologically advanced world and Loudoun sees its fair share of the Local Composite Index.
“You start to realize the financial stakes that are tied to that issue, specifically for Loudoun County. When 65 to 70 percent of the county budget is wrapped up in that one issue and we’re not getting the money back we need from Richmond for that particular purpose, you start to see the domino effect on every other single issue that people care about,” he said.
For Ramadan, a calling to live the American dream and continue the traditions set forth by the country’s founding fathers drove him to compete in politics.
“You can truly make a difference ... To be able to serve where Jefferson and Madison served is not something that I take lightly,” he said.
“I don’t believe in full-time serving in a legislative office. This still has what it was originally meant to be, which is a citizen legislator.”
If elected, Ramadan says he has several issues he wants to tackle, but at the top of that list is distance pricing for the Dulles Greenway.
“Going 82 miles on the New Jersey Turnpike you pay less than what you pay one mile on Route 606 or the Dulles Greenway,” he said.
He said he believes there is an amicable solution to the problem.
“I don’t think it needs to be forced. I think even the company that runs the Greenway is open to suggestions at this point on how we can do this. We need to study it. We need to figure out how we can do this without breaking a business and without breaking our agreement with the state.”
Ramadan said he would also like to solve the traffic and infrastructure problems on Route 606 in Loudoun County – a main artery to Dulles Airport.
“Transportation is going to be the number one concentration for me because what’s it’s going to do is help us in jobs and in education and everything else,” he said.
Metrorail’s future in Loudoun
Both candidates firmly agree that an extension of Metrorail into Loudoun County is essential to produce a greater economic environment for the region.
And while both say the project has problems that must be addressed before the state should put additional money toward it, Ramadan says he will not get behind the project if project labor agreements are not taken off the table.
“I will not support putting a penny into it if we have project labor agreements in there,” Ramadan said.
The Republican does however believe the federal government should play a bigger role in the project.
“Part of the role of the federal government is to build infrastructure and that’s an essential infrastructure. That’s an international airport it’s going into. The feds need to man up and get involved in this,” he said.
Kondratick wants more state money invested in Dulles Rail to not only keep the Dulles Toll Road rates low, but to make sure the Northern Virginia region can reach its economic potential.
“You cannot expect toll road users to fund the entire state contribution to the project. You can’t do that and expect there not to be some impact on people’s ability to get to the airport,” he said.
Long term transportation funding
A long term solution for Northern Virginia’s transportation infrastructure problems is one that governors for three decades have wrangled with to no end.
If elected, both candidates said they would work to make sure that Virginia’s transportation dollars are spent wisely. Both men would like to find ways to cut wasteful spending that can be funneled toward transportation.
“I think it’s prudent to have the conversation about the $2.5 billion dollars worth of tax incentives that are on the state budget every year that have no sense of provisions and are almost never reviewed. That’s a lot of money to be spending each and every year,” Kondratick said.
Ramadan is proposing an across the board cut in the state budget and spending, with the exception of public safety and education, that can be directed to transportation needs.
“Everything is linked to transportation and if we don’t spend the money wisely in there, we have problems,” he said.
He believes if a Republican majority takes over the House, it will be easier to find money for transportation.
“It won’t be a fight, it’ll be an agreement. We’re really on the verge of a Republican takeover in the state,” he said.
There’s a sea of difference between the candidates on whether they will agree to sign a no tax pledge.
Kondratick hasn’t signed a pledge and says he won’t because it limits the conversations to negotiate on any issue.
“I think the voters should know that I’m willing to have an open conversation about how this tax money is being spent on their behalf,” he said.
Ramadan has already signed a no tax pledge.
“I will not increase taxes, and I will work on cutting taxes,” he said.
Health care policy
Kondratick believes the federal health care mandates upon Virginia will eventually work to most of its residents favor.
He believes there are significant gaps in health care coverage for Virginians.
“Ultimately the costs that we incur as taxpayers for those people that aren’t being covered by a program that is inadequately funded are significant,” he said.
The Obama health care plan, specifically the expansion of the Medicaid program, will yield significant benefits for this state, Kondratick said.
“The governor likes to point out that because we’re going to have 400,000 additional Virginians eligible for benefits, it’s going to cost the state an additional $1 billion to $2 billion. What he neglects to say is that the federal government covers 90 percent of the cost for those people so the state net gains about $8 billion on that,” the Democrat said.
The program, in the end, will make businesses more competitive because they will have more bargaining power through an exchange.
“I think the knee jerk reaction to say that there’s uncertainty so the legislation is bad, frankly to me, is a cop out,” he said.
Ramadan, in stark contrast to his opponent is hopeful that the lawsuit Virginia filed against the Obama administration over the health care plan will prevail.
‘It’s a government mandate, and mandates are not what brings businesses forward,” he said.
The unknowns in the federal legislation are killing the economy, Ramadan believes, because businesses don’t know how much it’s going to cost them to cover new employees.
“I’m hoping we can win that lawsuit and eliminate that burden on Virginia,” he said.
Ramadan suggests a reformed insurance program that is open to competition.
“I think we can have Virginia companies that can compete nationwide and do fantastic with that and create more jobs in the process,” he said.
He also believes there needs to be a drive to eliminate frivolous lawsuits, which will further drive down the cost of health care.
“If we cap the liabilities and we can open up the competition, that will go a long way in solving a lot of our problems as Americans and the states as a whole,” the Republican said.
An energy solution
Both candidates want to utilize all of the states resources to produce clean energy, but they differ on how to get there.
Ramadan believes drilling off the coast of Virginia is needed in combination with research on coal, solar and nuclear technology.
“Having a moratorium and not allowing us to drill for years after we almost started that process off the shores of Virginia is absolutely unacceptable. We need to be able to drill for oil. We need to be able to continue to mine for coal,” he said.
Kondratick is not firm in his decision on drilling off Virginia’s coast. He wants to understand more about how much oil is out there and if Virginia will see any royalties.
“I have no problems with the concept of drilling off the coast of Virginia. But before we invest the time to debate it and the money to do it, I do want to know how much oil is sitting underneath the continental shelf,” he said.
Kondratick believes the state needs a mandatory renewable energy standard, especially since the majority of the mid-Atlantic states already have such legislation in place.
“It’s awfully hard to attract businesses and new jobs when they’re almost guaranteed a higher return on their investments in other states. I think it’s a sound policy decision if we’re serious about promoting sound economic growth,” he said.
If elected, Kondratick plans to hit the ground running in trying to change how the Local Composite Index is divided.
Loudoun puts in money that it never gets back, he said, and in a struggling economy that makes a difference.
“You have a program in Loudoun that far exceeds what the state requires for a large school population, but yet we’re not compensated any additional money from the state for having a program that exceeds the quality standards by such a large amount,” he said.
Ramadan hopes, if elected, to work toward preparing the region’s children for a future in technology.
“We spend way too much money on stuff that doesn’t teach our children but yet is part of the educational system. Wasteful spending is everywhere,” he said.
“We are not using technology as much as we should be. Brick and mortar are great, but brick and mortar is not where the future is going,” he added.
The gap between the two candidates on social issues is about as big as the Grand Canyon.
Kondratick is pro-choice and believes gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgendered individuals should be awarded the same rights as everyone else.
“Generally speaking LGBT rights and freedoms are the civil rights of our generation. Clearly, it’s the right thing to do to make sure that they’re protected,” he said.
On abortion issues, Kondratick said he and his wife come from strong Christian faith backgrounds, but he doesn’t believe legislators should get to decide what a woman should be allowed to do with her body.
“We come from just as strong of a faith background as people who are on the pro-life side, but where my wife and I net out is if we had to make that decision we want the freedom to make that decision based upon what we think is best for the baby and for her health and based upon the faith traditions that we come from,” he said.
Ramadan is pro-life and believes marriage should be only between a man and a woman.
“I firmly believe that a marriage is a between a man and a woman and sexual preference is a personal thing, but I do not believe it is the job of the state to interfere in sexual orientation, yet I’m not going to add sexual orientation to any coverages or any protections. The protections we have as is, I think, are sufficient,” he said.
To learn more on the candidates visit their websites http://www.mikekforva.com/home and www.davidramadan.com
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