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Gillespie, Northam debate taxes, Trump, Confederate statues

The two major party candidates in Virginia's closely watched race for governor argued in mostly cordial tones Tuesday over taxes, President Donald Trump and what Virginia should do with its numerous monuments to the Confederacy.

Republican Ed Gillespie said at the candidate debate, held in voter-rich Northern Virginia and televised across the state, that he's the only candidate with a sense of urgency and the right policies to improve a floundering economy. Virginia's economic growth has sputtered with a slowdown in federal spending, especially in defense.

"We used to always lead, and now we are lagging," Gillespie said, peppering his remarks throughout the hourlong debate with statistics about Virginia's slow economic growth. He's made cutting the state income tax rate a key campaign platform, which he said would spur more economic growth.

Democrat Ralph Northam presented a far different picture of the economy, saying it had made strong progress under current Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat who is barred from seeking a consecutive term. Northam said he would take Virginia to the "next level," with a focus on improving the economy in rural areas. He also chided Gillespie for painting a bleak picture of the state, saying that's counterproductive to the state's efforts to lure new businesses like Amazon's proposed second headquarters.

"Amazon doesn't want to hear people like you saying — especially if you want to be the next governor — that we're doing poorly in Virginia," Northam said.

Virginia is one of only two states electing governors in 2017, and the contest is getting national attention as a potential early referendum on the president's first year. Most polls have shown a close race in the swing state, where Democrats have won every statewide election since 2009.

The debate lacked the kind of sharp-elbowed jabs and name-calling often seen in last year's presidential debates. Gillespie is a seasoned communicator who was a senior White House adviser to former President George W. Bush, and a high-paid lobbyist and consultant to Fortune 500 companies. Northam is pediatric neurologist, Army veteran and the state's current lieutenant governor.

Gillespie called Northam a "good man" at one point and the two found agreement on some issues, like the need to increase technical and vocational training. During a commercial break, the pair shared a laugh

But there were some sharp disagreements. Northam said Gillespie's tax plan was a "tax cut for the rich at the expense of the working class" and the state should instead increase investments in education and transportation spending. Gillespie accused Northam of supporting so-called "sanctuary cities" that would shield unlawful immigrants who commit violent crimes from deportation. Both candidates denied the accusations.

The two also clashed over the state's numerous Confederate statues, a hot-button issue in the state after a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville this summer. Both candidates said local governments should have the final say in what to do with their monuments, but Gillespie said he favors keeping them in place, while Northam said he thinks they should move to museums.

Northam also accused Gillespie of being in lock-step with Trump, and said such support would hurt Virginia's economy if Gillespie won the election. Northam was especially critical of Republican efforts in Congress to overhaul health care, efforts that Gillespie has been noncommittal on.

Gillespie has kept Trump at arm's length and deflected a question about the president at Tuesday's debate to instead talk about the number of policy proposals he's introduced, criticize Northam for not having a detailed tax plan and mention that former U.S. Sen. John Warner had endorsed Gillespie earlier Tuesday.

Asked during the debate whether he would campaign with Trump, Gillespie said he would take help from all corners. When a reporter asked after the debate whether Gillespie would invite Trump to campaign with him, Gillespie said he was comfortable with the answer he gave during the debate.


No logic needed. Current gov is a democrat that failed northern va, why would I back another democrat gov next term? I usually vote against incumbents. I think 8 years is long enough for anyone to make an impact in office. Most do very little except get rich. They move from Local to state to federal position, claim they’re serving their country. No, the military serves our country.

I’m more interested in which candidate will exhibit no backbone and will cave in to the snowflakes - “I’m now so offended by an inanimate statue that’s been there for 10s of years. I can no longer sleep at night while it’s still there.”

JE, thanks for the write up. It was infinitely more interesting than the LTM debate review. I see a lot more commonality with the Senator’s (via staff) reasoning than i do yours, but i’m pleasantly surprised to see that we aren’t worlds apart.

conversely, cowbell presents an almost completely illogical viewpoint. Why would you support Gillespie, and why would Gillespie support bringing funds back to NoVA? He’s not going to bite the hand that feeds by not giving corp subsidies to his golf buddies.

Unless you’re talking about cutting taxes, Eddy has zero desire to do anything productive like use taxes from LoCo residents to do create a lasting impact like creating jobs, or increase spending on mass transit/education.

As an Independent, one that dislikes both parties. It’s a shame 1 candidate tries to tie Trump into everything without giving specifics. While the other did attempt to give specifics in areas that needed fixed. The media is more worried about Trump than Virginia’s issues. My problem is northern Va sends way too much money to Richmond and get very little in return. Current Gov could have done a better job. I’m leaning towards Gillespie just for change in the state.

The LTM has really found a sweet spot by cramming the term “Confederate” into any & all titles that it possibly can. Keep this “controversy” going. On a side note, how great is it to live in a country where our problems consist of whether or not a statue honoring soldiers who have been dead for 150+ years should stay in place or be torn down? Sure glad we don’t have anything actually important to worry about.

On Tuesday, September 19, 2017, I talked with Nick Barbash, staff to Senator Tim Kaine, about the Senator’s position on a bridge from Loudoun County over the Potomac.

Nick stated that, at this point, Senator Kaine does not have a position on the bridge; however, Nick went on to say the Senator’s opinion is that the cost of a bridge, even considering the toll bridge option, far outweighs the benefits, and that there are other transportation options on which money could be better spent.  This statement appears, upon looking at the Senator’s web page under Transportation & Infrastructure (https://www.kaine.senate.gov/issues/transportation-and-infrastructure), to be consistent with the position the Senator has taken in the past publically.

Nick further indicated that the legislative branch of the government can no longer, as of 2011, “Earmark” funds for local projects.  To get transportation funding for local projects in either bills or in the budgets of the executive branch, the legislature would listen to recommendations made by the regional transportation bodies such as the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority which he mentioned by name.  He went on to say that the bridge has been discussed for the past twenty or so years and that it has not, and still does not, have as high a priority in the opinion of the Senator as numerous other transportation-related projects, especially mass transit.

Nick asked my opinion on the bridge and I stated that I had numerous concerns.  In keeping with my belief that it is difficult to have anyone remember more than three arguments for or against any position, I mentioned the following three issues: 1) the limited value of the bridge to mitigate congestion on the Veterans’ Memorial Bridge and cited the related traffic data, 2) the limited value of the bridge to mitigate congestion for the east-west commute and indicated that this is THE major need for congestion relief, and 3) the major problem of the added 100,000 vehicles on Route 28 and the impact of this additional traffic on the roadway infrastructure of Loudoun and Montgomery Counties, and the Federal, state, and local tax burden this would create in attempting to deal with this problem.  Nick indicated that they had not considered this latter point in their deliberations and wanted to talk about it at length.  I concluded this portion of our discussion by stating that the Senator would probably not want to be associated with causing a tax increase for his constituents by supporting the bridge.  Nick strongly agreed.

We wrapped up by addressing the alternative use of funds that would otherwise be spent on the bridge.  Nick mentioned mass transportation again and added in a negative tone that expanding and/or building more roads merely benefitted developers, not commuters, and lead to urban sprawl.  We also discussed the need to fund maintenance of existing transportation infrastructure.  He concluded this portion of our discussion by stating that this had to be the highest priority for use of funds; however, he went on to say, “fixing potholes is not as sexy in the eyes of the constituents as building new stuff; however, infrastructure is gaining more traction with them and with Congress”.

As a result of this conversation, my feelings of the benefits of dealing with legislative staff on the bridge (or any other issue for that matter) as opposed to dealing with elected officials was strongly reinforced by my conservation with Nick.  We need to do more of this type of thing with staff.

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