|Sen. Mark Warner (D), pictured in this file photo from May, kicked off a five-day campaign tour in Loudoun Aug. 1. Warner is in the middle of a re-election fight against Republican Ed Gillespie. Times-Mirror Photo/Trevor Baratko|
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) started his first day of Congress's August recess in Loudoun County, where he was lauded by prominent local businessman John Wood for his business-savvy and willingness to strike deals.
Wood, who said he's known Warner for more than a decade, is the chairman and CEO of the 500-employee, Loudoun-based tech firm Telos, where the senator spoke to and took questions from Telos workers.
Introducing the senator, Wood said, “As the governor, you're the CEO, you can get things done. You can actually make change. As a senator, it's a lot harder to get things done. But if anybody can, I believe Sen. Mark Warner can.”
After the event, Wood told the Times-Mirror he doesn't consider himself a Republican or Democrat and “has voted all over place, for Republicans, Democrats, independents.”
Warner, Virginia's senior senator who is up for re-election this year, hit on many familiar issues in Loudoun. He spoke about his efforts to reduce the federal debt and deficit, something he said he's been a leader on through the budget "Gang of Six," reducing student loan debt, recent bipartisan legislation he sponsored to combat sexual abuse on college campuses and continuing to find improvements with the Affordable Care Act.
Several Obamacare fixes Warner proposes include adding a lower-cost, higher-deductible "Copper" option to the federal insurance marketplace; raising the employer mandate on small businesses from those with 50 employees to those with 100 employees; and cutting back administrative requirements.
Speaking both generally and about the ACA, Warner noted "Congress never gets it right the first time," and that most significant public policies have undergone tweaks and fixes to be successful.
A former Virginia governor, Warner is squaring off against Republican Ed Gillespie in his re-election contest. Gillespie, a former adviser to President George W. Bush and former lobbyist, has made Warner's support for Obamacare a primary focus of his campaign.
Loudoun County Supervisor Ralph Buona, a Republican and vice president at Telos, attended the program and asked Warner about federal financial support for the second phase of Metro's Silver Line project, which will extend rail to the Dulles airport and into Ashburn. The first phase of the Silver Line, which opened last week, received nearly $900 million in federal funds, but the second phase isn't set to garner any federal support beyond a low-interest loan from the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Warner, who called on Buona to ask the question, tied his answer to the federal Highway Trust Fund, which was set to run out of reserve funds Friday until a patchwork fix from Congress on Thursday. While there's no surefire way to guarantee the feds can contribute dollars for the second phase, more available monies in the Highway Trust Fund allows for more flexibility, Warner said.
The senator's visit to Ashburn in eastern Loudoun County was the first stop on his five-day “Fair Shot for All Virginians” tour -- a trek that will be made via automobile. Warner was highlighted in a USA Today report Thursday that showed he spent roughly $30,000 of public tax dollars last year to travel via chartered flights to public town halls and meetings with constituents.
This story has been updated from an earlier version and corrects the amount of money Sen. Warner spent on chartered flight travel.