The Prince William Committee of 100 succeeded in arranging a good debate between the candidates for the 11th Congressional District, Gerry Connolly (D) and Keith Fimian (R) (See here for a description of how the debate would take place.). As anticipated, Matt Brock (ABC7/NEWSCHANNEL8) moderated the debate, and he did a nice job. Brock treated the candidates impartially; he did not attempt to insert himself into the debate.
Because he is not well known, a fact he readily conceded, Fimian used most this time to provide his biography. Rather than repeat what is on his website, I have provided a link to the bio on his website (see here).
Fimian also explained why he is running for Congress. He is running because he is concerned about the debt our nation is running up. We are 53 trillion dollars in debt (Fimian did not have time to provide background, but you can see here, here, and here for articles on this subject. Here is a video.). Fimian is adamant that we must cut spending. He wants his children to have something besides debt.
Connolly spoke about his 14 years in local government and his experience in foreign policy. Here is his biography.
Connolly spoke about the USA being the last superpower, the poor management of the Katrina disaster, and the lost of world respect the USA has suffered. He wants to bring to Washington the same passion for good government that he has brought to local government.
Most Interesting Questions
Question: What is the most important issue?
Fimian focused on spending. He said spending is out of control. He noted that private businesses must balance their budgets or the management is fired, and he cited a Washington Post article that noted that Fairfax County is running $430 million in the red (see here).
Connolly countered that Fairfax County does not have a budget deficit. He said that projected revenues have decreased and that the county is required by law to have a balanced budget. He said Fairfax County has had a balance budget every one of his 14 years in office. Connolly blamed the Republican administration in Washington for the county’s economic woes. He also reminded the audience that Bush and Cheney ran as businessmen.
Author’s Comment: Fimian brought up the point that Connolly is running a $430 million deficit time and time again. I do not think he made a particularly good case. He apparently wanted to make it appear that Connolly himself is a bad manager. However, Connolly can legitimately claim that this deficit is not unusual and beyond his control.
Instead of using the $430 million revenue shortfall to attack Connolly directly, Fimian should have pointed out that like other counties Fairfax has no standard operating procedures to deal with revenue shortfalls. Unlike an efficient private business, the Fairfax County Board of County Supervisors implements adhoc solutions to deal with budget shortfalls.
Question: What programs or agencies would you cut?
Fimian offered several suggestions. He said duplicate programs should be eliminated, and he said hidden earmarks should be eliminated. He said earmarks can be appropriate, but their authors must be made to propose them in plain sight of the public (on the Internet). He also suggested that more programs need to be managed at the local level. The Federal Government should be restricted to doing only those things that only the Federal Government can do. He gave national defense (building and operating F-16s) as an example.
Connolly spoke of the need to increase government’s capacity to deal with problems. Due to the recent economic problems, he sees the need to intensify business regulation. He said the Bush tax cuts need to be revised (making the rich pay more). He wants to bring the troops home and make Iraq use its own oil revenues to fix their country.
Connolly spoke at some length on the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). He sees it as unfunded mandate. Unless NCLB is revised and funded, he wants the law repealed.
Question: Are you pleased with Prince William County’s policy on immigration?
Fimian clearly supports what Prince William County has done. Fimian noted that crime is up 35 percent in Fairfax County. Fairfax also has more ESOL students.
Fimian believes the Federal Government needs to ensure we know who the illegals are and make certain they are paying taxes and learning English. We need to get rid of the criminals.
Connolly blamed the Federal Government for the problem. He says Fairfax County is focused on the overcrowding and crime (gangs) issues. He mentioned that Fairfax has several dozen programs that require proof of citizenship.
Question: What would you do to ensure Social Security remains solvent?
Fimian said the only way to control the problem is to control spending. He highlighted the fact that people are living longer so many more people are collecting benefits.
Fimian gave the example of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Fimian blamed Congress for the bad loans made by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. He said the collapse was predicted six years ago, and Congress did nothing.
In order to maintain market share, these organizations donated money to congressional campaigns. The result is that Congress did not maintain proper oversight. Government agencies should not be allowed to lobby Congress.
Connolly described the growing problem of Social Security, and he included Medicare. He said these programs threaten to take over 70 percent of the budget. Connolly said a bipartisan approach is required to fix the problem.
Question: President Bush and Congressional Democrats are in negotiations to buy bad debt. What is your position?
He reminded us of Enron. Just like Enron, people should be going to jail. We are spending money at an unprecedented rate. This cannot continue. Fimian also pointed out that this problem is not the lender’s fault. The lenders operated within the rules set by Congress. He noted that to some extent the problem was Wallstreet greed. Their investment gimmicks have gotten so sophisticated they have trouble pricing them. Nonetheless, we don’t want to suffocate Wallstreet with regulation. As the result of over regulation, Wallstreet is no longer conducting initial public stock offerings.
Connolly attributed the problem to greed and a lack of regulation. He blamed Republicans and referenced the high rate of foreclosures in Prince William County. Connolly also noted the failure of AIG. He says the Federal Government needs to regulate the insurance industry.
Fimian spoke of the fact he has operated a nationwide company. As a businessman he has created 100’s of jobs. He has negotiated deals. He has brought common sense solutions to difficult problems.
Fimian emphasized that we must elect good leaders. Without good leadership, he explained that our economic problems could grow worse. We need leaders who will make difficult decisions. We need to elect people who want to get things done, not just reelected.
Connolly spoke of the origin of his passion for public office (The story is described on his website here.) Connolly served as Mantua Citizens Association (MCA) president when the Star-Texaco storage facility oil spill at the Pickett Road tank farm was discovered. The spill contaminated the property of homeowners in his association. Local government responded, not state or local or the offending business; and helped to resolve the problem. Only the local government provided substantive aid. Connolly wants to ensure that the Federal Government does its job too.
Author’s note: We have here a clear choice. Connolly clearly sees government as the solution. Fimian sees too much government. Fimian sees government frightfully out of control. Connolly blames Republicans who do not care. Fimian blames officials who would rather be reelected than do the jobs they are suppose to do. Connolly proposes more government. Fimian sees the need for radical cuts in spending.
On his website, you will find examples of where Connolly proposes new spending. On his website, Fimian avoids specifics about where he will cut. When people hear you are going to gore their ox, their government welfare program, they tend not to vote for you. That is sad. Think of the debt we are leaving our children. Think of the shameful waste.
When it is posted, I will link to the video the debate. If you are undecided about your vote, I strongly suggest watching the entire debate. Don’t count on a summary like mine or outtakes. See the entire debate.