Candidates’ Forum Held by Ethnic Coalition for Fairfax County (ECFC)
What did the 11 Republican, Democrat, and Independent candidates for the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives say October 12 to the ethnic groups of Fairfax County - known as one of the most diverse in terms of ethnicity, languages spoken, and religions practiced? The U.S. Bureau of the Census gave these statistics on the racial/ethnic origin composition of Fairfax County in 1998: White (non-Hispanic) 66.75, Black (non-Hispanic) 8.2 %, Asian/Pacific Islander 13.1 %, Hispanic 9.5 %, and other 2.5%. In the last two years, the ethnic population has grown even larger, with Middle Eastern, African, and Balkan newcomers increasing especially rapidly.
The Ethnic Coalition for Fairfax County (ECFC)
At the Candidates Forum sponsored by the Ethnic Coalition for Fairfax County (ECFC) and held at the Mason District Government Center, all the candidates wanted to woo the ethnic votes. Likewise, the ethnic organizations empowered themselves by participating in the political process. About 100 people attended the Forum.
The ECFC is a non-partisan, non-profit organization made up of people of different ethnic origins residing in Fairfax County. It is dedicated to assimilating persons from other countries into U.S. processes and institutions and to enhancing their professional, cultural, and educational endeavors in a participatory democracy. The ECFC member organizations are the Inter-American Development Foundation, Iran House, League of Korean Americans, USA, Inc. (LOKA-USA), National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), National Foundation for Vietnamese-American Voters (NFVAV), Organization of Chinese Americans/Northern Virginia Chapter (OCA/NOVA), Republican National Hispanic Assembly of Virginia, and World View Communications.
The function was also supported by the Korean American Alliance, National Congress of Vietnamese in America, Korean American Democrats of Virginia, Catherine Wu, Computer & Management Institute (CMI), Dwyer Service Corporation, Gioia Enterprises, Jeri Sellman RE/MAX, Mary Chi Ray Naturalization and Immigration Assistance Service, and Mt. Vernon Construction Company.
Since its inception, the ECFC has tried to build public and private partnerships. The organization has also been eager to understand the platforms of the candidates so members could make pertinent choices in elections. The ECFC held its first Candidates’ Forum in October 1999, which 33 candidates for the State Senate, the House of Delegates, the Board of Supervisors, the Court, the School Board, Sheriff, and other offices attended.
This year, Mr. James Adams, a reporter for NBC News 4 and an Emmy award winner, was again the Moderator, and posed questions for each of the candidates. The issues included health care, education for non-English speaking ethnic groups, immigration legislation, employment opportunities for minorities, tax relief for small businesses owned by ethnic people, and the improvement of public transportation in Virginia.
U.S. Senate Candidates
For the U.S. Senate, Mr. George Allen, the Republican candidate, proposed long-term care tax incentives for seniors, a $1,000 per child education opportunity tax credit, elimination of the Death Tax, 100% health insurance tax deductions for individuals and the self-employed, and fixing the marriage penalty. He also supported funding to hire more teachers and do more translations in schools. Unfortunately, incumbent Democrat Senator Charles Robb was unable to attend due to other commitments.
Congressional Candidates 8th District
For the 8th Congressional district, there were four candidates. Ms. Demaris H. Miller (R), a former teacher working closely with ethnic children and their parents, insisted that English was the key to success for immigrants. She said that command in the English language would bring better employment and economic wealth to the community. She wanted all ethnic people to have access to health insurance by buying group rate insurance. She suggested alternatives to the transportation system, such as attracting people to more affordable rail services and a better bus system.
Mr. Ronald Crickenberger (I), a libertarian, supported programs that allowed for choice in education and promoted more local control by parents and teachers, not the federal government. He wanted the self-employed to have the ability to purchase health insurance with pre-tax dollars just as corporations can, and to institute a full tax credit for health care expenditures. Regulations that stifle competition and innovation in health care should also be lifted, he said. He proposed to cut taxes and stop the government’s interference with small business start-ups by ending excessive regulation and licensing.
Incumbent Congressman Jim Moran (D) wanted to pay off public debt and use the surplus to provide for people’s retirement and to invest in education. He would continue to help alleviate classroom size, attract quality teachers, and promote the use of technology in the classroom. He would work to ensure that surplus funds are earmarked for social security, thus maintaining the viability of the social security system for our children. Rep. Moran said that gun violence took the lives of 12 children every day. He would lead the effort to mandate background checks on firearm purchases at gun shows, limit gun running by restricting unlicensed individuals from purchasing more than one handgun per month, prohibit individuals under 18 years of age from purchasing assault weapons, and require firearms to carry trigger locks.
Mr. Richard Lee “Rick” Herron, a member of the Green Party wanted to promote light rail development in Northern Virginia, which would allow this area to be connected to Maryland. He said that universal health care, including Medicare and prescription drugs, was a must for the elderly, children and the underserved. It could be paid for by reducing military expenditures and pork barrel legislation and by reducing the national debt. He said emphatically that law enforcement agencies must take measures to eliminate racial profiling and reduce hate crimes.
In the 10th District, Congressman Frank Wolf (R), unable to attend the Forum, had two opponents. Mr. Brian Brown, independent, advocated open borders to welcome immigrants legally. They make U.S. economy stronger, he said, by filling jobs and opening businesses. On the other hand, he also supported immediate deportation for any non-citizen convicted of a felony. He wanted to replace the income tax with a National Retail Sales Tax (NRST) to pay for the essential functions of government, like national defense. Food, medicine, and savings would be exempt from the NRST, he said.
Mr. Mark Rossi, an independent, supports the expansion of rail service along the Dulles corridor and throughout Northern Virginia. He opposed the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) proposed by 20-year incumbent Frank Wolf. He said the BRT would not be provided with dedicated roadways and would therefore become bogged down in traffic. Rossi supports campaign reform and is refusing to accept campaign donations from any source. He also supports limiting members of Congress to twelve years of consecutive service, and simplification of the tax system to make it more efficient, fair and less burdensome.
In the 11th District, four candidates were competing. First, incumbent Congressman Tom Davis (R) believes that sporting activities for youth enrich their lives. He has started the “Tom Davis Cup,” a soccer tournament for the Hispanic and the Korean American communities. In the transportation area, he is targeting a wide array of transit and road projects, including the BRT, track and station improvements for the Virginia Railway Express, and, most recently, $217 million in contingent commitment authority to lay the groundwork for Metrorail service from Tysons Corner out to Dulles International airport. Rep. Davis is an original cosponsor of the Helping Improve Technology Education and Achievement Act 2000, which recognizes that American companies need access to the best-educated and best-trained minds in the world.
Mr. Levi Levy, independent, wanted to create a Jewish community center, and urged people to vote. Mr. Mike Corrigan (D) favored a prescription drug benefit under Medicare, universal catastrophic coverage, and improved preventive care. He also wanted federal funding for education in inner cities and areas with high concentrations of immigrants. He advocated telecommuting - using computers and the Internet to reach one’s business office instead of driving there. This would reduce traffic substantially, he said, and avoid the need to build new roads. He would also try work-group telecommuting, where entire work groups, including a supervisor, would have offices together near their homes, and telework with other work groups that also are near their homes.
Finally, Mr. Robert McBride, independent, believed that all Americans, regardless of ethnicity, deserved tax relief, saying that income taxes withheld would be more efficiently spent by the individuals who earned it. Other taxes need to be reduced, including taxes on cigarettes, and FICA, which forces an employee to turn over 15% of his earnings to the government. He said that public schools cannot efficiently provide instructors who are fluent in every immigrant child’s native language, and proposed that immigrant families educate their children in small schools that combine their native language and English. For that, the parents should be compensated through transferable tax credits. And in order to boost the free market, Mr. McBride believed that entrepreneurs inside and outside the immigrant population should be allowed to provide jitney service to their communities. With little investment, a single small businessman could operate as a carrier, covering regular routes in the rush hours and throughout the day, targeting neighborhoods not currently served by Metro, the regional transportation monopoly.