Editorial: Back to Washington
October 22, 2014 | Daily Press
The race in the 1st District pits three-term incumbent Rep. Robert J. "Rob" Wittman, a Republican, against challengers Norman G. "Norm" Mosher, a Democrat, and Independent Greens candidate Glenda Gail Parker.
Ms. Parker is a retired U.S. Air Force officer from Alexandria who is a making her third bid for office in this district. She advocates a massive investment in light rail as a solution to the nation's transportation and energy woes, but cannot rectify the potential costs of such an undertaking with the country's crushing debt, which she also considers a priority.
Mr. Mosher is a retired U.S. Navy officer, congressional staffer with the Senate Armed Services Committee and an entrepreneur who operated a consulting firm. He is making his first run for office.
Mr. Mosher embraces a progressive platform. He supports President Barack Obama's push to raise the minimum wage, proposed an increase in federal payroll tax to keep Social Security solvent, and called for more aggressive fraud detection and punishment to protect Medicare funding.
He contends the Affordable Care Act is working, successfully lowering prices for Americans in need, though data - and countless testimonials by Virginia residents - seems to refute that. In his candidate interview, Mr. Mosher advocated a robust military, anchored by a strong Navy, to protect the national defense.
But that should be a given in this race and Rep. Wittman also espouses the need for a muscular foreign policy and national defense framework.
Rep. Wittman was elected to Congress in 2007 in a special election before winning his first full term a year later. A public health professional, the congressman spent 20 years at the Virginia Department of Health before winning elected office.
In contrast to his Democratic challenger, he correctly argues that economic growth is held in check by the federal government's reliance on regulation and contends options like raising the eligibility age and means testing should be considered as ways to protect the long-term solvency of Social Security and Medicare.
The congressman is also correct that repeal of the ACA is a non-starter and that some parts of the law are working for Americans. But while Mr. Mosher defends the ACA, Rep. Wittman recognizes the need to modify significant portions of the law in order to protect the nation's economy.
Rep. Wittman is a responsible and passionate advocate for the 1st District and brings the experience and viewpoints that best serve residents. Voters can confidently award him another term in office.
Rep. Wittman calls for Ebola travel ban
October 17, 2014 | Free Lance Star
U.S. Rep. Rob Wittman, R-1st, has written a letter to President Barack Obama, asking him to restrict people traveling from Ebola-plagued nations from entering the U.S.
"The threat presented by Ebola is very real, and as a former public health official, I believe that coordinated, calculated action must be taken in order to ensure the safety of our citizens and to stop this deadly virus in its tracks," Wittman said in a news release. "I have reminded the president of the urgency of this threat, and I urge him to enact travel restrictions from these West African nations so that we can better protect the health and safety of the American people."
U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine are asking Virginia hospital and health officials how prepared the state is to deal with any patients who have symptoms of Ebola.
The Virginia Democrats expressed their concerns in a letter to Virginia Secretary of Health and Human Services William Hazel and the CEO of the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association, Sean Connaughton.
In the letter released Friday, Kaine and Warner ask Hazel and Connaughton what is being done to ensure that Virginia hospitals and health care professionals have the supplies and training to deal with the deadly virus.
They also ask whether additional resources are needed with preparedness efforts. The letter cites potential resources from the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health, among other federal agencies.
1st District debate draws big crowd in Williamsburg
October 10, 2014 | Daily Press
WILLIAMSBURG - If you were scoring Wednesday evening's 1st Congressional District candidate forum on aggressiveness, Democrat Norm Mosher clearly won.
Mosher, a retired Navy captain, went after incumbent Republican Rep. Rob Wittman hard on his views and record several times.
But, although Mosher was the Vietnam veteran onstage, Wittman clearly won the prize for keeping his cool under fire. A full house packed the auditorium at the Williamsburg Library to watch the two men, and Independent-Green candidate Gail Parker, answer questions on issues from the Affordable Care Act to highway spending.
And, thanks to a large group of College Democrats from the College of William & Mary, it was a partisan Democratic crowd.
They cheered one of Mosher's answers, despite being asked not to at the start of the forum. They greeted one of Wittman's answers with derisive laughter and twice heckled the congressman while he was in the midst of an answer.
During an intermission - between the questions drafted by a panel of the League of Women Voters of the Williamsburg Area, the event's sponsor, and questions submitted by the audience - both a League official and moderator Sandy Wanner reiterated the ban on displays of approval and disapproval and decorum was restored for the second half of the forum.
Mosher went after Wittman on several issues.
His most biting attack might have been on a question about equal pay for men and women who do equal work.
The question came to Wittman first in the rotation.
"I think actions speak louder than words," he said. "More than half my staff are women and I make sure they are paid equal or better salaries to their male counterparts."
"Now Rob, I wonder how those female staffers felt when you voted against equal pay for equal work, when you voted against affordable day care, when you voted against every issue that's come up to help women," Mosher shot back. "With a record like that, I'm surprised those women workers are still with you."
Mosher and Wittman were at loggerheads from the first que
stion, about the Affordable Care Act. Mosher went first and said he was for ACA, which he called "a Republican plan."
"And it's working. There were some problems when it first started out, but it's already working and it's reducing the deficit," he said. "And it will continue to work better as we keep polishing it."
Parker said she didn't think any child should go to bed hungry or anyone should go without health care in "the most affluent country in the world."
Wittman made his disagreement with Mosher plain.
"I'm against Obamacare," he said. "I want to repeal and replace it."
He said it was causing 250,000 Virginians to lose their health care coverage.
However, he said he'd leave some of the programs more popular features, requiring companies to insure those with pre-existing conditions and allowing children to say on their parents insurance until age 26. He'd add provisions to allow consumers to shop for health insurance across state lines, "as we do for our car insurance and our home insurance." He's also like to see tort reform added, to decrease the burden of malpractice insurance on doctors.
Mosher and Wittman also disagreed on the fiscal health of Social Security and Medicare and what the U.S. should do in the Middle East.
Wittman said he thought President Obama should ask the Congress for a declaration of war on ISIL. Mosher said there should absolutely be no American "boots on the ground" in the region.
They did agree that nuclear power would have to be part of the nation's energy plan going forward, with Wittman much more enthusiastic about it than Mosher. Parker said she thought nuclear power was too dangerous.
If Mosher was aggressive and Wittman was cool, Parker was on message. She turned questions about energy policy and infrastructure improvements into opportunities to tout greater use of rail, her signature theme in several runs for state and federal office over the last decade with the refrain "more trains, less traffic." She also touted her outsider status, saying several times "the two incumbent parties have failed."
Her best moment came when she got to combine the two themes.
A question from the audience asked what issue the candidate thought would be the first on which there was bi-partisan agreement in Washington.
"I think there's already bi-partisan agreement in Washington," she said with a smile. "Some of us Independent-Greens think there's only one part in Washington now, half of it's owned by the oil companies and the other by the auto makers. That's why we don't have a sensible policy on renewable sources of energy or on mass transit."
Wittman gave a surprising answer to that question, touting the way he's been able to work across the aisle with Democratic Senator Mark Warner on a bill to protect the Chesapeake Bay. Warner faces his own re-election battle with Republican Ed Gillespie on Nov. 4.
Asked after the forum about the praise for Warner, Wittman repeated it.
"Well, the senator and I have worked well together on that bill," he said.
Mosher stayed tough during his closing statement, asking "are you happy with this Congress?"
He said Wittman votes with "the most extreme members of his party" 94 percent of the time, singling out Rep. Michele Bachman (R-Minnesota) as one Wittman agrees with. "He's voted to privatize Social Security twice, he's voted to cut Medicare twice, he's voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act 52 times, he's voted to shut down the government."
In his closing statement, Wittman said he believes "America's best days are still ahead of us," and that solving the problem of our financial problems is the key.
Wittman was first elected in 2007 to fill the unexpired term of the late Jo Ann Davis and has since been re-elected easily three times in the Republican-friendly 1st District.
First District Congressional hopefuls meet in Fredericksburg
October 07, 2014 | THE FREE LANCE-STAR
It wasn't hard for the three candidates vying for the 1st Congressional District seat to agree on the major problems facing the country. But they were mostly split on how to solve them.
Republican incumbent Rob Wittman, Democratic challenger Norm Mosher and Independent Green Party candidate Gail Parker laid out their solutions before a crowd of about 100 at a debate at the University of Mary Washington on Monday.
All three concentrated on different solutions to dealing with the federal deficit and spurring jobs in the region.
Wittman said that there have been good attempts to balance the federal budget, but they have gone the wrong way of accomplishing it, particularly those cutting military spending.
"I don't want to see us balance the budget on the backs of our military," Wittman said.
Instead, Wittman said Congress should look at the government's discretionary and non-discretionary spending, and the duplication of government programs.
The former Virginia Department of Health employee said that he knows the health department had 42 programs for food inspections and that it has been estimated that Congress could save $30 billion annually just by cutting duplicate programs. Wittman also said that there should be a sense of urgency to fix Social Security and Medicare, which are paying out more than what is being put in.
Mosher, the owner of a consulting firm specializing in ocean research and shipbuilding, said that job creation should rely on rebuilding the country's crumbling infrastructure and to creating projects paying attention to climate change.
"Climate change is real, it's here," Mosher said.
He parted from Wittman on the issue of Social Security and Medicare by saying those programs didn't need to be on the table, but they need to be managed.
For Parker, the solution to economic problems was the same as her solutions to many of the other issues brought up during the debate: building rail and using renewable sources of energy. Building rail would grow the economy, bring in more revenue and create more jobs, Parker said.
The three differed on spurring job growth.
Parker said that the country should invest in renewable sources of energy. In Virginia, there are more jobs in solar energy than there are in coal, she said.
Wittman called for workforce development, looking at the students who need credentials for their jobs, and leveraging technology to create jobs and making higher education more affordable. Rather than raising the minimum wage, Wittman again turned to workforce development, saying that 60 percent of the jobs will require credentials, not a college degree.
Mosher, on the other hand, said that raising the minimum wage would have no effect on unemployment.
He said he has a plan to change the fact that half of all recent graduates were defaulting on their student loans, while the federal government collected $51 billion in interest on student loans.
"I don't think the government should be in that business," Mosher said.
Parker said that her party is in favor of a livable wage.
The major party candidates agreed that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria is a dangerous group, but disagreed on how the United States has responded.
Calling ISIS as barbaric and treacherous a group he has ever seen, Wittman said that he believes the president needed authorization from Congress and a declaration of war. And that instead of the whack-a-mole strategy the country has taken to terrorist groups so far, Wittman called for an across-the-board strategy. Wittman serves on the U.S. House Armed Services Committee.
Mosher said that what the president has done so far is enough without needing further authorization from Congress. But, he added, ISIS wouldn't exist if the United States hadn't invaded Iraq.
"We are paying for some sins, I think," Mosher said.
Parker said that the United States wouldn't feel the need to go to war to protect its oil interests if the country invested in more rail.
The candidates also pitched different solutions to keeping the Federal Highway Trust Fund, which provides states billions of dollars for road projects, solvent. Congress recently passed a stopgap measure to keep the fund, which had been depleting for months, going until May 2015. Wittman called for loosening federal regulations and focusing on the cost of passengers per mile.
Mosher, who lives in Irvington, said he wouldn’t be a commuter congressman like Wittman, who travels to his home in Montross nightly. He also said the country needs more mass transit.
The debate was sponsored by the Fredericksburg Regional Chamber of Commerce, The Free Lance–Star, UMW Young Democrats, UMW College Republicans, The Blue and Gray Press and the Center for Leadership and Media Studies at UMW.
Vanessa Remmers: 540/735-1975
Congressman Wittman Supports Farming in Nokesville
October 01, 2014 | Bristow Beat
As Election Day draws near, state and local politicians are busy meeting with residents to discuss their constituents' needs.
Friday afternoon, Congressman Rob Wittman (R-VA-10th District) visited three area farms to get a better understanding of how their businesses operate, and showed his support to those who farm near cities and suburbs. Farm Bureau President-elect, Chris Corry, accompanied the Congressman, and together they discussed the concerns and needs of farmers in the Rural Crescent.
Yankey Farm, located at 13007 Vint Hill Road in Nokesville, is where the Rural Crescent meets suburbia. Across the road, black rooftops of the Braemar community peek over fences.
Jay Yankey, owner of the farm along with his wife, Sonja - is also the District Manager of Soil and Water Conservation. Yankey knows well the interplay between farms like his and neighborhoods like those nearby. This weekend alone, he estimates his farm will have seen 500-600 visitors. Over the course of a busy fall season, they can expect 5000-6000 people coming to pick pumpkins and buy local produce.
Congressman Wittman believes it is important to encourage residents who live outside the planned
communities on 10 or more acres to consider using at least part of their acreage for crop production. He's enthusiastic about incentives that organizations such as the Prince William/Fairfax County Farm Bureau and the Virginia Department of Agriculture are offering to do just that.
Jay Yankey discusses his farm business on the edge of the Bristow suburbs with Congressman Rob Wittman and Farm Bureau President-elect Chris Corry. "Mixed use [policies] are better for the county," Wittman said. "People aren't limited by scale. If you want to start with a few acres, you can. You can bring together a number of small farms, and the area keeps its rural character."
Corry pointed out that restaurants in D.C. and surrounding cities would like to tap more of the local market to bring fresh foods from the farm to the table. Right now, many of them are going much farther away to places like Mechanicsburg and points west.
In addition to mixed land use being good for those in the food industry who want fresh, local ingredients, it is a good situation for families who like to pick their own fruit and vegetables right off the vine. Because of businesses like The Yankey Farm, families need not travel an hour away to enjoy all of the benefits of rural living while still having the conveniences of suburban life.
Congressman Wittman himself grew up on a farm, so he's familiar with the day to day operations. Earlier in the day, Wittman spoke with Paul House of Kettle Wind Farm on Bristow Road that focuses on turf grass production and Miller Dairy off of Parkgate where the House family has about 350 cows under production.
Mom takes kids for a wheel barrel ride on Yankey's scenic farm in Nokesville.
"It's a good quality of life with the viewscapes the farms provide," Wittman said. "It's the best use of property."
He went on to quote a study from the University of Wyoming, which found that having a balance between residential and farmland is good for the tax base as well. This is because the county pays more in services for residential use than it does per acre of farmland, and farmers benefit from more people to sustain their operations.
Congressman Wittman went on to enjoy the Friday night lights and some local school spirit at both Brentsville District High School and Patriot High School where football teams took on their opponents in home games.
There are already pumpkins for picking at Yankey Farms on Vint Hill Road, and the corn maze is open. Those interested in the Congressman Wittman's record and hopes for re-election, they can visit his website.
Congressman Wittman is running against Democratic candidate Norm Mosher, Green Party candidate Gail Parker and write-in candidate Chris Hailey on a reform platform. The election is scheduled for November 4, 2014.