Wednesday, April 22, 2009

No Clear Winner at the ACDC Debate

Andres Tobar is quite funny. Miles Grant was often “horrified” at one thing or another. Pat Hope is a big fan of Hubert Humphrey. Alan Howze reminded us that “a rising tide raises all ships.” And Adam Parkhomenko is happy to work for $17,640 a year.

Although I don’t think there was any clear winner in last night’s debate between the five Democrats running for the House of Delegates’ 47th District (Buckingham, Ashton Heights and Arlington Forest are all inside the 47th), I thought Mr. Parkhomenko had the weakest showing. The other four have their strengths, their areas of expertise, and though it’s tough to know what they know outside those areas sometimes, it’s at least clear they have those areas.

If last night’s debate is any indication, it’s tough to see what Mr. Parkhomenko knows about public policy and the Virginia government. After the debate hosted by the Arlington County Democratic Committee, he admitted to me that he’s not a debater, and said that he thought last night’s went better than an earlier debate. However, many of his answers sounded more like post-game banter.

In six years working for Senator-turned-presidential-candidate Hillary Clinton, “I was right there in the mix” while people were “giving it everything they got.” The question asked the candidates what skills working with other people they would bring to Richmond if they won.

The Democrats are in full campaign now as they have a little more than six weeks until their June 9 primary that will determine who will run against Green Party candidate Josh Ruebner. Republicans have yet to field a candidate. Mr. Parkhomenko has the largest war chest (at nearly $49,000 he is leading the other four in donations by far), and has committed to campaigning and serving, if elected, without an outside job. Delegates are paid $17,640 per year.

Since the candidates are all Democrats, the similarities far outweighed the differences. They are for: same-sex marriage, alternative energy, improved transportation, abortion rights, and better health-care, schools and jobs. I was looking for differences in the candidates, and I spotted them mainly, as I said, in their areas of expertise:

  • Miles Grant: environmental policy. His best answer I thought was when the candidates were asked if they were against a new coal-fired power plant in Surry County. He was not only against that one but had lobbied against the plant in Wise County that has directly led to energy rates rising, he said. People wonder if we can afford to get off coal, but he wondered if we can afford (economically and environmentally) to stay on coal. (All the candidates were against the plant, but I liked Mr. Tobar’s answer, too, that reminded the audience that coal makes up about 25 percent of Virginia’s energy, so “We have to realize it’s going to be with us for a while longer.”)

  • Pat Hope: healthcare policy. Mr. Hope has been a lobbyist in the health care field for years, and that was clear last night as he cited programs in this state and others. His best answer came when asked what Virginia will have to deal with even as everyone is primarily focused on a national health-care plan. He would move to make the federal- and state-funded Medicaid program purely need-based and make sure it covers all Virginians, not just women and children as it is currently set-up, he said.

  • Alan Howze: all-arounder (it's not really a single area of expertise, I know). He was a staffer for former Gov. Mark Warner (D), and clearly has an understanding of many different issues from transportation to health care. No single answer of his stands out for me (he’s actually a rather subdued candidate), but he brought up the idea of “decoupling” the utility company from its profits. He believes Dominion Virginia Power has no incentive to become more efficient or to lower energy use, but decoupling profits from sales might help.

  • Adam Parkhomenko: prison reform. He brought this issue up many times (and used it as a way to save money for transportation projects), but I still do not have a clear idea of what he knows about this issue, or what he sees as the largest problem or best solution. To be fair, that issue was not one of the questions asked, so he had to bring it up as a tangent to other questions. His best answer may have been the one when asked what program he would import from another state to Virginia, and he cited a farm-to-market program in New York; he thought some of the grow-local, sell-local ideas would be especially helpful in industries such as wine making.

  • Andres Tobar: immigration issues. Mr. Tobar has had to deal with the issues surrounding immigration his entire life, as his father was from Mexico (the candidate was born in Texas); his current job is as Executive Director of the Shirlington Employment and Education Center, which largely serves an immigrant population supports. I also thought his strongest answer dealt with the question of which program from another state he would import to Virginia if possible, and he answered that he liked Maryland’s driver’s license laws. He said he was afraid that Virginia’s move to restrict licenses to legal residents only would only make illegals likely to drive without a license. “It’s a safety issue, it’s not an immigration issue.”

    Republicans have yet to field a candidate.

    Green Party is running Josh Ruebner.

    Democrats will fight for their party's nomination, chosen by primary vote on June 9.

    The five Democratic candidates in the race include:

    Miles Grant; Patrick Hope; Alan Howze; Adam Parkhomenko; Andreas Tobar.

    Full Disclosure: I have known Pat Hope for years and consider him a friend.

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  • Comments:
    My question is, what has Alan Howze ever done for/in Arlington? I read his lit, and he doesn't seem to have been involved with anything in the community which most if not all the other candidates have. Trading on Warner's name is one thing but I'd like to see someone elected that has experience working in the community.
    Perhaps the reason you think Parkhomenko did the worst is because he is the biggest threat to your candidate (Hope).

    In my opinion, Hope sounded like he's scared of Parkhomenko when he pretentiously attacked him for not having a mortgage and a family while answering the full-time delegate question.

    Parkhomenko has a lot of energy for this race and the prospects of representing Arlington in Richmond. Hope seems distracted by his family and his job and it showed on Tuesday night.
    I'm undecided. But in my opinion, Miles won the debate. He can come across as single issue but so can Andres and Patrick. Andrea was caught flatfooted on a number of questions. He's got a great record of service but seemed out of his league on policy, especially for a second time candidate (he also ran for Ebbin's seat). Alan was the most polished but he has no record in Arlington. Adam looked weak on a few questions. All of them schooled him on the fulltime delegate shtick. It made him look out of touch with the average persons needs. Who in Arlington can afford to live on $17k a year with rent, a mortgage or family? I think, money raised notwithstanding, this is between Miles and Patrick. Both have a strong core of supporters. One will be the leading voice in the GA on the environment, the other on health care and human services. That's the choice. Me--I think we need more attention to the environment and so Im leaning Miles, especially since he he held his own so well on other issues.
    Andres over focused on Latino/Immigration issues. His closing statement on being the son of immigrants and early statement about not learning English until he arrived at elementary school--tied in with his passion were very good. But many, if not most, of his other answers tied back to to immigration/Latino issues when possible. He has really good grassroots community roots and could of made a broader appeal. i.e. Political role modes: C. Chavez, Solis, Tejada, Violand-Sanchez, Zimmerman. Funny line about only recently eating grapes again. But instead of other three Latinos he might have added an African-American or Anglo for balance? He is a good guy but is known primarily for working on Latino issues. He should win the votes of Latinos and their greater supporters as long as he doesn't ignore them. He had a chance to zero in on education for all kids as a theme or job training from his current job.

    Howze (and to a lesser extent Hope) did very well. At least one supporter of another candidate said Howze was best.

    Parkamenko was ridiculous. The repeated statement about being full-time (for less than 18k) really showed either a total misunderstanding of what it takes to live in this world or deceit. I don't think he was knowingly lying, but still. If you don't live in your parents' basement, how do you make that work.
    Talking points about schools and jobs and energy are great, but it comes down to what these candidates have done for Arlington. With that in mind, Patrick Hope is clearly the top candidate.
    We need to win six seats to have the most progressive outcome over the next couple of years. That is going to take a combination of good candidates in swing districts and money channeled from around the state to finance their campaigns. All five of these candidates agree on all major issues so the best fundraisers in this group will actually give us the best chance to create the most progressive outcome. It seems that Hope, Tobar and Grant are lagging in that area so I don't see how they can be considered the top candidates.
    I disagree with some of the prior commentators' focus on what a candidate has done in the past within Arlington. In my mind, what a candidate has been involved in in Arlington to date is important only to the extent past activism is a valid predictor future success representing Arlington issues in Richmond. I don't think it necessarily is. A candidate's activism in Arlington does not in and of itself automatically translate to skills necessary for successfully pursuing blue goals in a still predominantly red state. With that in mind, Parkhomenko has demonstrated a skill that will definitely be useful downstate, he can raise a lot of money.
    I feel Arlington, as a deep blue district, has a responsibility to send a candidate that will be a strong progressive leader for Virginia, not just a representative. Experience and a knowledge of Richmond politics will help. We want someone who can jump right in and bring change, not spend years trying to figure it out. That's what I see in Howze.
    Frankly, I met several of the candidates who seemed bright and capable (Howze, Hope, Grant) and didn't know anything about any of the candidates when this campaign started. Those 3 candidates all seemed quite bright, although Hope is going to get my vote, because of his indepth service to Arlington and advanced knowledge about health care and education policy. (Howze seems intelligent and shrewd, especially politically, which could only help make Virginia a blue state. I think both Hope and Howze would hit the ground running in Richmond.)

    I have to say, I've met Parkamenko twice and he's really come off as earnest but really not-ready-for-primetime both times. It frankly surprised me that how little he seemed to know about a variety of issues (from taxes to human services). I asked him only softball questions (such as "What are your biggest health care priorities?") and he really did muff them all -- AND twice mentioned the prison reform issue out of context and without much detail.

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