Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Candidate Interviews: House of Delegates, 47

I sat down with four of the five Democrat Party candidates for the House of Delegates’ race in the 47th District (which includes Buckingham, Arlington Forest, Ballston and Ashton Heights) in the first couple of weeks of May, and have put together the interviews here. The primary election is next Tuesday, June 9. The Green Party has already selected its candidate, Josh Ruebner, and the Republicans have yet to field a candidate.

I hadn’t planned on doing these interviews since I am a friend of candidate Patrick Hope, and I did not want to conduct what might be seen as biased interviews.

But when Alan Howze came to my door and said to me, “Let’s get coffee” in a way that said, “I can change your mind,” I thought if I got coffee with him, why not with everyone? I called and emailed all five candidates and four agreed to sit and talk with me on tape (or, actually, digital recorder). I was up front with all about my leanings toward Mr. Hope, and have always listed my friendship with him at the bottom of articles about the race.

The interviews (see below) with Miles Grant, Patrick Hope, Alan Howze and Adres Tobar took place at various restaurants and coffee shops in the 47th, and lasted 30 to 45 minutes. Adam Parkhomenko’s campaign said he did not have time in his busy schedule to have coffee, despite being the only candidate who has made campaigning a full-time job. Make of that what you will, but to add context, I should say that I pretty much excoriated him after the Arlington County Democratic Committee debate; I was hoping he would want the interview, just to set me straight.

I had a great time conducting these interviews, and I want to take a moment to thank the four candidates for taking time from a very busy campaign season to sit and speak with me. I found the interviews to be a lot of fun and very informative. It’s nice to know that the 47th has strong candidates in this race. In the interest of full disclosure: I bought the coffee, muffins, eggs, toast or whatever else we consumed while chatting.

The full transcripts which I typed ran about 2,500 to 6,000 words. I tried to get these interviews to similar lengths, lengths which I thought would be informative and readable. They each run about 2,000 to 2,300 words, which is long (but don’t worry, the real test isn’t until next Tuesday, June 9. You have week to study-up!). I like the long-form of the responses as I think they show the candidates’ personalities as well as their ideas and policy goals. You’ll find, too, that the candidates work through answers, showing nuance and complete ideas that might not make it into shorter interviews. It makes for convoluted sentences at times, but that’s the nature of a discussion-based interview, rather than something that approximates an interrogation.

Obviously, I cut a lot from each of the interviews, and occasionally I added words to clarify what was left. I edited my questions often to shorten them, and to clarify them.

I often, but not always, cut the word “and” or “but” from the speakers’ words and started a new sentence if the speaker’s sentence was just getting too long, a common problem in these sorts of interviews.

If I took out more than a word or two (or if the words I erased were more substantial than “and” or “but”), I inserted a three-dot ellipsis (…); this was particularly the case when we got off topic, or when the speaker started and then stopped to restart the sentence.

If I inserted anything the speaker did not actually say, I used square brackets [like these] to show my insertion.

Otherwise, the words a wholly theirs, full quotes. Despite having to remove a lot of content from each of the interviews, I try to make sure the quotes still make sense and are in context. I will happily run corrections or clarifications if the candidate or his campaign can show that it is merited.

Click on the names of the candidates below to read each of the interviews. They are listed randomly (the list chosen by coin-flip).

  • Alan Howze
  • Andres Tobar
  • Patrick Hope
  • Miles Grant

  • Please review my policy on emails-to-the-editor and comments: emails sent to me, I assume, are meant for publication and will be published so long they come with a name and a neighborhood at the end of them. (Email me here: heraldtrib@gmail.com). Comments can be added to the end of any of the interviews. They may be anonymous (though I encourage everyone to use their names). Libelous, potentially libelous, or overly mean comments will be erased; emails with similar content will not be published.

    Related campaign web sites…
  • Miles Grant
  • Patrick Hope
  • Alan Howze
  • Andres Tobar

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  • Comments:
    I suggest that next time you should ask candidates questions that they would find difficult to answer because of their party affiliations and the area which they would like to represent.

    For example, people should ask Democratic candidates in Northern Virginia (which is more affluent than other parts of the state) if they would support greater progressivity in the state (or federal) income tax to support the programs that they favor. In other words, does the candidate favor an increase in the percentage of income that higher income individuals and businesses would pay?

    People should also ask a Northern Virginia Democratic candidate if he or she favors the restoration of the state estate tax, which the General Assembly abolished several years ago.

    People should ask a Republican candidate from Northern Virginia (whose residents are generally more concerned with the environment than those in other parts of the state) if he or she would support legislation that would close coal-burning power plants that are in urban areas, such as the Mirant plant in Alexandria, or if he or she would support revisions of environmental laws to make them more friendly to businesses and property owners.

    These are the types of questions that would provide revealing answers.

    Bernie Berne
    Steve, thanks for taking the time and effort to do these interviews and provide us with as many views as you could.

    Like you, I am biased toward Patrick (he HAS my vote and my husband Wayne's) it is always good to understand everyone candidate's views.

    Thank you SO much for keeping this blog going. I read everything you send and appreciate all your effort in keeping this up!

    Caroline Cronin Eddins

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