Primary 2002: Ira Shapiro

Primary 2002: Ira Shapiro

Congressional District 8

Ira Shapiro

<lst>Age: 54

Family: Married to Dr. Nancy Shapiro, two children, Susanna, age 26, and Brian, age 21

Campaign phone: (240) 497-1201



Office held: N/A

Occupation: Former federal employee, currently in private law practice

Current employment: McKenna, Long and Aldridge LLP

Education: B.A., Politics, Brandeis University, 1969; M.A. Political Science, UC-Berkeley, 1970; J.D., University of Pennsylvania, 1973

* Why are you running for this position?

* I decided to run for Congress because I believed the Bush administration would take the country in the wrong direction. Although I support his efforts to deal with unprecedented foreign policy challenges and win the war on terrorism, I believe there are numerous urgent domestic priorities that require our attention that are not being adequately addressed by the Bush administration. I attribute much of this inattention to the Bush 10-year, $1.4 trillion tax cut. I was an early opponent of the tax cut – I opposed it before it even became law. The Bush tax cut will mortgage our future, and will leave us without the funds for urgent priorities like education, civil rights, transportation, health care, and any number of other needs. For that reason, I believe it must be a top priority for Democrats.

* What is your top public-service accomplishment?

* In 1979, I negotiated a compromise while working in the Senate that allocated $1.7 billion to complete the Red Line of the metro and maintained the momentum to complete the entire 103-mile system. Mortimer Downey, former Undersecretary of Transportation, said at a forum I convened on transportation in July that the Stark-Harris legislation “should have been called the Stark-Harris-Shapiro bill ... because that is in fact what happened. Ira made a good case for something that was important, and got it done.” I am proud to be endorsed by the Marylanders for Better Transportation, whose president, Steven Lakin, said, “Of the candidates running in the Eighth District Democratic Congressional primary, Ira Shapiro has distinguished himself as the most committed to transportation solutions. Shapiro has demonstrated, by his words and deeds, that he will be a tireless advocate for improving transportation conditions in the Washington region and throughout Maryland.”

* What are the top five problems facing your constituents and what approaches will you use to solve them?

* To address the most pressing problems in the 8th District, these five priorities would be at among those at the top of my agenda:

Rescinding the future tax cuts called for under President Bush’s ill-conceived 10-year, $1.4 trillion tax cut plan. The Bush tax cut will mortgage our future, and will leave us without the funds for urgent priorities like education, civil rights, transportation, health care, and any number of other needs.

Alleviating our traffic crisis. The traffic crisis in Montgomery County is damaging our quality of life as workers spend time in traffic that they could spend with their families. I have pledged to seek a seat on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee if elected to Congress. I believe my background in transportation policy will allow me to be a strong advocate for federal funds next year, when the transportation funding bill (TEA-21) comes up for reauthorization.

Fixing our ailing health care system so that the crisis in American health care does not swallow us all. If Medicare were being designed today, it would undoubtedly include a prescription drug benefit. We need to add this benefit to Medicare immediately to ensure Medicare recipients can have access to crucial medicines they need. The federal government is responsible for developing a far-reaching, comprehensive legislative response to this urgent issue. In addition, I set as top priorities the need to expand coverage of the 40 million uninsured Americans and provide full “parity” in mental heath coverage.

Winning the war on terrorism and achieving peace in the Middle East. I support President Bush's initiatives to strengthen our homeland security. We face unprecedented national security and foreign policy challenges, and I believe his team is working hard to protect Americans and promote peace. I have convened two major policy forums on security and the Middle East, and I believe my extensive background in foreign policy and international negotiation would allow me to have an immediate, positive impact on these urgent issues.

Restoring investor confidence in the stock market and putting the criminals who run our corrupt companies behind bars. I am the only candidate in the Eighth District race who has put out a detailed plan to fix the system of corporate corruption and restart the economy. The legislation put forth by Sen. Paul Sarbanes is a good start, but we need to bring CEO compensation back in touch with reality; require corporations to treat stock options clearly as expenses; boost funding for the Securities and Exchange Commission for enforcement; ensure that federal regulators are truly independent and insulated from corporate and Congressional lobbying; and bar stock analysts from holding stock in the companies they cover.

* What qualities, qualifications and characteristics will you bring to this office?

* I come from a family of very modest means. My father did not graduate from college until he was 40, and my mother never finished high school. I have dedicated my 27-year career in Washington to government, policy and Democratic politics because I am absolutely committed to maintaining the ladder of opportunity for others that helped me achieve my goals. I am proud to have served my country as a federal employee for 17 years – 12 in the U.S. Senate and nearly five in President Clinton’s administration. I have also run the most substantive and uplifting campaign, conducted according to the highest standard of ethics. I will take these qualities to Capitol Hill.

* How will voters best distinguish between you and your opponents?

* The most important distinction is that I am the only candidate in this race who has the full range of experience – at the local, regional, national and international – to have an impact in Congress from day one. My Democratic opponents have worked on important issues in Annapolis, but working in a one-party state during the unparalleled prosperity of the 1990s is not the best preparation for the tough fights in Congress.

Another important distinction is my commitment to comprehensive transportation solutions. Neither Mark Shriver nor Chris Van Hollen has ever shown any interest in transportation/traffic issues until running for Congress. Their support for the Inter County Connector is late and suspect.

Finally we differ on trade expansion. I have been one of the leading Democratic trade officials, and a strong supporter of the open trading system. I have also worked very hard to advance the linkages between trade and labor standards, trade and environment and trade and public health through my international work for the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids. I have a long record of accomplishments and a network of friends and allies around the world that might enable me to have a real impact on these difficult issues of globalization. In contrast, my opponents display a reflexive hostility to trade, and have said they would not have supported the recently-passed Trade Promotion Authority, which I favored.

* What is one thing you promise not to do if elected?

* As the great political philosopher Woody Allen once said, “Ninety percent of life is just showing up.” I promise not to just show up in Congress, but to work hard to serve the interests of my constituents, the state of Maryland, and the country.

* What do you predict the short-term future of the budget will be like and what adjustments will you propose to prepare for your prediction?

* The Congressional Budget Office recently projected a $157 billion budget deficit in the federal budget for this fiscal year. The Bush tax cut has contributed to this largest swing from surplus to deficit since World War II. The Bush tax cuts, if left intact, mortgage our economic future and leave us without the funds for critical investments in health care, prescription drugs, school construction, transportation improvements and environmental protection. We have already seen the President reject Congress’ spending bill which included $344 million in aid to Israel and Palestine; $44 million to the District of Columbia; and $275 million for veterans’ health care. President Bush’s favorite domestic accomplishment, the “Leave No Child Behind Act” of 2001, actually leaves 28 programs called for in the Act unfunded.

* For what specific projects in Montgomery County will you work to get additional federal funding? Please address transportation projects specifically.

* In Congress I will work to get additional federal funding to: build the Purple Line; improve and upgrade Metro; build the ICC and other needed road improvements; increase and improve bus service.

I would also work to help our remarkable health sciences industry win more federal government contracts, as well as incentives for new entrepreneurs and small business owners.

* Do you support a study for a new Potomac River crossing in Montgomery County? What is your position on such a crossing?

* Although I am not in favor a new Potomac River crossing now, I believe that it is important to make a decision based on all the facts. To that end, I support a study of the proposed options for an additional crossing.

* How would you characterize transportation issues in Montgomery County and what specific actions would you support as a result?

* Traffic congestion is damaging our quality of life everyday. It is a key determinant in the location of America’s growth industries, which have the ability to locate almost anywhere. In our case, average commute times in the Maryland suburbs are now longer than those in Northern Virginia. We need to deal with congestion in order to remain competitive. I support and would seek funding for the Metro Purple Line, as I did in 1979 when I helped secure $1.7 billion to complete the Red Line. I also will work – hopefully as a member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee – to get funds for the Purple Line. I believe we need to enhance our regional cooperation on transportation, and would work closely with local, state and federal officials in Maryland, DC and Virginia to move forward on comprehensive solutions for our region.

* Please outline your position on gun control, and what you might realistically expect to accomplish in two years in Congress.

* I am an advocate for strong gun control laws, and I believe that the Second Amendment does not safeguard the right of individuals to own guns. In Congress I would be a strong supporter of closing the gun-show loophole and keeping guns out of the hands of convicted felons.

* Is the United States at war? What are the costs of current military action likely to be? If you believe the US is at war, how will we know when this war is over?

The long period of peace and stability we enjoyed until Sept. 11, 2001, has come to an end. We are under attack by cowardly, immoral terrorists, who will not confine themselves to fighting our armies, but will continue to try and attack innocent, unarmed civilians here at home. For that reason, I support President Bush's initiatives to strengthen our homeland security. We face unprecedented national security and foreign policy challenges. I believe we must root out terrorist cells all over the world, but we also must do more in the area of foreign aid. I favor a “global Marshall Plan” for the 21st century to help lift the world’s poorest people out of abject poverty, and on the path to democracy and development.

* Are the residents of Montgomery County safe from acts of terror and bioterror? What additional measures are appropriate?

* I believe Montgomery County officials have taken important steps to protect citizens from terror attacks. However, we need to fund major research to develop new vaccines. I believe a “Manhattan Project” for biotechnologists – many of the leading minds are right here in Montgomery County – is called for to secure our county and our country in the long-term.

We will also need to provide communities with an appropriate surge capacity – whether by mobile units provided by the federal government, dual-use facilities that can be commandeered for this purpose as the need arises, or though other management strategies. In fact, the response to a major bio-attack should be able to tap into a broad range of community resources such as vehicles to transport victims and materiel; areas for storage and distribution of foods and medicine; communications capabilities to keep people informed.

* How do you evaluate the effect of the federal response to the terrorist attacks on civil liberties? Are there any measures passed by Congress that you specifically disagree with? What additional measures are needed?

* Our nation was founded on the most progressive principles of civil liberties, and they are the envy of the world. These liberties must be upheld as the foundation for our democracy. At a time of war, I believe all Americans must be willing to make sacrifices to ensure we are successful in combating an enemy that would destroy this democracy. However, all suspects should be allowed due process, and I oppose extended detentions without explanation.

However, Attorney General Ashcroft's approach alarmed me even before Sept. 11. One reason I chose to run for Congress was Ashcroft’s unremitting hostility to civil rights. One simple yet critical reason the Democrats must retain control of the Senate is to fight the nomination of conservative judges whose commitment to civil liberties may be questionable.

* How will you support federal employees in your district?

* As a 17-year federal employee, I will be a strong advocate for their interests in Congress. The everyday importance of the work of federal employees cannot be overstated – whether they are defending our country, ensuring the safety of food and drugs on the market, promoting environmental protection, delivering our mail, or countless other tasks. More than 20 years of “government-bashing” have taken a severe toll, and it is high time we jump from the rhetoric about revitalizing the federal workforce to instituting real reforms. Specifically, we need to: Increase pay; Improve resources; Reform human resources processes; bolster the links between government service and education.