Andy Hurst (D)
HOMETOWN: Grew up in Brick Town, NJ; now lives in Springfield, Va.
FAMILY: Wife, Elizabeth; Children, Emma, John and Henry
EDUCATION: BA Seton Hall University, JD Georgetown University Law Center
EMPLOYMENT: Reed Smith, LLP
CAMPAIGN ADDRESS: 11198 Lee Hwy, Suite D2 Fairfax, VA 22030
CAMPAIGN PHONE: 703-455-1014
BEST BOOK YOU READ THIS YEAR: Eye of the Dragon by Stephen King
FAVORITE MOVIE: Master and Commander
QUALIFICATIONS: Under-40 Lawyer of the Year, Bar Association of D.C.; National Finance Committee; Edwards for President 2004; member, Sydenstricker United Methodist Church
1. Was the Iraq war a mistake? Why or why not?
The Iraq war was a tremendous mistake that Tom Davis has supported every step of the way. The Bush Administration led us into a war under false pretenses and without a viable exit strategy. Tom Davis and this Republican Congress provided no oversight and didn’t ask tough questions. Now we find ourselves in an incredibly difficult situation. We absolutely must change course in Iraq as soon as possible.
2. Five years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, what more could be done to protect America? What limits on civil liberties are acceptable?
We need to stop playing politics with homeland security and start fighting for funding where it is needed. As a member of the House Homeland Security Committee and its Subcommittee on Oversight, Tom Davis should have been calling for rational funding. Instead, on his watch, Indiana turned up with more terrorist targets than New York or the DC Metro area.
The current administration has far surpassed all previous ones in its suppression of civil liberties. The revelations of secret programs to spy on Americans and secret prisons where suspects are held without charge and tortured are horrifying. We must find a better balance between national security needs and individual liberties. The blunt, broad instruments that this Administration has used are like the proverbial sledgehammer in a fly-swatting contest: both dangerous and ineffective.
3. What is the nation's best long-term strategy in combating terrorism?
We need a new foreign policy that works with other nations. The Bush Administration’s policies have served only to increase recruitment by Al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations, and to antagonize formerly friendly Islamic states. In the wake of 9/11, the entire world rallied behind the United States; the Bush Administration has somehow turned that goodwill into us against the world.
Our friends and allies have all pledged their support in the real war on terror, and they continue to stand behind America’s genuine efforts to combat terrorism anywhere it exists in the world. What has driven them away is the Republican attempt to use anti-terror rhetoric to justify a war that, we now know, had nothing to do with terrorism. We need to return to the focus of the days following 9/11, when we – and our neighbors around the world — were committed to a true war on terror.
4. In light of recent corruption scandals in Congress, do you believe reforms are needed? What would you propose?
Reforms are desperately needed in Congress. Tom Davis — who has taken tens of thousands of dollars from Jack Abramoff and his clients, millions from corporate PACS, and is currently embroiled in the ICG influence-peddling scandal — is a perfect example of what’s wrong in Washington.
I propose a wholesale reform of the way Congress does business.
First, Congress needs an independent inspector general with the authority to monitor Congressional travel, contacts with lobbyists, and campaign contributions, and the authority to prosecute any irregularities.
Second, we need to put redistricting in the hands of non-partisan commissions in order to let the votes of people speak for themselves.
Third, I would fight for public funding for campaigns so that candidates and races will focus on issues, not on who can raise more money.
Finally, we need to see greater disclosure of the relationships between members of Congress and lobbyists so that they are accountable to the public.
5. What should be done about the 45 million Americans who are living without health insurance?
We should first move to protect the most vulnerable group: children, whose needs often go unmet because of a lack of insurance. Recent budgets that phase out funding for SCHIP, a health insurance program that covers 4.5 million children, are morally unacceptable. We need to not only restore funding to this critical program, but to expand it to cover all children under six and pregnant women.
Second, we can alleviate much of the problem by focusing on a group that is frequently left without health insurance: small-business employees. I propose a national small-business health insurance program with significant tax benefits to participating small businesses. By pooling the resources of small businesses, they will be able to purchase group health insurance, and thus increase access to health care for millions of Americans currently without health insurance.
6. President Bush's signature education law, No Child Left Behind, requires high-stakes testing in all public schools. What is your view of the law? Should it be reformed? Why or why not?
President Bush’s No Child Left Behind represents the single biggest unfunded mandate in this country’s history, and has so many problems that only a complete rethinking of the law can make it viable. While I applaud the idea of setting standards for schools, setting standards and then not giving schools the means to reach those standards is simply wrong.
I would support legislation to fully fund No Child Left Behind, and to gradually phase in the benchmarks set forth in the law so that schools have time to get students up to the standards required. I would also support changes in the way those benchmarks are set, allowing states to consider other criteria including graduation rates, attendance, or state exam passage rates. Finally, I would support legislation that targets more resources to the schools in the most need: schools with high concentrations of speakers of English as a second language and chronically underperforming schools.
7. The Congressional Budget Office is projecting that the federal deficit will grow to $286 billion in 2007 and to $1.76 trillion over the next decade. How would you address this?
The single greatest factor creating America’s dire budget situation today is the Bush tax cuts. There is slim economic evidence that they have done anything to stimulate the economy, and they benefit only the richest Americans. The Administration’s tax cuts have gone consistently to the same well-padded pockets, from the 2001 tax cut to their attempts to cut the estate tax. We need to roll back the Bush tax cuts before they sink our nation’s economy.
The war in Iraq is also becoming a national resource drain: we need to set a clear exit strategy and follow it, so that priceless American lives will be saved and American dollars can stop flowing into a war that is costing $144 million a day. With the money spent in Iraq to date, we could have sent 15 million kids to four-year colleges.
In the late 1990’s, we had a balanced budget, and a shrinking national debt. We now have the biggest budget deficit in history. We managed to fix this problem once, and there is no reason that we can’t do it again.
8. What is the best way to deal with the record high oil prices of recent years?
The best way to deal with high oil prices is to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. We need to develop alternative energy sources and strategies. There is no shortage of American innovation on the subject, but the enormous influence of oil and motor companies has stymied any attempts to legislate changes in our national energy strategy. We need stricter emissions limits and fuel-economy standards, more funding for energy research, and a national energy strategy that focuses on energy independence.
9. While the economy has grown in the last five years, the wages of middle- and low-income Americans has stagnated. How would you address the income disparity between the very wealthy and the rest of the working America?
I strongly support education as an equalizer of opportunities. The American dream has been the ability of people to improve their standing in the world by their own efforts, and to this end, the current Congress has made it difficult. They have reduced funding for postsecondary education for those who can least afford it, and they have helped create an impossible quagmire for our nation’s public schools.
We need to put money back into our public schools and help more students get the education they need to succeed. Growing up in a working-class family, I realized the dream of first an undergraduate degree and later a postgraduate degree in law. I believe that, given the opportunities that I had, other Americans can live the American Dream that I have lived.
10. Opinion polls suggest that the international community views the United States in a negative light. Does this matter? If so, what can the United States do to repair its standing with the rest of the world?
This is one of the United States’ most pressing problems. As I mentioned above, this Administration has allowed us to go from having massive international support to acting unilaterally in the war in Iraq. Without international support — and with growing international disdain for the United States — we cannot hope to achieve any of our major foreign policy aims.
We can repair the damage done by the Bush administration by working together with other nations in a true multilateral effort to rebuild Iraq, which would help resolve the issue which has been most internationally contentious. By withdrawing our forces from the most dangerous areas of Iraq and redeploying our troops, we can work across national borders with both countries in the Middle East and around the globe to build a peaceful Iraq.
For the following questions, please respond with a yes or no answer.
1. The minimum wage has been $5.15 since 1997. Is it time to increase it?
Yes. The current Congress has done nothing to help better the situation of the poorest Americans. The $5.15 minimum wage no longer even covers the basic necessities of life, and it is reprehensible that the Republican-controlled Congress has used legislative machinations to prevent an increase in wage for the lowest-income Americans.
In fact, Tom Davis has voted himself multiple pay increases while refusing to support an increase in the minimum wage.
2. Congress is considering the elimination of the federal estate tax, which requires the wealthiest 2 percent of all Americans to pay taxes on inherited property. Do you believe the estate tax should be discontinued?
No. The estate tax affects a minute fraction of estates, and it brings in a significant amount of money for the federal government. Not a single case of a small family farm being repossessed has ever been documented, and bogeyman tales do nothing to validate the myth of small-business owners and small-farm owners being hurt by the estate tax. The truth is that this is a tax cut for the wealthiest Americans that goes toward helping the federal budget situation; it is irresponsible to cut taxes for the wealthiest Americans when we are facing a major budget crisis.
3. Is global warming real?
Yes. In the first place, there is strong scientific evidence, both direct and indirect, that global warming is a real phenomenon. There is even some evidence correlating rising global temperatures with an increase in severe weather patterns (notably, longer hurricane seasons with stronger storms). Secondly, even if the threat is being exaggerated, it is always wise to assume it is not: the worst that happens is that we do some good for the environment and help to preserve our world for future generations.
4. On Nov. 7, your name will appear on the same ballot as a proposed state constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. Considering the full text of the amendment, will you vote for it?
No. The amendment goes too far in its scope, not just banning same-sex marriage, but permanently denying gay, lesbian, and unmarried heterosexual couples the rights afforded by any form of civil union, including financial stability, protection from domestic violence, and health care coverage.
5. If President Bush's tax cuts are made permanent, $2.2 trillion would be added to the federal deficit over the next 10 years. Would you vote to extend the tax cuts past the 2010 expiration date?
No. The Bush tax cuts are fiscally irresponsible and benefit only the highest-income Americans, and they are a wasteful drain on the country’s economic resources. To extend them past their 2010 sunset date would be to support financial ruin for the United States, and given current spending patterns, we should by trying to fix the budget problem, no make it worse.
6. Should the United States have higher fuel economy standards for vehicles?
Yes. The ongoing efforts of the oil and motor vehicle lobbies have stalled efforts to raise fuel economy standards for vehicles in this country. Technological advances have made it possible to build vehicles that get more than double the fuel economy standard, but we persist with standards that date from a bygone era. We need to push for energy independence and for a more efficient use of our national resources, and we need voices in Congress who are independent of corporate special interests and willing to push through the needed changes.
7. Do you believe in evolution?
8. Should electronic voting machines be required to have verified voting paper trails?
Yes. Voters should have a way of verifying that their vote was entered correctly, and also have some form of paper trail in order to facilitate an accurate recount. In spite of our best security efforts, electronic voting machines will always be susceptible to the machinations of individuals set on rigging the democratic process, and we must have some form of accountability.
9. Do you believe the sectarian violence in Iraq is a civil war?
Yes. No matter the term we give it, the situation in Iraq is becoming more dire each day. It’s imperative that we elect new leaders willing to change course in Iraq. Only then will we have a chance to extricate ourselves from the conflict in an honorable fashion.
10. Should the federal government fund stem cell research?
Yes. This critical line of research has the potential to save millions of lives, and the administration’s arguments of preserving life have been debunked by advances in medical technology. Using frozen embryos (that would otherwise be discarded or kept in a permanent state of stasis) to save lives is a worthy cause, and to oppose this research is morally wrong.
11. The United States is one of the few countries that has refused to sign a global ban on land mines. Would you vote to sign the treaty banning the use of land mines?
Yes. Land mines kill or maim 15,000 people each year, and they are indiscriminate killing machines that will detonate whether a soldier or a child steps on them. We should support an international ban on these weapons.
12. California has enacted the nation's toughest restrictions on air pollution, requiring a 25 percent reduction in carbon dioxide pollution. Should similar action be taken for the rest of the country?
Yes. California’s standards are tough and they are effective. The effects of anti-environment lobbies has been to slow down similar legislation at the national level, and we need to help preserve the environment for future generations.
13. Do you support "Net Neutrality," which would guarantee that every website on the Internet loads at an equal rate of speed?
Yes. Information services should be freely available to everyone, regardless of their ability to pay. To discriminate against users based on their ability to pay for services would be against both the spirit of the internet and the idea of freedom of expression. In an information age, we’re supposed to be making information more widely available, not less.
14. Do you believe that Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 decision that overturned state laws banning abortion, should be overturned?
No. The choice to have an abortion should be between a woman and her doctor. There are often better alternatives to abortion, but there are also legitimate health concerns and reasons to choose abortion. The existence of alternatives is not a reason to ban something. A woman should know and have all the possible options, medical and otherwise, before her, and it is not the government’s place to limit those choices for her.
15. Would you support a guest worker program for illegal immigrants that would lead to citizenship?
Yes. The two-pronged immigration problem must be approached as such. To deal with the 11 million illegal immigrants already in this country, we must find some way to integrate them into American society as well as the American economy, and thus a guest-worker program is the most feasible way to do it. The alternative being proposed by the Republicans, deporting everyone, is simply an unrealistic and untenable solution.
The other problem is the ongoing tide of illegal immigration into this country. For this, we need to respond with new, high-tech methods including a system of border security cameras to help law enforcement more effectively patrol the border.