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Candidates Talk to Great Falls Residents

Great Falls Citizens Association hosts 'Candidate Night.'

U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf's (R-10th) unhappiness was evident when he left the Great Falls Grange on Tuesday night, Oct. 10.

"He didn't even say hello," said Chris Cole, a McLean resident and member of the McLean Citizens Association. "We've met a few times and he usually recognizes me, but he was clearly in a hurry to get out of here."

Wolf was at the Grange to participate in the Great Falls Citizens Association's Candidate Night. Candidates for the 10th Congressional District were each given a 15-minute window to go over their platforms and answer citizen questions. Wolf spoke first, using the full 15 minutes to elaborate on his 20-year record of success, leaving — to the annoyance of some — no time for questions. Wolf emphasized his steadfast determination to bring rail to Tysons.

"I felt that rail was important to this region," said Wolf. "You could almost paper my entire downstairs bathroom with the brochures of candidates who said they were going to bring rail — but now we have it authorized."

Wolf reiterated his commitment to addressing local safety issues such as gang violence and the increased sale and abuse of methamphetamines, and also talked about his efforts to increase the number of students pursuing the study of math and science. Internationally, Wolf reminded residents that he was the first member of Congress to travel to Darfur, and said that he was determined to make headway with humanitarian efforts in that region.

"It is on the basis of what I have done and how I have done it that I ask for your support," concluded Wolf.

DEMOCRATIC candidate Judy Feder followed Wolf, opening with a condemnation of her opponent's track record.

"If you want to change Congress you have to change the people that you send there," said Feder. "My opponent Congressman Wolf has been in Washington for 20 years, and it shows … if we send Frank Wolf back to Washington for a 14th term, we will have more of the same and we can't afford that."

Feder went on to criticize Wolf's yearly decisions to vote for a personal pay raises and his support of the Bush administration's policies in Iraq. Wolf listened briefly to Feder's attack, but then left. Feder contrasted herself to Wolf on issues such as Iraq, health care and transportation.

"Frank Wolf is satisfied with the so-called progress that's been made in Iraq — I want to tell you that I am not," said Feder. "We can't pick up and leave Iraq, but we have to change what we are doing."

Feder added that while Wolf is "satisfied with the same old approach to transportation that he's been offering for 20 years," she was not.

"We need to chart a new course that supports and encourages smart growth," said Feder.

LIBERTARIAN candidate Wilbur Wood followed Feder, stating that he wanted to find a way to make housing, health care and education within the realm of financial possibility to more residents.

"Social Security we know is in serious trouble, health care costs and education costs are spiraling out of control," said Wood. "We need to do something … I want you to own your own health care and I want you to own your own economy, and I don't want education to be out of reach for your children."

Wood criticized "big government" and suggested a variety of tax exemptions for lower income residents as one potential solution.

"I was born in 1955 and the way I look at it is that we've had 40 years of scrambled eggs and 10 years of poached eggs, but we have eggs no matter what you do," said Wood. "Well, I like pancakes."

INDEPENDENT candidate Neeraj Nigam discussed his platform after Wood. Nigam repeatedly mentioned his love and appreciation for the United States and its role in helping him to realize the proverbial "American Dream."

"I came to this country in 1989 with my kids and my first job paid me $7.50 an hour," said Nigam, a resident of Sterling Park. "Today I have a six-figure income … this country has been good to me and I am not looking for faults, I am looking for solutions — I have met the nicest people in this country."

As an independent candidate Nigam had to collect at least 1,000 signatures in support of his candidacy. He was able to collect 1,400.

"If Judy Feder is elected, will she not favor the Democratic party?" asked Nigam. "I am not looking for contributions from anybody because I do not want to be influenced by special interest groups and I don't want any interferences."

Nigam suggested an increased speed limit and more bus routes to deal with traffic congestion.

"We need to build more lanes or increase the speed of traffic to 65 mph immediately," he said. "The train to Dulles is a good idea — it will come in 2010."

When questioned about gay marriage, Nigam said that he felt the government should stay out of the issue. In regards to Iraq, Nigam agreed with Feder and said that while the U.S. should never have gotten involved, something had to be done now that American troops are there.

"I think our soldiers are capable of doing it, I just don't think they're being given the right orders," said Nigam.

GLENDA GAIL PARKER, the Independent Green candidate for Senate, also spoke at the Great Falls Citizens Association Candidate Night. Parker collected 10,000 signatures to be included on the Virginia voting ballot, and said that she is billing the Independent Green party as "the party that looks after the interests of the middle class." Parker was driven to run for Senate by her determination to bring in rail and ease traffic congestion.

"In the beginning we stuck solely to rail but now we're moving on to the next phase of the campaign which is your tax dollars and my tax dollars," said Parker. "We cannot send millionaires and lawyers to Congress and expect them to represent us ... right now Washington incumbents are spending our money and putting us into debt."

Parker, who formerly worked at the Pentagon, said that she would like to see an auditable accounting system put into use there.

"The Washington incumbents are pulling the wool over your eyes with one hand and picking your pocket with the other," said Parker. "We've got to balance the budget and pay off the national debt, and Iraq without a doubt is contributing to that debt."

Parker added that rail could be related to the situation in Iraq.

"If we were not so addicted to oil, we would not be over there right now," she said.