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Congressional Candidates Debate Iraq, Energy

U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D) and his two challengers squared off Monday.

In a short candidate forum Monday in Arlington, the three candidates running for the 8th District seat in U.S. Congress served up their views on Iraq, transportation and U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D), is facing a challenge from Republican Tom O'Donoghue and Independent Jim Hurysz in the Nov. 7 midterm elections. Moran, who has held the seat for eight terms, told the crowd of 50 citizens that the GOP-led "rubber stamp" Congress has taken the nation into a wrong-headed war that has cost taxpayers $300 billion and 2,700 U.S. soldiers their lives.

"We're in war a that we never should have gone into and we still don't have an exit strategy," said Moran. To change course in Iraq, he said, the nation's best bet is to elect a Democratic majority in Congress.

"The last six years have been the worst years of the nation's history in terms of governance," Moran said.

O'Donoghue, 41, served with his U.S. Army reserve unit in Afghanistan and occupied Baghdad for a year with the Army's 3rd Infantry Division.

When asked his views on how to pull out of Iraq, O'Donoghue acknowledged that "mistakes were made at every level," but said the important thing is to look to the future and to find an exit strategy.

"It's important to look back at the reasons why we went into war," said O'Donoghue, an Alexandria resident. "But unless there's a time machine somewhere, it's critical for us to look forward."

O'Donoghue said Iraq's borders must be secured against "outside agitators," training of the Iraqi army and police force must proceed and the country should be handed over the Iraqis as quickly as possible.

If he was elected, Hurysz, 59, said he would first take steps to address the war's bungling by firing U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

"The first thing that needs to be done is to fire Rumsfeld and the people around him," said Hurysz, an Arlington resident.

Hurysz denounced the Bush Administration's "lies" and suggested that a multi-national force with contributions from "third world democracies, such as India" take a greater role in Iraq's security. He also advocated for greater diplomatic outreach to Middle Eastern countries.

<b>APART FROM IRAQ</b>, another key topic of Monday's forum was how to reduce the nation's dependence on foreign oil sources and how to expand alternative energy sources.

O'Donoghue said the $1 billion the United States spends per day on foreign oil sources should be dedicated to funding alternative energy sources.

"Our dependence on foreign oil is a national security issue," O'Donoghue said.

Hurysz said he too would seek to fund the expansion of alternative energy sources, such as fuel cell and solar power technology.

"That's why I'll fund, instead of earmarking defense technology that the Pentagon doesn't want and that doesn't do anything for our district," Hurysz said, criticizing Moran's earmarks for local defense companies.

Moran dismissed Hurysz's comments about earmarks, saying that earmarks have benefited the district's police and fire stations, transportation and environmental projects and the Dulles Rail Project. "I do get earmarks and I intend to continue to get earmarks," he said.

Moran did not mention his views on alternative energy sources Monday evening, as he was running late and missed that portion of the forum. However, his spokesman, Austin Durrer, said that Moran supports more research and development of alternative energy sources like electric, solar, wind and hyprid technology.

"Jim Moran is concerned that our country's addiction to oil is harming the environment, increasing global warming and empowering regions of the world not friendly to us or our interests," he said.

<b>THE CANDIDATES</b> were also asked how they would address the region's traffic problems. Moran said he supports U.S. Rep. Tom Davis' (R-11) bill to offer the Metro system $1.5 billion for maintenance over the next 10 years.

"If Virginia, D.C., and Maryland come up with the matching funds, we will get more money for Metro," he said.

He added that it is important for the Metrorail extension to Dulles International Airport be finished, as it would remove cars from the roadways and pollution from the air.

Hurysz said the region is going to see a massive influx of 70,000 new residents in the coming years and it needs a "massive infrastructure investment" to address the population wave. Specifically, Hurysz said he supports an expansion of VRE rail service, Metro funding, more ride sharing programs and express bus lanes.

O'Donoghue said he supports adding another lane to westbound I-66 and a regional plan to extend rail to Dulles, rail to Fort Belvoir.