The two candidates seeking the Republican nomination for the 33rd District's state Senate seat met at Stone Bridge High School May 1 to answer questions from residents and debate the issues in an event hosted by Patrick Henry College's College Republicans.
John Andrews and Patricia Phillips debated topics from transportation and illegal immigration to school safety and abortion, showing where they agreed and differed as candidates.
<bt>As the problem at the forefront of residents' minds this election season, transportation and the county's traffic dominated the first part of the Tuesday night debate.
Phillips called the recently approved transportation package "patchwork" and said the state needed a more concerted effort to come up with a workable solution.
"It is clear that Richmond has a responsibility to build our roads and the challenge is getting Richmond to fulfill that responsibility," she said. "Or give that responsibility to the local governments along with the money to fund it."
Andrews, on the other hand, said it would be a fallacy to try and undo what had been approved in Richmond, saying the package was a "very strong beginning."
"It took 20 years for this package to be approved," he said. "We must start somewhere. We need a senator that can go down and make sure the package can be implemented."
<bt>Following the violence at Virginia Tech, residents questioned the candidates about their stance on school safety and how to protect Loudoun students.
As a former member of the School Board, Andrews said he worked to make schools safe, including installing cameras on buses, in and outside schools and panic buttons in school's main offices.
"After this year, we will have some of the safest schools in the commonwealth," he said. "I will bring [those methods] to the senate to implement at state colleges and universities."
Phillips said the best way to improve school safety is to improve the process of dealing with problematic students.
"We need to give school administrations more discretion in dismissing students they have concerns with," she said. "We should not fool ourselves into thinking that taking away guns will prevent violence."
<bt>Both Andrews and Phillips agreed that the issue of illegal immigration needs to be dealt with at the federal level, but that there were other things states and localities could do to help the problem in their communities.
"We are a nation of immigrants," Phillips said, "but we are also a nation of laws. We should not allow those who disobey our laws taxpayer benefits. They should not be ahead of those who are going through the long legal process."
Phillips said state and local governments should be given the space to enforce their laws, including discouraging businesses from hiring illegal immigrants.
Andrews said it was important for the county to go after criminal illegal immigrants through the enactment of Section 287, immigration enforcement, and to not allow illegal immigrants to pay instate tuition rates at Virginia universities.
"If you are a resident outside this state you can't get in-state tuition," he said. "So if you are a resident outside this country, why should you get in-state tuition?"
<bt>While both Andrews and Phillips are pro-life, Andrews deferred to Phillips on the issue of abortion because of her extensive work in the pro-life movement.
"I can not even begin to compete with what Patricia has been doing," he said. "She's been an advocate."
Phillips said she worked to promote pro-life bills at the legislature, including improving consent laws so women would not feel like they made an uninformed decision.
"I always give the benefit of the doubt to the party with the least voice," she said. "That is certainly the unborn fetus."
Andrews pointed to his work on the Del Webb active-adult community in Leesburg as the foundation of his support for seniors.
"There is an extreme lack of affordable housing for our seniors," he said.
Andrews and Phillips will meet in the primary, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday May 19, at Stone Bridge High School in Ashburn. The victor will face incumbent Mark Herring (D-33) in November.