HRCC Forum Explores Candidates’ Agendas

Brent Finnegan -- June 1st, 2010

All three candidates for 26th district delegate made their political pitches to members of the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Chamber of Commerce Tuesday morning. Kai Degner, Carolyn Frank and Tony Wilt addressed the assembly of about 15 to 25 people at the Chamber-sponsored event at the Harrisonburg Holiday Inn.

Moderator Bob Corso allowed each candidate five minutes to make introductory statements before asking questions submitted by the audience. The candidates’ remarks on schools, budget cuts, and transportation were similar to answers they’ve given previously in the hburgnews video series.

Kai Degner, Carolyn Frank, Tony Wilt

Kai Degner, Carolyn Frank, and Tony Wilt at the HRCC forum.

All three said they would favor privatization of ABC stores.

Degner and Frank agreed on keeping many state regulations in place, but emphasized the importance of a business-friendly environment. “Right now, I think the burden on small businesses is in danger of becoming too high,” Degner said. Wilt reestablished himself as an no-new-taxes conservative. “We have to create an atmosphere that’s friendly to businesses, without as many regulations, overburdensome laws and mandates,” Wilt said.

On the subject of transportation, Frank said she favored a “rail solution,” and funding transportation needs through a gas tax, but was open to tolls as well. Degner said a gas tax would not be enough to close the funding gap, and that he favored tolls to get out-of-state travelers to help pay for our roads. Wilt opposes a gas tax hike.

Offshore Drilling

The candidates were asked about offshore drilling in Virginia, in light of the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Degner opposes moving forward with drilling for now. “To say that we’re going to move forward with offshore drilling before we get more answers to what happened in the Gulf I think is irresponsible,” Degner said.

Frank agreed that oil drilling guidelines are necessary, but added, “It cannot always be ‘not in my backyard.’ We have got to find safe ways to meet our energy needs.”

Wilt favors offshore drilling, but said he believes BP should have to pay for oil cleanup, not the taxpayers. Wilt agreed that oil drilling off the Virginia coast “needs to be clean, efficient, and up to standards. But in order to do that, we have to move forward. We can’t just sit on it and tie it up in regulations. The studies need to be moving forward.” Wilt expressed concern over the economic implications of not drilling. “We’re talking about job creation. We’re talking about creating basically a new industry for the state of Virginia,” Wilt said. “All that is going to help create the revenue stream that we as a state need to refill our coffers.”

Budget Cuts & Legislation

Corso asked all three candidates about what budget cuts they would make, as well as what legislation they plan to introduce in Richmond.

Wilt’s plan for legislation is to have a “open line of communication,” using email and town hall meetings to gather input. “That’s not to say I’m going to go along with everything,” Wilt said, putting an emphasis on relying on advice from the experts before making decisions. “When I have a poultry question, I’m going to go to Hobey [Bauhan, president of the Virginia Poultry Federation].”

Wilt said that all areas need to be examined before making cuts. “I don’t think any of us are going to be stepping up and naming specific things that need to be cut until we’re in Richmond and get to know more of the details of those entities,” Wilt said.

Degner disagreed. “I think that’s exactly what we’re being asked to do,” Degner said. “We’re being asked to pinpoint where we should be cutting. If we’re a candidate saying, ‘government is too big, and needs to be spending less money,’ we need to be saying where we’re going to not cut.” Degner indicated he might favor cutting funding for programs like the Motion Picture Opportunity Fund, and certain programs that were initially created with federal grants that are now being supported with state money.

Degner said that he would introduce legislation in response to a need. One specific piece of legislation he mentioned was a hydrofracking bill. “Right now, there are no guidelines on how to do hydrofracturing safely in the Commonwealth.”

Frank urged caution and constituent input when making cuts and introducing bills in the House. “Our job is to weigh what people are bringing us, and to see the good or bad that it will cause,” Frank said, adding that she believes we need to “not always look to government to solve our problems.”

The final question of the morning was, “Would you vote for a budget that doesn’t fully fund the state-mandated share of the cost of K-12 public education?” Wilt asked Corso to repeat the question, and then responded, “Yes,” declining to explain why.

Degner acknowledged that the current state budgets don’t currently close the education funding shortfall, but he stopped short of committing to vote no.

Frank said she would vote yes, but said she would work to get those “educational dollars” to the local school systems. Frank had the last word, concluding that “state government has pushed [the funding responsibility] off onto local government.”

I did not record video, but you can listen to the opening statements or just the Q&A in mp3 format.

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19 Responses to “HRCC Forum Explores Candidates’ Agendas”

  1. Gene Hart says:

    I found that last question and answer quite telling. Mr. Wilt is against any federal or state mandate on localities that doesn’t include a “revenue stream” to pay for the mandates. Unless of course it is a mandate that he and his fellow Republicans in the House of Delegates foist on localities by their refusal to perform a basis, fundamental function of government: keep their obligation to fund the education of our children.

  2. Jeremy Aldrich says:

    The Chamber released a statement about the event earlier today.

  3. Renee says:

    Thanks for the detailed recap!

  4. Young Dem says:

    Will hburgnews, WHSV TV-3, or the chamber be posting the debate in its entirety somewhere online?

  5. I think TV-3 were the only ones who got everything on tape…I had my recorder with me, but didn’t use it because, without a tripod, it would have been annoying.

  6. This evening’s letter from the Wilt Campaign:

    “Dear Friends,

    As promised late last week, there is exciting news to report on
    the endorsement front. I’m honored to be able to tell you that our campaign has been endorsed by the National Federation of Indpendent Business, the AgPAC of the Virginia Farm Bureau, and the Virginia Shooting Sports Association.

    Each of these endorsements has its own special significance for
    me. As a businessman myself, it means a lot to me that my fellow business leaders in the NFIB have confidence in my ability to create an atmosphere where the private sector can create jobs and grow the economy.

    Because agriculture is such a huge part of Virginia’s economy, and the economy here in the 26th District, I believe the endorsement of the Farm Bureau’s Political Action Committee sends a powerful signal as to which candidate has the greatest understanding of the agricultural industry and can help them stay competitive economically during these tough times.

    As most of my friends know, I’ve been an avid hunter and sport
    shooter my entire life. Defending our 2nd Amendment rights is something I feel very passionately about. Along with the NRA, the Virginia Shooting Sports Association recognizes that commitment, and having their support means a great deal to me.

    Thank you again for all of your work. If we all continue what
    we’ve been doing, our campaign is on track for a great victory on June 15th. I look forward to continuing to work with you.


    Tony Wilt

    PS — We got more yard signs in today. We need your help to keep fulfilling all the requests we’re still getting. Please click here to let us know you can help!”

  7. Deb SF says:

    I found this last paragraph of the CofC statement Jeremy links to above almost ironic:

    “The Chamber of Commerce is pleased to provide a forum that will enable the public to meet the candidates who want the opportunity to make a difference,” said Frank Tamberrino, Chamber President. “The forum is part of the Chamber’s continuing effort to keep our members and the public informed on legislative matters that will impact our community.”

    This event was scheduled at 8AM, the morning after a holiday, on a workday, and lasted barely an hour. Of the 20ish people who attended, all but a half-dozen or so were either directly/indirectly associated with one of the campaigns or were members of the media. How was this a real chance for members of the public to meet the candidates?

    The local Chamber of Commerce provides important services to the community, but this was a lost opportunity. I’m not a conspiracy theorist by nature. But the VFF managed to schedule an evening event; why couldn’t the chamber provide a more open and accessible opportunity for voters in the area, especially when one of its past presidents would be featured as a candidate?

  8. I think you answered your own question, Deb.

  9. Speak Truth says:

    I found this comment in the recap very telling:

    Wilt reestablished himself as an anti-tax conservative. “We have to create an atmosphere that’s friendly to businesses, without as many regulations, overburdensome laws and mandates,” Wilt said.

    What in Mr. Wilt’s response is proof that he is anti-tax? If you want to say his response established him as someone that is for limited Govt…sure…but I didn’t see the word tax in the quote.

    • “Speak Truth,”

      I can change the wording if it’s confusing or misleading. In his campaign literature, Wilt (or the RPV) stated that he “opposes any legislation increasing the tax burden on families and businesses.”

      Do you consider that anti-tax or something else?

      Listen to the entire Q&A, and tell me if you think I mis-characterized Wilt’s position. If you make a valid argument, I will change the wording.

    • David Miller says:

      The great thing about that statement is our current burden of proof against trickle down and low regulation economies is self-evident. Ask anyone with a 401K if regulating the economic sector is important. Ask anyone with an ARM, a shoreline property, a dream of retiring by 75. When can you get a new speech Wilt, Reagan didn’t even pen the one you use, its older!

      Which specific regulations would Wilt rid our law books of? Which agencies would he strip regulatory powers from and why? Maybe deregulate the offshore oil drilling industry even further right before it comes to ruin our shores. Just ask the 11 dead in the Gulf Man Made Disaster how that worked out?!!! This rig was approved using a safety and environmental report forged from an Alaskan drilling request and our regulatory bodies did nothing! Is this what Wilt offers us more of?

  10. JGFitzgerald says:

    Speak Truth: You do realize that you’re posting under an assumed name, right?

  11. BANDIT says:

    This whole process just turns my stomach…

  12. Speak Truth says:

    I haven’t read any campaign literature, I simply came here to read a summary of the debate. So, yes I was confused. The quote didn’t sound anti-tax to me.

    I do have to say, I am very disappointed this debate took place at 8:00 am on Tuesday.

    Anyone know if they will do something in the evening?

    I am like a lot of people in the area and have to work, so there was no way I could have attended. I am also eager to learn more about the people running…I have no idea who to vote for.

  13. Speak Truth says:

    I checked those out before, and I’m still very undecided, was able to get much out of them.

    I’d like a debate, one conducted when people can actually attend….

  14. 10AM tomorrow on WSVA.

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