Exclusive Blue Virginia Interview: Richard Anthony (D-10th CD)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Prior to Thanksgiving, I sent out questionnaires to both Democratic Congressional candidates - Richard Anthony and Dennis Findley - in the 10th Congressional District (currently misrepresented by Frank "Eric Cantor's Rubber Stamp" Wolf). Here are Richard Anthony's Q&A's; I will publish Dennis Findley's when I receive them. After that, having spoken with both candidates, I am planning on making an endorsement in this race. In the meantime, thanks very much to Richard Anthony for his thorough responses to my questions!

1. Tell us a bit about yourself, and specifically, what made you decide to run for Congress at this time?
Hi Lowell. Let me begin by saying thank you for this opportunity. I’ve been a big fan of Blue Virginia for a long time. I believe that the work you and your fellow bloggers do is an important public service.

My name is Rich Anthony and I am running to be the Democratic Nominee in the 10th Congressional District. I am married to a wonderful woman, Michele for over 13 years, and I have two great kids, Katie & Max.

I was born on a Marine Base in Cherry Point, N.C. to parents who were barely out of their teens. Their parents worked in the coalmines of West Virginia and the steel mills of Cleveland, OH. My father was the first member of the Anthony’s to graduate from college.

Growing up, we weren’t rich and we weren’t poor we were solidly middle class. There was no tuition savings account so I put myself through college by working as a dishwasher at one place and as an usher at the local movie theatre and a bunch of student loans.

After I graduated with a degree in political science from Bowling Green State University I enlisted in the Army Reserves. I had spent the last part of my senior year following the build up to Operation Desert Storm. When the war started, I thought back to my families history of military service. Both my grandfathers had fought in WWII one in the Army and the other in the Navy and my father, the Marine, who served his country during Vietnam, and now it was my turn. As I continued to serve, I worked during the day, enrolled in grad school, and went to class in the evenings.

I have spent most of my career in the workforce development field. I started out mentoring at-risk youth to help them obtain their GED and learn job search skills. I then helped the U.S. Department of Labor develop new technologies to enable community colleges across the nation build high-impact jobs programs for business & industry at a lower cost and in less time. I’ve also been involved in starting a non-profit company that created good paying jobs with benefits right here in Virginia. So I guess you could say that my career, just like my campaign, is about jobs.

Serving in Congress has never been a goal of mine. I’ve actually never considered running for office at any level. What I’ve witnessed over the past decade has compelled me to run. The fiscal and policy choices made by our representatives in Congress represent nothing less than a betrayal of trust to the middle class. Simply put, the middle class, once the backbone of America, has seen its leaders turn their backs on them through a systematic dismantling of the core values America was built on. Factories have been shut down and jobs shipped overseas. Small businesses have been forced to close their doors and layoff loyal employees. Worst of all, our children’s futures have been mortgaged in the form of a ballooning deficit and a worsening economy. People need jobs today and our children need a high quality education to prepare for the jobs of tomorrow. That’s why I’m running for Congress.

2. What three issues are you most passionate about and why?
There are so many issues I am passionate about, but if I had to pick three they would be: Jobs and the Economy, Education, and Energy Independence. You probably noticed that all three are inter-related. Without a strong economy where everyone is participating there simply aren’t enough resources to go around. Everyone wants the best schools for our children, clean air to breath and clean water to drink, affordable health care, and to break our dependence on foreign oil and develop new alternative forms of energy. The question is, how are we going to pay for it?

Regrettably, Congress has behaved like a college freshman that just got their hands on mom's and dad’s credit card. They maxed out the card on beer and pizza and now that its time to pay tuition, rent, and buy books for class, they’re broke.

Nothing in life is free. If we want our children to grow up in safe neighborhoods with great schools, play in parks full of trees and free of pollution and attend affordable colleges that prepare them for the jobs of tomorrow, we need people in Congress who will make those goals a priority.

3. How would you describe yourself ideologically – “progressive,” “conservative,” “moderate,” “liberal,” or something else?
I would definitely call myself a Progressive on social issues. On fiscal issues I tend to be more conservative mainly because I have a strong belief in “Pay Go”. If Congress wants to start a new program, they need to be willing to cut something else from the budget or raise taxes. Likewise, if Congress wants to cut taxes, then they are going to have to cut the same amount from the budget. It’s not rocket science, but it's a concept something too many in Congress have a hard time with. I suppose if you blended the social side with the fiscal side you could call me a “Pragmatic Progressive”.

4. Who is your favorite Virginia politician and why?
Jim Webb, without a doubt. Read "A Time to Fight" and check out chapters 6 & 7 in particular and you’ll understand what I mean. I may not always agree with Sen. Webb’s positions or votes, but I appreciate the fact that he has listened to the arguments for all sides, done his homework and has made up his own mind. In my opinion, that’s what you want in a public servant.

5. Arguably, the biggest debate politically this year in the United States has been over health reform. If you were in Congress right now, how would you vote on: a) a robust public option; b) allowing public funds to be used to provide abortion coverage; c) allowing undocumented immigrants to buy health insurance (with their own money) on the proposed insurance “exchanges;” and d) a surcharge on wealthy Americans in order to pay for this bill?
Since we still don’t know what the final bill is going to look like in the Senate or what, if any, bill will come back to the House for a vote, its hard to say exactly if I would vote one for or against a particular bill. Since you asked about certain elements of a bill let me tell you what I would like and what I think is possible.

I would like to see Congress pass Universal Health Care through a single payer system. In the current fiscal and political environment, there is no chance of passage of that kind of legislation. As a compromise, I would support health care reform with a robust public option as long as the public option was not tied to any triggers. A trigger is really just a way of stalling and delaying real reform. It gives more time for opponents of Health Care reform to lobby Congress and hope the American people turn their attention to other things.

6. With regard to another top issue – energy and the environment - if you were in Congress right now, how would you vote on: a) a revenue-neutral carbon tax; b) a strong cap-and-trade bill; c) aggressive mandatory renewable energy standards; d) sharply increasing energy efficiency standards for vehicles, appliances, etc.; e) oil drilling off Virginia’s coast or other environmentally sensitive areas (e.g., ANWR); and f) mountaintop removal coal mining.
I can tell you that I strongly support legislation that reduces the amount of greenhouse gases, encourages and incentivizes the development of “green jobs” and retooling plants and factories to produce vehicles that run on alternative fuels, and mandates much higher CAFÉ standards. So if those goals could be accomplished through “a strong cap and trade bill” or a “revenue neutral carbon tax” I would have to seriously consider it. For me the bottom line is the result. For too long Congress and the Bush Administration allowed companies to defile our environment in the name of economic prosperity and look what happened. I do not and will not support off shore drilling and/or mountaintop removal coal mining.

7. In 2006, Jim Webb talked about America dividing into “three pieces,” with the “rich getting richer, the poor getting poorer, and the middle class getting squeezed.” If you are elected to Congress, what will you do about this situation?
I’ve already told you that I’m a big fan of Senator Webb and back in 2006 he was pretty accurate in his statement. Since that time, I’m sorry to say, things have only gotten worse. All you have to do is look at the economic and employment data since the recession began (and no, it's not over), and its obvious who has been hurt the most. I think as we move into 2010, you could make a strong argument that what Sen. Webb described as “the poor” are now so bad off that “poor” doesn’t begin to describe their plight. These are people who want to work, but can’t find a job. Who don’t have access to education and training programs that will give them the skills they need to succeed. So they sink further and further. We’ve reached a point now where we could be looking at two or three generations of “poor” because of the decisions made by Congress and the Bush Administration.

When the wealthy in this country and in Congress start calling the Estate Tax a “Death Tax” I think they should be required to spend a month in some of the poorest neighborhoods in America. Things are so bad, there are places where you would swear you weren’t in the same country. Spend a week in those neighborhoods and see what a “Death Tax” really means.

It doesn’t mean that your sons and daughters will inherit less money. For the people in these neighborhoods it means that when you die penniless, jobless, with no roof over your head and with no health care you can take comfort in knowing that your sons and daughters will most likely die the same way.

But you know what? The same people who voted for a bailout of Wall Street will say it’s their own fault for being lazy and wanting to live off welfare rather than getting a job and making something of themselves. If only they had a little of that American work ethic that all the successful people have. If they had that, they wouldn’t be in this position.

You asked about the middle class and I if Senator Webb and I are correct, I just described them in 20 years. So if you consider yourself middle to upper-middle class and this sounds like the kind of future you would like for you and your family, I’m probably not the guy you want to vote for.

8. Education is crucial to our nation’s future, yet there are indications we are falling further and further behind to rising nations like China and India every year that goes by. What would you do to reverse this trend and ensure that America remains the best educated nation in the world?
First of all, I’m not sure that I would agree that America is the best educated nation in the world, but I do think that should be our goal. Do you think it’s a coincidence that China is our largest creditor and they are kicking our butts in education, especially math and science? Just look at the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). There is no good reason why our High School Seniors should be ranked #16 in the world in Science and #19 in Math, but the numbers don’t lie.

In March, President Obama called for expanded learning time as part of his education agenda, stating "We can no longer afford an academic calendar designed when America was a nation of farmers who needed their children at home plowing the land at the end of each day." In his Senate confirmation hearing, Arne Duncan said, "I think our school day is too short, our week is too short, our year is too short." And the guidelines for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), including the highly competitive Race to the Top grant, channel unprecedented federal funds to education and include lengthening the school day and year as a strategy for improving schools.

I agree with President Obama that we need to seriously look at lengthening the average school day and the average school year as well. A recent report on expanding school time looked at 655 schools in 36 states serving 300,000 students to study the impact of how added time is utilized and funded. What they found was that on average the schools offered about 25% more time which translates to over three additional years of education and that the students outperformed their peers in academic achievement.

9. On GLBT issues, where do you stand on: 1) repealing “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” 2) allowing gays and lesbians to marry; 3) “hate crimes” legislation?
My position on GLBT issues is pretty simply and easy to understand, there are no GLBT issues. There are issues of equality and fairness. I really don’t understand how a country that prides itself on freedom, individual liberty and minimal government intrusion into their lives is still cursed by a fear of people who don’t look, talk and act like they do. Lets go down the list, slavery, separate but equal, voting rights, the equal rights amendment, and now marriage.


We haven’t learned in over 200 years of this country’s history that America is stronger when we stop obsessing over our differences and start working together for a better future? I’m baffled by the fact that the same people who believe in a strict interpretation of the Constitution don't believe that we need to look any further than the 9th Amendment “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” Game over.

If two people love each other deeply and are willing to make a life-long commitment to one another, that’s good enough for the Founding Fathers, its good enough for the Constitution and its good enough for me.

As far as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, I agree with the President’s position and I hope that he moves as quickly as possible to repeal it. Anyone who is willing to voluntarily put on the uniform and serve our country deserves our utmost respect and we owe than a debt of gratitude that we can never repay.

10. Finally, given that you have a Democratic opponent, why should voters – whether in a primary or a convention – support you as opposed to the other Democrat in the race?

There are a few things that voters should know about me and will become obvious as the campaign moves forward.

First, I’m like most people in the 10th District. I wasn’t born into money, I didn’t go to an Ivy League school, and I haven’t spent my life building contacts and networks that would one day help me get elected to Congress. I don’t have a bunch of wealthy friends or family that can fund this campaign. My wife and I both work and spend most of our free time making sure our kids grow up happy and healthy and do their best in school. The middle class values we were taught as kids are the same values we’re passing on to our children. We all give back to the community as much as possible and we’re thankful for what we have.

Second, with me, what you see is what you get. I say what I mean and I mean what I say. Voters will see that I don’t do “spin” and I’m going to tell it like I see it. I’m pretty sure that’s going to get me into trouble some times, but I’m tired of hearing politicians talk but never say anything. If you ask me a direct question, you’re going to get a direct answer. It won’t be sanitized; consultant approved; or watered down to a sound bite.

I’m a big fan of Teddy Roosevelt and one of my favorite quotes is “Rhetoric is a poor substitute for action, and we have trusted only to rhetoric. If we are really to be a great nation, we must not merely talk; we must act big.” In the end, talk is cheap. I strongly believe actions, more than words, reveal a person's true nature. The choices people make with their time, money, and energy are usually an accurate reflection of their priorities, values and character. When the time comes to select a nominee, voters will see that my actions have matched my words.

Finally, I’m proud of the Progressive Democratic values I stand for and I will fight passionately for them. People ask me what it means to be a Progressive Democrat and I tell them that I want good schools for our children, safe streets and communities, clean air and water, politicians who tell the truth, ethical businesses, jobs that pay a good wage and come with good benefits, access to affordable health care and when we get old, respect and dignity. I’ll settle for nothing less and I will fight everyday to protect and defend those values.

I don't know when it became more popular to turn our backs on people in need, but I know that attitude has to change. When did it become permissible for our elected leaders to be more concerned with their own political future, and that of their party, than with serving the people they represent? For too long people have been content to be represented by someone who hides from the voters when hard choices need to be made and tempers are running hot. Content with someone whose voting record doesn't match his public rhetoric and refuses to stand before the people to be held accountable.

You started out by asking me why I'm running and if haven't been completely clear let me put it another way. Words like character, honor and respect were once used to describe the traits of our elected officials. People looked to them as role models for not only for themselves, but their children. Government was about looking out for the little guy and finding solutions for our countries problems. Today we’re represented by people who don’t possess the capacity to develop new solutions and quite frankly aren’t interested in trying. We need, and our children deserve, a leader who can and will do more. I believe I can be that leader.