The Daily News-Record allowed a 500-word statement from each candidate, after they endorsed Kai Degner’s opponent last week because, as their editor wrote, “[Kai] gets great credit for his listening skills and for running a spirited but civil campaign, but we don’t agree that such matters like climate change, income inequality, and social justice are the most burning issues facing our nation.” Knowing he is writing to a largely conservative audience, Kai provided the following.
I understand many readers might not vote for me, since I am a Democrat in an overwhelmingly Republican district. But, perhaps conservatives will consider a few thoughts as we approach Election Day and the end of my 8 years on Harrisonburg City Council.
In 2008, after winning a citywide election, the Canadian Broadcasting Company called me up to do a story on the “culture wars of America.” To my, “What are you calling me for?”, they replied that Harrisonburg and Rockingham County are the two adjacent political entities that have the biggest difference in four previous presidential election results: the gap between our purple City and our deep red County was the largest in the country.
This fact lets me appreciate how, despite our political and cultural differences, we work relatively well together. Of course there are rough spots, but our community generally bands together to support hundreds of nonprofits serving the least of us, major fundraising efforts for meaningful projects, and businesses that provide our jobs. In local government, we collaborate constantly on social services, courts, criminal justice, and a range of other services. The degree to which we are successful is dependent on leaders anticipating opportunities and risks, listening to and welcoming concerned citizens or customers, managing finances, balancing choices, and moving forward with the best available option.
This spirit of community and responsibility is what I feel is missing in congress, and from our current congressman. I live amongst many conservative thinkers who I respect, and I do not believe they are satisfied with wholly partisan approaches to problem-solving. In my experience, people who resist reasonable compromise and don’t let things move forward are usually not invited back to board rooms – so why congress?
As he has for 25 years, Mr. Goodlatte talks about reducing regulation and debt, and other party-approved talking points. He leaves out his 1992 opinion that more than 12 years in D.C. disconnects politicians too much from reality. He leaves out 80% of his contributions now come from PACs outside of the district. He says, “Degner raised real estate taxes,” but leaves out endorsing the cause: deregulating a financial industry enabling a crushing recession that devastated property values.
I am supremely frustrated specific action is not taken to reduce healthcare costs. I want immigration reform yesterday. I’m against putting taxpayers on the hook with TPP. I want to unleash the hemp industry for farmers’ profitability and manufacturing jobs, and to decriminalize marijuana and accept its health benefits. I’m against risking our water resources with for-profit pipelines that rely on eminent domain. And, I want to remove one entrenched, establishment, career politician who is what he was afraid of in 1992.
That Canadian reporter asked if I thought the culture war was over. I said America’s opportunity of free speech and democracy means we will – and should – have vigorous debate forever. But, to work, we need elected officials who strive to be statesman and problem-solvers like we have in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County.