Battle for the House:
Virginia District 11
With Congressional Candidate Mike Corrigan
Friday, Nov. 3, 2000; 1 p.m. EST
Democratic candidate Mike Corrigan is running for Virginia's 11th District House seat, hoping to upset incumbent Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R). A native Virginian, Corrigan has worked as the assistant commissioner for telecommunications services at the General Services Administration and as a vice president for telecommunications at Electronic Data Systems in Herndon. He is currently a consultant with Warren H. Suss Associates. He lives in Reston with his family.
With the balance of the next Congress hanging precariously, what is Mike Corrigan doing to battle a longtime incumbent? What are the issues that 11th District voters care about?
The transcript follows.
Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control
over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.
Why are you running?
Mike Corrigan: Two years ago when my son was 18 and could vote for the first time, he told me there was no Democrat on the ballot, so he didn't see any reason to vote. I decided that shouldn't happen again, and this year I won the nomination in a three way race with 67% of the vote.
I am not happy with the current Congress, or the current congressman. No one is paying attention to the long term issues associated with the baby boom generation aging, or with really bringing our cities back into society by improving education. Traffic is a mess. We can use technology a lot more effectively to address these problems. I've been responsible for making large technology programs work successfully in government, both as a civil servant and in industry, and I want to bring that experience to the legislative branch, where it seems to be lacking. Government used to be a great place to work - it can be again. It shouldn't try to solve all our problems, but where the market isn't solving problems effectively - as in health care, education, and traffic, Government should be playing a role.
If you're elected, what's the first bill you would submit to Congress?
Mike Corrigan: I want to submit several bills. In health care, I plan to submit a bill for catastrophic coverage for the uninsured, so we aren't the only advanced nation that doesn't provide affordable health insurance for our people. I also plan a Prescription Drug Affordability Initiative and a Preventive Medicine Initiative, to help get a handle on health care costs. These are described in more detail on my web page, corriganforcongress.com. We also need to start keeping better track of the outcomes of medical treatments, and I will propose a Medical Outcomes Information Base that would be available to practitioners and researchers with appropriate privacy protection.
Other bills would be a Telecommuting Initiative, with a Washington area pilot, and an Educational Outcomes Information Base that would keep track of state experiments in education, such as the SOLs. Nobody knows whether many of these programs are actually effective.
Andover, New York:
You have my deepest admiration and best wishes for your Congressional run. I knew you when you were the driving force behind the Defense Data Network, now known as the Internet.
If elected, you will surely be the most knowledgeable First-Year Congressman about the inner workings of the executive branch in recent memory. I know you will put that knowledge and your unquestioned integrity at the service of our country as you grapple with the unforeseen problems of the 21st Century.
Ross Scott, Esq.
Attorney at Law
Andover, New York
Mike Corrigan: Well, thanks. There were a lot of people that deserve credit for the Internet, including Al Gore, who helped make sure that it didn't die for lack of startup funds, and Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn, who come as close as anyone to have invented it. The Defense Data Network was the first operational network to be spun off from the Arpanet, the original research network that the Internet grew from, and I was the first Technical Manager of the DDN, after being part of the team that convinced the Department of Defense management of the viability of the technology.
What are your thought on the George W. Bush DWI news? How do you think it will effect, if it does, your election? Thanks.
Mike Corrigan: He never said he was a saint, and I don't think it will have much impact on my election.
That said, I don't think there is any comparison between the experience, knowledge and vision of Al Gore and that of George W. Bush, and I look forward to voting for Al Gore. He hasn't said much about his re-inventing government program, but it did a lot of unpublicized good.
I started a couple of reinvention laboratories while I was in Government at the General Services Administration. The problem was that you couldn't request that laws be changed, just regulations. I want to change that as a Congressman. If a government employee can suggest ways to change laws to make them more effective, they should be able to do so easily. Our current system is the equivalent of the board of directors of a company not getting any input from the customer service and sales staff. Government employees are the people in direct contact with the citizens - they need to be able to give feedback on the shortcomings of programs, including the underlying laws, as seen by the citizens.
According to the voting record, Thomas Davis voted in favor of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996. (Rollcall 89, March 1996) While doing nothing to slow illegal immigration, this act has choked off legal immigration and has split families, including my own, for up to ten years on account the incredible difficulty of complying with INS reporting requirements, which make tax reporting look like a cake walk- not to mention the abysmal quality of service the INS provides US citizens with foreign spouses and children. Would you have voted in favor of this antifamily law and would you propose legislation to reverse it if elected?
Mike Corrigan: There are a number of provisions of the 1996 law that I find unacceptable, and I would not have voted for it. I would vote for the changes that are supported by the Democrats in Congress currently under consideration.
The INS, from all accounts, is one of the more bureaucratic of Federal agencies. I think it is a good idea to separate the enforcement side of the INS from the services to immigrants side as a first step. It is hard for the employees to work effectively when they feel they are asked to meet conflicting goals.
I walked and biked through the 11th District this summer, and met hundreds of immigrants. They are performing much of the outside manual labor and are many of the small business owners and workers. It is clear to me that we can't get along without immigration. At the same time, some limits are needed. In the long term, we need to help other countries, especially ones near our borders, bring their standard of living closer to our own. My great grandfather left Ireland for the U.S. for very good reasons - the status of the rest of the world is important to America.
The two things we can do to be most helpful is to encourage the education of women throughout the world, one of Vicente Fox's goals in Mexico, and help provide adequate family planning resources. The current Republican Congress has severely limited our actions in both of these areas.
Dear Mr. Corrigan,
You are running a fairly low-profile campaign. Frankly, I didn't even know I had an alternative to Tom Davis this election! I must thank you for not littering our lawns with campaign signs, but fear you face an uphill battle.
Anyway, so as to educate me before I go to the polls on Tuesday, please describe the three biggest differences between you and Mr. Davis.
Mike Corrigan: I'm running as high a profile campaign as I can, given the resources available to me, which are not a lot.
Actually, we are well equipped with signs, but they have a short half-life. My is particularly attractive, and if you send me an e-mail, we will be happy to get one for your lawn (and remove it after election day, assuming you don't want to keep it as an art work).
The three biggest differences between myself and Mr. Davis are:
1. I believe that business is the engine of society, but not that it should steer it. Government is our way of steering, and people that believe it can do good for us should be running it.
2. I have made national government programs work; programs that successfully used high technology. In addition to my work on the Internet, mentioned above, I ran the FTS2000 program, the government telecommunications program that lowered the cost of long-distance calls by over 80%. I brought the Department of Defense and the Postal Service into the program, further increasing savings. And while we were at it, we moved from an analog to digital system, improving quality. Saving money and improving quality are what we need in all government programs, and I'm looking forward to using my experience to improve health care, education, and transportation through effective use of technology and competition.
3. Mr. Davis has an 80% approval record with the Christian Coalition. I don't know of anything I agree with the Christian Coalition about. I firmly believe in the separation of Church and State. The free exercise of religions beliefs is rightly protected, but shouldn't creep any further into government. In particular, I am opposed to school vouchers for private or religious schools, prayer in public school, and the imposition of specific religious values in laws affecting the beginning and end of life.
What are your views about D.C. citizens gaining full voting representation in Congress?
Mike Corrigan: I support a D.C. representative in Congress with full voting rights.
Mr. Corrigan, one of your top priorities if elected is transportation. What -- precisely and specifically -- do you intend to do to improve our traffic conditions in the area and in the 11th District.
Mike Corrigan: I will post a detailed answer on my web page, but briefly, I want to use telecommuting much more effectively that it is now used. From looking at the successes and failures, it looks like telecommuting is most successful full time when it includes small groups, not just individuals. At the same time, part time telecommuting from home, both to stagger commuting hours or a few full days a week, could also help traffic.
We also need improved public transportation, with rail down the Dulles corridor and light rail distribution at Tysons and Reston, and improvements in the Virginia Railway Express in both Prince William and Fairfax. In the longer term, we need smart growth, with residential, office, and retail space near hubs. I moved to Reston in 1974 because it had these things, and I still feel it is an excellent model.
Finally, we do need some new roads, one of which should be the Wilson bridge replacement.
Good luck with your campaign, I think Congress needs experience like yours. And the 11th District needs a representative not a full-time lobbyist on behalf of the GOP.
Mike Corrigan: Thanks, and I agree. That is a fourth major difference between me and Mr. Davis. I have no goals beyond being the best representative of the 11th District I can be.
What is your take on the current debate over the Wilson Bridge? How would you try and help traffic in the area?
Mike Corrigan: I've hit most of this above. The one issue on the bridge that may need another look is the expense associated with the four interchanges - two on each side - that are a major component of the expense. I would like to review the traffic studies to see if a simpler approach would keep most of the benefits. The current design is based on heavy use of HOV lanes. It may be that through traffic lanes make more sense, and would allow a simpler design.
One last issue on traffic. Another feature of Reston that is missing in a lot of our development is affordable housing. If we zone so that people can live near where they work, and move up in housing as they become better off, we can reduce traffic substantially. This will only work if we can manage relatively large parcels of land, which may require some Federal loans to make feasible for local jurisdictions.
Mike Corrigan: Thanks for all your questions. There are many other issues that I have covered in detail on my web page, and I encourage you to take a look at them or send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any other questions.
Please get out and vote next Tuesday. If you are concerned about the future of the Supreme Court, vote Democratic up and down the ticket. Government shouldn't try to do everything, but it can do a lot better job at what it should do, and I look forward to helping in the Congress.
That was the last question. I want to thank Mr. Corrigan for taking the time to be with us.
What is your solution to the problem of the 44 million people in this country without health insurance? Do you support a "Patient's Bill of Rights" with teeth that will strike the fear of God in any insurance company that even for a moment thinks about putting profit ahead of what is best for the patient?
Mike Corrigan: My solution to the 44 million (42.6 million at last count, I think, but still a huge problem) is to combine catastrophic coverage for the uninsured with participation in medical "buyer's clubs." Right now in America, if you get really sick and are uninsured, you will eventually be taken care of under Medicaid, but you will be bankrupt. So you can recover from an illness physically, but not necessarily economically. With a catastrophic benefit, paid for by a relatively small tax (the equivalent of an uninsured motorist's fee), people would be covered for catastrophes. The deductible would vary depending on the income of the individual, with a higher deductible for higher income people. The "buyer's clubs" are a relatively new phenomenon on the Internet, and generally allow people to obtain medical services at Medicare prices. These are much better prices than individuals can get, but Doctors are willing to pay them because there is no paperwork to speak of. This approach allows market forces to work, since the first dollar of care is not covered, and people have to make decisions about how to spend their money and with whom.
I do support a patient's bill of rights with teeth. But we are going to have to do some more extensive work on our health care system. As one constituent explained it to me, HMO's make money by minimizing care, Fee-for-Service plans and Doctors make money by maximizing care - nobody makes money by providing the optimal amount of care.
Thanks to everyone who participated.
© Copyright 2000 The Washington Post Company