Virginia House Race:
Candidate Demaris Miller
Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2000; 2 p.m. EST
Demaris Miller is a candidate for U.S. Congress from Virginia. A Republican, she is a former public schoolteacher and federal employee who is running to unseat Rep. Jim Moran (D). She also ran against him in 1998. (Read an article about this race.)
For more information, visit the Virginia Voters Guide or see the Demaris Miller for U.S. Congress Web site.
The transcript follows.
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Thanks for joining us today, Demaris Miller. You're running for Congress against incumbent Jim Moran. Why are you running, and what do you think are the most important issues in this race?
Demaris Miller: Until just a few years ago, I never thought that I would run for public office. I had had a satisfying life as a teacher, nurse, research scientist, and as a wife and mother. But when my first grandchild was born, I began to focus on what kind of future we are leaving for him and generations yet unborn. I became concerned that my grandchildren would grow up in a less safe world with fewer personal freedoms, and with public officials they could neither respect nor trust. Whether they are blessed with living the American dream in a safe, secure nation where individual liberty is paramount and where honesty and integrity are the norm rather than the exception depends on what we do now.
A statement rather than a question. It is the timing of this story and the subsequent "live" interview with Ms. Miller that is fishy not Mr. Moran's loan. Separation, divorce, marital conflict come to all. For private citizens, the trauma usually stays private. For public servants, like Jim Moran, it cannot. I can't imagine the pressure he was under. I, for one, will stick with him on Election Day. He's a good guy and a good congressman for us. If Demaris Miller can't beat him on the issues or constituent service, guess she has to resort to innuendo and inference. Shame. Most especially shame on The Post for its complicity.
This discussion was scheduled last week, well before washingtonpost.com was aware of The Post's coverage of Rep. Moran's loan. (See story.) Rep. Moran has been invited to participate in an online discussion at the time of his choosing.
Demaris Miller: Sorry, I knew nothing about this most recent indiscretion when I agreed to be on this live discussion. I do think it is sad that the people of the 8th District are represented by someone who thinks it is OK to take $25,000 from someone who is lobbying him about an issue before Congress. It is particularly unfortunate that Moran sent a letter to his fellow "New Democrats" urging them to support this man's legislation without informing his colleagues that he had a financial arrangement with the man.
I understand you support Social Security
reform, including privatization. How would
you make privatization a reality, as soon
Demaris Miller: We must act ASAP to reform Social Security. Many people do not realize that Social Security is facing an unfunded liability of 10 TRILLION dollars that grows larger every day. Every day that we wait for real reform increases that unfunded liability.
Could you please articulate your position on the abortion issue?
- Voter in Virginia's 8th
Demaris Miller: I believe that life begins with conception and ends with natural death. As the mother of an adopted daughter, I thank God every day that her birth mother carried her to term and gave her to us to cherish. Also, as a pediatric nurse at Georgetown University Hospital, I cared for premature infants so tiny you could hold one in a single hand. I marveled at what wonderful little fighters they were - and I was saddened to know that other babies just like them were being aborted all over the city.
All over this nation, we need to work to teach our young people the value of every human life.
When pregnancy is a crisis or a tragedy for a woman, we must offer better support and understanding. We must be sure that they are fully informed of all opportunities to experience the joys of motherhood in safety and security. We must do a better job of teaching young men that they too are responsible for children they father. And we must never tolerate violence toward abortion providers.
As your member of Congress:
(1) I will support a ban on partial-birth abortion that includes an exception to protect the life of the mother;
(2) I will support legislation that promotes and encourages adoption;
(3) I will support efforts to involve parents in such decisions by their minor children;
(4) I will work for prenatal care for needy mothers that includes sonograms and parent education; and
(5) I will never support federal funding of abortion anywhere in the world.
I will also make every effort to see that no woman ever feels she has no choice but to abort her child.
What are your views about DC citizens getting full voting representation in Congress?
Demaris Miller: It is unfortunate that American citizens in DC do not have voting representation. I do not feel that DC should be a state or have the same representation as a state, but arrangements should be made for some voting representation. For history buffs, you may recall that a portion of Virginia was once in DC as well. That portion was ceded back to Virginia with the exception of Federal installations like the Pentagon. People in that portion of the District now are residents of Virginia and vote in Virginia. This should be considered as one of the possible solutions for the remainder of the citizens of DC.
After serving in the House of Representatives for a term and presumably seeking reelection, what would you like the people of the district to recall most about you?
Demaris Miller: I would like my fellow Virginians to recall that I served with dignity and honor, that I was honest with them, that I based my votes on principle, not politics, and that they have reason to be proud of their representative.
If I look at the taxes on my pay stub every couple weeks, and add up other taxes I pay regularly, I only get to keep about half of what I earn! Do you have plans to help fix that?
Demaris Miller: Absolutely! Many people have not figured out what you have observed. They do not realize that we are suffering under the highest tax burden since World War II! We can reduce the tax burden on Americans and make the tax system both fairer and simpler. This will take a commitment to real reform of the tax system. The result will also mean that businesses will have a smaller administrative burden too. We will all be better off under a fairer, flatter, simpler system that we can all understand.
Ms. Miller: How do you think your race against Jim Moran will be affected by recent disclosures that he accepted an unsecured $25,000 loan from a lobbyist for pharmaceutical giant Schering-Plough at the same time that Congressman Moran was sponsoring a bill worth many millions of dollars to Schering-Plough -- all of which Congressman Moran failed to disclose until the House Ethics Committee ordered him to do so.
Demaris Miller: I the voters of the 8th District pay attention, they will realize that this man not only doesn't represent their interests, but he believes that the rules that apply to the rest of us do not apply to him. They will be angry and embarrassed. They will want an alternative. I submit that I am what they are looking for. I am not a professional politician. I am a woman running to make a better world for my children and future generations. I do not want another career, I just want to make a positive difference.
I understand you're pro-I-66 widening. I take it that's because you don't live next to it, like I do, and risk losing your house. I'm wondering if you would be pro-I-66 widening if you stood to lose your house also.
Demaris Miller: It is unfortunate when individuals suffer because of things like widening of 66. When that happens, they have a right to expect to be compensated for their loss. The reality is, 66 will be widened. We must put our energy into seeing that that widening has as little adverse impact on Arlington's citizens as possible. The truth is that most Arlingtonians will benefit from the widening.
What is the major difference (or two or three differences) between you and Mr. Moran? Casey
Demaris Miller: There are so many differences, it is hard to know where to begin. The first is that I believe in people. I believe that government serves best when it is as unobtrusive as possible. Government should get out of the way as much as possible and let us live our lives. However, the most important function of government is to protect us from threats at home and abroad. I would remember that with every vote. We must protect those unable to defend themselves and we must strengthen and rebuild our national defense to protect us from the growing threat of rogue nations. Jim Moran seems to think that being in Congress is the best job he ever had and he will do anything to keep it.
What is your position on the Marriage Penalty Tax? I was upset with Congressman's Moran veto.
Demaris Miller: You should have been upset with Clinton's veto and Jim Moran's flip-flops on the marriage penalty. This unfair tax will be repealed when President George W. Bush is in the White House and Demaris Miller is in Congress!
What has changed since the last time you ran against Moran?
Demaris Miller: Two major changes:
First, Jim Moran is flip-flopping at an ever-greater rate and second, more of his indiscretions have been exposed.
How many times have you run against Mr. Moran? Are you getting support (financial and/or moral) from existing House republicans?
Demaris Miller: I ran in 1998 as my first political foray. I am supported by many house Republicans like Frank Wolf and Tom Delay. I am also supported by Senator John Warner.
I am voter that would dearly love to vote Republican, but has a problem given the social policies that the parties embraces. I am pro-choice, pro-affirmative action, and very much for gay rights. I am very much for many of the tax policies that you and the party run on. In a district like the one you are running in, do you feel that your social views are out of step with the constituency that you hope to represent? If elected, could you truly represent a more liberal constituency or would you vote along your party lines?
Demaris Miller: I hope you will consider that I support some of these things in principle, but we have different views of how that support should be manifested. On Affirmative action, I believe that everyone should be judged on the content of their character )just as Martin Luther King, Jr. said) and on their qualifications and effort, not on the color of their skin.
On Choice. I believe every woman should have the right to choose whether to engage in sexual activity or not. But she should realize that there may be consequences that involve another life -- other than her own.
I believe that all citizens are entitled to the same rights guaranteed by our Constitution and Bill of Rights, but that no person or group is entitled to special rights.
If elected, I will represent all the people of the 8th District.
I solidly support you (especially on the issue of Social Security reform). What is your view on free trade?
Demaris Miller: I believe in free trade. This is one place where Jim Moran and I tend to agree. However, I believe we should use a stick when it comes to nations that engage in serious human rights violations. We are a powerful nation. We should exercise that power when it can make a difference. I believe we can have a policy of free trade that will benefit us all while still making greater demands of oppressive nations.
What is your stance on gun control?
Demaris Miller: I believe it is important to focus on crime control. Violent crime has become all too common in America -- but we can have a safer country! The greatest deterrent to crime is the assurance that criminals will be apprehended quickly, prosecuted successfully, and penalized appropriately. So many efforts to reduce crime have focused on the wrong things, like putting more restrictions on law-abiding citizens, and have not been effective against criminals. Fortunately, Virginia, which led the nation with the instant check for gun purchases, has set another good example with a crime control program that really works!
Richmond Virginia had one of the highest murder rates in the country, so Virginia said, ENOUGH! and instituted Project Exile, a program that ensures that criminals who use guns go directly to jail for a mandatory five years -- no bond, parole, no deal! And it works. Since Project Exile began, murder by guns has been more than cut in half in Richmond.
On the federal level, I support: (1) training and technical assistance for local law enforcement to increase probability of apprehension; (2) habeas corpus reform to reduce delays in justice; (3) requiring those convicted of sex crimes and child abuse to be placed on a national register; (4) requiring federal prisoners to work while incarcerated; (5) increased restitution requirements; and (6) truth in federal sentencing; and (7) programs that really protect law-abiding citizens, like Project Exile. And I will work to see that federal law enforcement agencies work more closely with local law enforcement in providing expertise, training, and coordination.
I'm glad to see you favor the abolishment of the Marriage Penalty Tax. But as the Republican bill was written, some families with only one worker would get a bonus! Are you in favor of single earner couples getting a marriage bonus and if so, why?
Demaris Miller: If the cost of eliminating the marriage penalty gives a temporary incentive to marry, I am willing to accept that until we have full tax reform. Under the comprehensive tax reform I propose, the marriage penalty becomes a non-issue.
Mrs. Miller, you have repeatedly espoused very conservative positions on abortion, gun control, and Social Security, both in your losing campaign in 1998 and this year. Why do you think voters in the heavily Democratic 8th District should vote for you if you don't represent their views on these important issues?
Demaris Miller: If they really understood the consequences of the legislation I propose and the legislation liberal propose, they would support. I advocate legislation that actually solves problems, not legislation that appease pressure groups and looks good in the paper, but doesn't solve problems.
Can you please state how you would provide quality health care to the 44 million people in this country without health insurance and also a prescription drug benefit for senior citizens without forcing them into money grubbing HMOs? HMOs do not care about patients and are only concerned with profit and enriching Wall St. investors. Besides would you want to get your health care from an HMO? I have a mother nearing the age where she will be eligible for Medicare and I am terrified that she will be at the mercy some profit motivated HMO. While I am not advocate for "Big Government" solutions either to the problem of providing prescription drugs for seniors or health care to the uninsured, clearly, managed care (i.e. HMOs) is not the solution either.
Can you please state what your approach to solving these seemingly intractable problems would be?
Demaris Miller: Many of the problems in our health care system are the result of bad tax policy and bad regulations. The solutions I propose take advantage of the best aspects of a free market while providing assistance for those least able to take care of themselves. We can reform these laws to give all Americans the same access to affordable health insurance as members of Congress. This will increase the choices for many Americans who have been forced into HMOs or other systems that come between them and their doctors and nurses.
Have you been debating Mr. Moran? Will you have any debates between now and the election?
Demaris Miller: We had 23 debates or forums. Jim Moran showed up for 19 of them. He did not have a good time -- but I did. The debates were easy for me because I responded based on principle and truth. He had to defend some pretty indefensible positions he has taken in Congress.
What is the difference between you and Mr. Moran on the issue of education reform? Vouchers?
Demaris Miller: Education serves children best when it is controlled by parents and local communities. I was a high-school science teacher in Scottsville, Virginia, when the county school system hired its first full-time professional just to write grant proposals to the federal government. Today, as much as 50 percent of the paperwork done by local schools is spent administering federal programs - and yet, more than half of federal education dollars never reach the classroom! My first priority in education will be to reduce bureaucratic red tape and return 85 percent of federal education dollars directly to the classroom.
As a public high school science teacher, I found that, given an opportunity, children will live up to the expectations we set for them. I support setting high standards and providing the resources to meet those standards. But when schools fail our children, we have a moral obligation to provide alternatives for those children. We cannot ask children to wait five or ten years for their schools to improve. Let's create a culture of excellence for all children by setting high standards, holding schools accountable, and making certain no child is left behind.
I support vouchers to give a choice to children who do not now have a choice. I supported vouchers for children in DC -- one of the worst school systems in the country. I am a volunteer tutor in DC schools and I can tell you, what we are letting DC do to those children is a CRIME.
Jim Moran voted FOR vouchers for children in DC in May of 1998 -- with great fanfare and a press release. Then, three months later, he quietly voted against the same bill -- denying those children a chance in life. As he often does, he tries to have it both ways and be on both sides of the issue. In doing so, he let those children down.
What is your stance on gay marriage?
Demaris Miller: Marriage is an institution between a man and a woman.
What will you do to solve the oppressive transportation problems?
Demaris Miller: I will work with any willing heart in Congress plus state and local governments to find new solutions. We have regional problems that require regional solutions. All too often we have failed to use the new technologies to improve our existing transportation grid. And we have taken items off the table without giving them thorough consideration.
I am pleased that Frank Wolf, John Warner, and George Allen are pushing the Techway. We need to build a groundswell of public support for things like that. We need to continue to work for a rail line through Tysons and on to Dulles. We need to involve private industry in more of our solutions. Giving vouchers to Federal employees is a nice supplement to their salaries, but it creates only a tiny dent in the problem we have in Northern Virginia.
I find it incredibly interesting that many of the current Congressional Republicans (as well as most of the candidates) miraculously hold the same opinion on many of the issues. Dems do it too. My questions is, how, if in any way, do you differ from the generally accepted positions of the Congressional republican majority?
Demaris Miller: Many thoughtful Democrats are as anxious to solve problems as Republicans. Often we differ only on how best to go about solving those problems. I am willing to work with anyone in Congress to solve problems for our country, but I am not interested in window-dressing solutions that just look good on paper. I want to see substantial evidence that a proposed solution is likely to work and that the costs are justified by measurable benefits.
Stony Brook New York:
Can you please tell us where you stand on the use of US forces in the Balkans?
Demaris Miller: What, we have troops in the Balkans? Didn't Clinton say they would be out by Christmas -- Oh, I forgot, he didn't say which Christmas!
I will oppose sending our troops abroad without a clear mission, goals for measuring success, and a plan for exit. I believe that we should be able to show a strategic interest when we deploy our troops. When George W. Bush is President, I am confident we will have a foreign policy that makes sense. I expect him to begin planning removal of our troops from the Balkans in a responsible manner.
If elected, what would you propose to reduce Federal spending, and what would you do with the money thus saved.
Demaris Miller: I advocate a smaller, more responsive government. When Americans overpay, they should expect to get their change back (and that everyone who pays taxes should get the refund, not just a chose few). I believe that the more power should be returned to people and to state and local governments and that the Federal government should focus on those things that cannot be done at the local level. Government that is closer to the people is better able to serve.
I have been reading your comments, and many of them sound extremely partisan. If elected, how would you work to achieve bipartisanship in what will likely be a closely matched republican/democratic House of Representatives?
Demaris Miller: I base my positions and plans on the principles on which this nation was founded, not on party affiliation. I will work with anyone who wants to solve problems and is willing to reason with other willing members. One reason Jim Moran flip flops so much is because he bases his position on a given bill on who introduced the bill rather than on the principle behind the legislation. That is not how I will operate.
Would you have voted to impeach President Clinton?
Demaris Miller: Yes
Do you think you have a chance of winning? Have you done any polling? How much have you spent on advertising?
Demaris Miller: I do believe I can win. We have done some polling. I have spent less than $200,000 for everything from signs to salaries. Jim Moran has spent more than $600,000 this year. I will win with enthusiastic grass roots.
If elected, what would be the first bill you would submit?
Demaris Miller: Social Security Reform
Do you find it difficult running as a conservative Republican in a Democratic district? Do you find it difficult running as a family values candidate in a district with lots of singles and gays? Do you find it difficult running as an anti-government candidate in a district with lots of federal employees?
Demaris Miller: I am not anti government. I am pro American. All of us are members of families and all of us need strong families to build a strong society. America needs more principled, pro-family members of Congress who will put people first and politics last.
Where do you stand on the death penalty?
Demaris Miller: The death penalty is backed by the wisdom of more than 5,000 years of human history. However, here in Virginia, where we now have "Life without the possibility of parole" we are in a position to move toward eliminating the death penalty. We must be very cautions in moving away from what I believe is a deterrent. I certainly do not want to do anything that might make murder seem easier for criminals.
Thanks for taking the time to answer questions today, Demaris Miller. Any parting words?
It has been a pleasure. I look forward to serving the people of the 8th District. I pledge to serve with honor, dignity, and integrity, and to always let principle be my guide.
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