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Virginia Politics
With Mark L. Earley
Republican Candidate for Governor

Friday, Oct. 12, 2001

With less than a month to go until election day, Mark L. Earley (R) is closing the gap between him and his Democratic opponent, Mark R. Warner. At Wednesday's debate, Earley repeatedly clashed with Warner on the issue of tax-funded improvements for Northern Virginia roads. (Read the article.)

What else does Earley plan to stress as the campaign heads into the final stretch? How does Northern Virginia factor into his plans?

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.


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washingtonpost.com: Thanks for joining us today, Mark Earley. There is less than a month until Election Day - what will be the most important issue between now and then?

Mark L. Earley: The recent terrorist attacks have defined the priorities for our next Governor. My immediate priority will be the safety and security of our citizens. Also of importance is the issue of who has the leadership and experience to help all the families of Virginia keep more of their hard-earned money, to keep their homes and communities safe, and to assure that their children have the best education possible. In these uncertain economic times, I believe it is imperative to not raise taxes and to stimulate the economy with more jobs. Even though our Commonwealth, our values, and our economy have been attacked, we will survive and we will prosper. By choosing the right policies to meet these challenging times, we will emerge stronger than ever with a renewed sense of security, freedom, and purpose.

Centreville, VA: I thought of you this morning on my way to
work, when I got to stare at the same
billboard for half an hour. Are you going
to do something about Northern Virginia's
gridlock? What is your plan for expanding
the Metro?

Mark L. Earley: This summer I proposed a $1.8 billion package to address Virginia's transportation challenges -- without raising taxes. The economy of Northern Virginia is so important to the state as a whole, that the next Governor cannot force any region of the state fend for itself. Therefore,
as Governor, I will bring statewide resources to bear on this issue. My eight-point transportation plan also incorporates several alternatives to road construction, including promoting telework, applying new technologies to reduce gridlock, and foster cooperation with localities and with Maryland, and additional money for metro and rail. Under this plan, we can start improving our transportation infrastructure immediately without waiting 13 months as my opponent is proposing.

Annandale, VA: Another Northern VA Potomac crossing and upgrades to I-66 inside the Beltway are vital to maintaining Northern Virginia's economic vitality. How will you work with MD and VDOT to achieve these transportation needs?

Mark L. Earley: I support the creation of an additional Potomac crossing, and in the absence of a federal study on the issue, my administration will undertake one. It is also important that the state proceed as soon as possible with any number of construction projects in Northern Virginia -- something that my transportation plan will allow us to do as soon as I hit the ground running as Governor.

Throughout my ten years in the State Senate and four years as Attorney General, I have developed a reputation as a consensus builder. It is vital that the next Governor build a strong relationship with the Governor of Maryland -- as I have as Attorney General with the Attorney General of Maryland.

South Riding, VA: How do you feel about stem cell research?

Mark L. Earley: I support stem cell research. However, I do not believe we should be using federal tax dollars for experiments on live human embryos that are then destroyed in their first week of development. Since currently, stem cells can be obtained from adults, and in other ways that do no harm to the donor; and since there is yet no scientific consensus on which source of stem cells will eventually prove to be the most successful in treating disease, I support federal funding for research on adult sources -- not live, human embryos. I applaud President Bush for his position on this subject of using only the existing cell lines and not further destroying human life for the purpose of experimentation.

Hopewell, VA: Mr. Earley,

I've read national economists saying a tax increase during this time could jeopardize the entire country. Do you agree? And your opponent?

Mark L. Earley: In these uncertain economic times, the last thing Virginia's economy needs is to raise taxes. There is bipartisan agreement on the federal level, that at this time, government needs to proceed with tax cuts to stimulate the economy. It would be irresponsible for the next Governor to counteract a federal stimulus package and to predicate any plan on a tax increase. I am the only candidate in this race -- Republican or Democrat -- to take a pledge not to raise taxes. In fact, my opponent has been asked over thirty times to sign such a pledge and has refused.

Richmond, Virginia: If Virginia was attacked by terrorists during your first thirty days in office, what actions would you take to protect the people of Virginia?

Mark L. Earley: As Governor, the first step I would take is to declare a state of emergency in our Commonwealth. Secondly, I would activate the Emergency Operations Center of Virginia. I would activate the State Police and deploy them to secure our infrastructure and to assist our local law enforcement officers. I would activate the Virginia National Guard to help the State Police and secure our citizens and our infrastructure. Finally, I would assemble the Cabinet to make sure that across the board, in every discipline, we are doing what we need to do to respond, to provide assistance to our first responders at the local levels -- our firefighters, our emergency service personnel, our health care professionals, our state troopers, our deputy sheriffs, and our State Police.

Richmond, Virginia: Are we spending too much, too little or not enough on education?

Mark L. Earley: It is the Republicans who have increased education spending by over $4.3 Billion, but Virginia -- like many other states -- is still struggling to attract and retain new teachers. I will raise teacher salaries to the national average, but I believe it is equally important to accompany this investment with accountability. To do that, I have proposed establishing competency tests for new teachers in the subject areas they teach, to enhance the level of instruction. I am also committed to reducing class sizes and will ensure that students are prepared and encouraged to learn by recruiting 21,000 mentors to work with Virginia's underserved children.

Bristol, VA: Do you support placing a moratorium on the death penalty in Virginia?

Mark L. Earley: No.

Arlington, Virginia: What, if any, changes need to be made to the Standards of Learning?

Mark L. Earley: I believe that high academic standards are important. We began our move toward the SOL's in the early '90's, when the business community came to us (the General Assembly) and said that there were too many children graduating who didn't fit into the workplace, who couldn't read and write, and who were being socially promoted.

I don't believe any child should be left behind. I don't believe any child in our community should have anything less than the highest expectations. The SOL's are a test to evaluate and help us parents measure how children are doing. The improvements that we have seen are very encouraging, and I am confident that students across Virginia will continue to improve their scores. The tests -- like any testing tool -- certainly need to be revised and evaluated on an ongoing basis.

I would like to see an essay test in the history exam. I would like to see students be able to access the SOL tests online, which promotes quicker remediation. I would like to see parents be able to access the SOL tests online to help their children, and be able to give appropriate feedback. I believe that we need to increase parental involvement in the lives of students, and I will work toward that end.

As a product of Virginia's public schools and as a father of six children -- all of whom are in Virginia's public schools, I recognize the importance of parental involvement in our young people's education.

Arlington, VA: As a resident of Arlington, I know how important Reagan National is to the economy of Northern Virginia. How would you, as Virginia's next Governor, help bring people back to Reagan and the surrounding areas?

Mark L. Earley: I was at Reagan National Airport earlier today, where along with Senator Warner, and other members of Virginia's Congressional delegation, I announced my plan to stimulate Virginia's economy and, particularly, to reinvigorate Virginia's tourism industry. As Governor, I will work with President Bush, Congress, and state and local leaders to stimulate the economy, particularly in Northern Virginia, whose economy has been so adversely affected by the closing and now, reduced traffic in and out of Reagan National Airport.

As Governor, I will establish a "New Century Task Force on Economic Development," within the first 100 days of my administration; I will aggressively promote and market Virginia and increase funding for business outreach, advertising, and trade missions; I will create a Hospitality Industry Training Initiative to assist our Commonwealth's tourism industry; and I will use Virginia's unique history as a marketing tool. I will accomplish all of these goals without raising taxes.

washingtonpost.com: That was our last question today. Thanks for Mark Earley for joining us and to our readers.

© Copyright 2001 The Washington Post Company


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