With Mark R. Warner (D)
Candidate for Governor
Tuesday, June 12, 2001; 11 a.m.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark R. Warner will discuss campaign issues and his plans for the upcoming Nov. 6 election against his opponent, Mark L. Earley (R).
Warner, founder of MRW Enterprises, a million-dollar telecommunications firm, also
helped start the Virginia Health Care Foundation and has participated
in outreach to historically black colleges.
In 1996, he lost his bid to unseat U.S. Sen. John W. Warner (R), a race that cost him $10 million. What are some of the challenges he expects for this race?
How does he plan to swing the votes of Virginia moderates?
Should Earley fear Warner's deep pockets and his upstart television advertising campaign?
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Good morning, we would like to welcome Va. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark R. Warner. Let's get started.
Mark R. Warner: Good morning. Glad to be here.
I am going to vote in the primary today, and would like to see the candidates of your choice win. Do you have any endorsements?
Mark R. Warner: I've not endorsed any of the candidates. I think they each offer different strengths, but I would urge you to go vote for the candidate of your choice and encourage your friends to do so. It will make whatever candidates emerge even stronger.
What would be your highest legislative priorities as Governor?
Mark R. Warner: Making sure we have a world-class workforce, which means focusing on education. Having an infrastructure to improve quality of life, which means not only roads, but also rail and transit and also increasing bandwidth to all communities in Virginia. And finally, moving past traditional partisan politics, to actually get something done.
Mr. Warner, have you held elective office previously? If so, at what level of government?
Mark R. Warner: No, I've never held elective office; and if you like what's been going on in Richmond the last 6 months, I'm probably not your choice. The current leaders in Richmond have not even been able to fulfill their most basic responsibility, which is to come up with a budget, and the people of Virginia will see the results of politics as usual when the see construction at our colleges stopped, teachers and state employees and deputy sheriffs not getting raises, and failure to have meaningful reforms in the department of transportation. But I do have a record. A record of seeing a problem and getting results. I'm proud of the fact that I helped start over 50 telecom and information technology businesses that employ over 15,000 people; proud that I helped start the Virginia Health Care Foundation that has helped more than 400,000 people get health care; proud that I helped start seniornavigator.com, an interactive website that helps seniors and their caregivers get answers; proud of my record of seeing that we can't have all the good jobs just be in Northern Virginia, and that we must have a commitment to economic success all over the state - and we have started regional venture capital funds in Southside, Southwest, greater Richmond, and Hampton Roads; proud to have started a digital divide initiative in churches and other houses of worship that has now helped train close to 10,000 people in basic technology skills; proud to have started the Virginia high-tech Partnership which has linked students from Virginia's 5 Historically Black Colleges with internships and jobs at over 100 technology companies around Virginia; proud to have chaired the Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges and started the Tek.Xam, a technology assessment tool for liberal arts students. So while I haven't held elective office, I do have a record in economic development, health care, education, and the digital divide - a record I'm anxious to lay out for the people of Virginia.
On the Beltway in Traffic:
After your general election win, how do you intend to tackle the crushing problem of traffic in No. Va.?
Mark R. Warner: One of the things we need is meaningful reform at VDOT. Do you know that a lawyer actually runs VDOT now? We need to put transportation professionals in charge, not political people. We need to demand greater accountability. The Springfield Mixing Bowl project has hundreds of millions of dollars in cost overruns, and no one has been held accountable. We also need a Governor in Virginia who is willing to sit down with the Governor of Maryland and work on regional transportation issues. And finally, Northern Virginia ought to have the right, after a referendum of the voters, to take responsibility for its part of its own transportation problems if Richmond is not going to provide adequate relief.
What are you going to do about education in Virginia?
Mark R. Warner: First of all, we could spend the rest of the time simply outlining my views on education. I urge you to check out m website, www.markwarner2001.org. But let me give you a couple of suggestions you might not hear from most politicians. First, I'd like to have a greater emphasis on vocational and technical training. It may not be the appropriate choice for every student to go to a 4-year college. We need to stop treating vocational education as a second class education. Second, I do think we need to hold our schools accountable, but in a world that requires innovation, we need standards of accountability that measure real learning and not just rote memorization, so I have some ideas I'll be outlining later in the campaign on how we can improve the SOLs. Third, I think we need to be more creative about how we attract and recruit good quality teachers. In addition to supporting a teacher pay increase, I've also got some ideas about how we might create a stock option plan for teachers to make teachers owners in Virginia's economy, the same way many of the high tech companies recruit and retain high-quality workers. Fourth, lifelong learning is a necessity. Our community colleges are the frontline of worker retraining and as we've seen when economic dislocation takes place, for example in Martinsville when the textile mills closed, our community colleges were overwhelmed. We need to be better prepared and help redefine the role of community colleges. Five, our public colleges and universities in Virginia are our single greatest asset. They ought not to be the first plea a Governor goes to cut the budget. I've already proposed a series of ideas on higher education - one would include committing 2% of general fund revenues to infrastructure investments in our colleges and universities. This would mean almost a billion-dollar investment over the next four years. I've also outlined a Commonwealth Scholars program that would meet the funding gap for those students who are in the top twenty percent in their high school class and get in to Virginia college and universities so that financial need is not a barrier to attending Virginia colleges.
Mark, do you agree with Mark Earley when he says that this election is going to be a referendum on President Bush?
Mark R. Warner: No. I think Virginians are independent thinkers, and I think this will be a contest between our competing visions for Virginia. So far all we've heard from our opposition are negative attacks against me. I would again urge Mr. Earley to join me in a clean campaign. We ought to both adopt the "stand by your ad" legislation that was passed unanimously this year in the House of Delegates, which requires candidates to put their own face in the ad if they mention their opponent. Let's make this a campaign about ideas and not about ideas and who's left standing after months of negative attack.
I am extremely interested in the state of public education, what is your stance on vouchers, charter schools, mandatory limits on funding, and taxing authority for local schools?
Mark R. Warner: I don't support vouchers. My opponent does. I do support public charter schools and public school choice. Public charter schools and public school choice inside our public school system may generate more creativity and entrepreneurial approaches to education.
As an African American, small minority business development is important to me. What will you do to spur growth in this sector of business?
Mark R. Warner: Many minority businesses have difficult times accessing capital. We need to develop more sources of capital. I've already been active in this field by creating regional venture capital funds. I also believe that the in the office of minority business development, we need to put a person with business experience and not just another politician. We need to also encourage in our school systems the training of more basic business principles, so that particularly first generation minority businesses are more familiar with some of the building blocks of starting a business. In many ways the struggle in the 21st century for full participation for minority Americans is not just for civil rights but economic opportunity, to make sure that the American dream is truly open to everyone.
Ft. Washington, MD:
Relations between Virginia and the close by areas of Maryland and DC seem very strained. Will you do better as Governor?
Mark R. Warner: I agree that it's ridiculous that the Governor of Maryland and the Governor of Virginia don't seem to even be able to sit down and discuss our problems. Our economy is a regional economy, and the two Governors - the Mayor of the District - need to be able to sit down and discuss transportation, economic development, water, and other issues. The Potomac River should not be a giant moat that separates us. I'll work with our regional leaders to make sure we address these problems on a regional basis.
Fairfax Station, VA:
How will you address the still indefinite execution of Governor Gilmore's car-tax elimination plan?
Mark R. Warner: I will finish eliminating the car tax as Governor. But as a businessman and a fiscal conservative, I can't promise that we can finish it next year before I take a look at the state's books and see how the economy is doing. This year, the Governor and the legislature couldn't even agree on the state's fiscal condition, and consequently couldn't even agree on a budget. Let me outline how I will finish the car tax without jeopardizing our commitment to education, transportation and other essential services. First, we have to grow the economy in the whole state, not just in Northern Virginia. Unless we can see economic renewal in rural Virginia, especially Southside and Southwest Va., we will never be able to solve this problem. Second, we've got to demand greater accountability in how the state spends. As a businessman and fiscal conservative, I think I can improve management and bring greater efficiency to state government. I can give you lots of examples, but let me just give you one right now: VDOT. Millions of dollars of cost overruns and no one is held accountable. Third, if a region of the state, like Northern Va., wants to take on part of its infrastructure needs and keep some resources in that region, after a referendum of the people, Northern Va. ought to be able to do that, and Richmond shouldn't be able to stop us.
What is the single most important thing you feel you can contribute to the state of Virginia?
Mark R. Warner: I bring an understanding that in the information age, everything is changing. The information age will change not only our economy, but how we educate our kids, how we deliver health care, the role of government and the very nature of our communities; and I don't believe most policy-makers, regardless of party, get it. The old partisan or regional approaches and politics as usual just don't work. I think I can bring a more entrepreneurial approach that focuses on getting results rather than simply scoring political points, and I urge you again to check out my website to see some of the examples of some of the projects that I've been involved in.
Do you have any Republicans and Independents supporting your campaign?
Mark R. Warner: I'm proud of the fact that we've had a record number of contributors to this campaign - almost 10,000. Which is twice as many as any previous Virginia gubernatorial candidate has had at this point in the campaign in state history. What demonstrates the reach of our campaign is that over half the money we've raised in this campaign has come from Republicans and independents. We will be announcing shortly an organization of Republicans and independents that will be supporting our campaign. As I've said along, this is not about R's vs. D's, it's about who understands the fundamental economic changes sweeping through our society, versus those who don't.
We would like to thank Mark Warner for joining us today, unfortunately that is all the time we have for today.
Mark R. Warner:
I've enjoyed this opportunity to do this online chat. I hope we'll be able to do it often through the remaining days of the campaign. If you didn't get your question answered, please write an email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll get back to you. I hope you'll also consider getting involved the campaign by going to my website and signing up for our ecampaign.
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