QWhat is the main issue in this race?
AThe main issue is that voters in Northern Virginia are looking for a representative who will vote the right way and demonstrate sound judgment. For too long they've been disappointed that their representative doesn't demonstrate sound judgment on a regular basis, and they want to do better.
What's the one issue 8th District constituents are most concerned about?
Transportation and growth policy is number one. We are ranked as having perhaps the second-worst traffic congestion problems in the country. It is a problem that seems intractable. Voters are looking for new ideas, new approaches to addressing this concern.
Do you support the war against Iraq?
No. I believed and continue to believe that the premise under which we were going to war was faulty, that there was no imminent threat to the United States and that although Saddam Hussein was a terrible tyrant for whom I have no sympathy, I am very concerned in the unilateral manner in which we went to combat. I have always been concerned that we were not facing an imminent threat to our national security, which in my opinion is a vital element to any decision to send our troops in harm's way.
What do you think of current U.S. policy in Iraq and the administration's handling of the prisoner abuse allegations?
I think that our policy in Iraq demonstrates the lack of any forethought that this administration brought to bear on the decision to go to war. It demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the situation in Iraq and of the wants and desires of the Iraqi people. I think that in regard to the prison abuse, that Defense Secretary Donald [H.] Rumsfeld ought to resign and take responsibility for these unacceptable practices that appear to have been approved at the highest level of our government.
Do you support the planned June 30 turnover of the government to the Iraqis?
I would like our troops to return from Iraq as soon as possible, and I would like to see control handed over to the Iraqi government as soon as possible. That said, I don't believe in arbitrary deadlines. I believe the situation there needs to be stabilized before we can realistically expect to have a government to hand control over to. It [the turnover date] doesn't look realistic to me right now.
There is a difference between the candidates on the issue of banning late-term abortions. Can you explain your position?
My position is that as difficult as a decision to terminate a pregnancy is at any stage, it is a decision that must be made by the woman who is carrying the fetus. The government has no business telling a woman what to do in those circumstances. And as traumatic as late-term abortion is, it is a very rare procedure. It is usually only utilized by a woman who wants to have a child but for whom the health implications of a difficult pregnancy make that impossible.
The district includes Arlington and parts of Fairfax. Many Fairfax commuters would love to see Interstate 66 widened inside the Capital Beltway, while many in Arlington oppose that. Would you work for federal money to widen I-66?
No. I believe that our transportation problems need to be addressed by new ideas and new investment in public transportation but that the building of new roads should be a last resort. We must first make sure that we are efficiently using the roads that we have. And I think that we need new ideas brought to bear on that challenge.
We need to bring more creativity to bear in the way we use our roads during peak rush hours. We have far too few incentives for commuters to telecommute, for commuters to commute in off-peak hours and for commuters to utilize mass transportation. Until we have done everything we can to maximize those options, we should not be disrupting people's lives by building new roads or expanding existing roads.
How do you beat a well-known opponent when you yourself are not that well known?
You beat him by providing voters with a preferable alternative, with somebody who will vote the right way and do the right thing every day. I have to earn the support of voters. I have to work hard to demonstrate that I am of the quality and character and the integrity and the courage to represent this district. I am encouraged that as voters learn who I am, they are finding that I am the kind of person that they feel comfortable having as their representative.
In Virginia, primaries are open to all voters. Are you trying to get Republicans to vote for you?
I welcome anybody's support. But I am a Democrat. And I'm a proud Democrat. But there are many people of independent minds in this district who simply want to be represented by somebody in whom they have respect. And to the degree that there are voters in Northern Virginia who want to support me because they believe I'll do a better job of representing the district with integrity, I welcome their vote.
Rep. [James P.] Moran has questioned your Democratic credentials, saying you voted in a Republican primary, that you haven't been involved heavily in local Democratic committees. How do you respond to him questioning your Democratic credentials?
I think that that's laughable. I am a former staff person to Sen. [Edward M.] Kennedy (D-Mass.). I have been very involved in Democratic causes and Democratic campaigns throughout my entire adult life. It is a nonissue. It demonstrates his desperation.
Rep. Moran says the majority of your campaign funds have come from outside Northern Virginia. How do you respond to that?
We have gotten tremendous support from hundreds and hundreds of Northern Virginians who are supporting my campaign. By contrast, congressman Moran raises most of his money from corporate PACs [political action committees]. I have received virtually no money from corporate PACs because corporations have nothing to gain, no access to gain by supporting my candidacy. My fundraising is coming from individuals who are looking to bring real and positive change to Northern Virginia. And I would be willing to bet that we have more individuals from Northern Virginia contributing to my campaign, volunteering for my campaign, than he does. Which is a remarkable statement for someone who has been in office for as long as he has.
Will Rep. Moran's chances be hampered by his comments last year that the United States would not be in the war if it were not for the support of the Jewish community? Are you making his comments an issue in your campaign?
His comments are an issue in the campaign to the degree that they are one of the string of inappropriate comments and actions that he has taken over a long and controversial career. I hope that those sorts of comments create problems for him, because they have no place in our country. They have no place in our Democratic Party. Sen. [Thomas A.] Daschle (D-S.D.) and Rep. [Nancy] Pelosi (D-Calif.) and many other of his colleagues on Capitol Hill have spoken to that effect. It is not the sole reason I am running against him by any means, but it is certainly demonstrative of his lack of judgment.