This is a Q-and-A with Gerry Connolly, Democrat incumbent candidate for Virginia’s 11th Congressional District. His answers are unedited. To read thoughts from Republican Candidate Suzanne Scholte, read Reston Now’s Q-and-A with her.
Reston Now: You have been in close races and you have also won big in the past. You are leading this race in fundraising, have the endorsement of Washington Post and your opponent has never held elected office. Do you ever take any challenger lightly?
Gerry Connolly: I don’t take any election lightly and always run like the devil is at my heels. This year is no different. Representing Northern Virginia in Congress is the great honor of my life and I never take it for granted.
RN: Midterm elections can be tough. Have you approached this campaign any differently?
GC: Every campaign is, of course, a little bit different. But just like in previous campaigns, I am running on my record of getting things done for Northern Virginia. Since my first election in 1995, I have worked with Democrats and Republicans to grow our economy, invest in transportation improvements, and make our community a great place to raise a family.
My opponent and I have very different views and philosophies of government. I am pro-choice — she is a leader of a right-wing organization that wants to ban abortion, even in cases of rape and incest, end funding for Planned Parenthood, and limit access to birth control for women.
I support reasonable gun safety measures — she has an “A” rating from the NRA and is their choice because she would support their extreme agenda.
I support the DREAM Act and comprehensive immigration reform — she opposes citizenship even for the children of undocumented immigrants. She certainly has a right to those views, but they just don’t reflect Northern Virginia or Reston values.
RN: With Jim Moran and Frank Wolf retiring, you will be the senior rep from Northern Virginia if you win. How will you use your experience to get things done in a Congress that, well, is known for a gridlock.
GC: We are losing some seniority with Jim and Frank retiring. But the good news is that I’ve built up a lot of seniority in a short period of time on my two committees — Oversight and Government Reform and Foreign Affairs. I’ll be able to use that seniority to continue working on issues critical to federal employees, federal contractors, and the many diverse communities of Northern Virginia.
You have to work with both sides of the aisle to get things done. For example, I wrote and passed the Federal Information Technology and Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) with Chairman Darrell Issa. Darrell and I agree on almost nothing, but we came together on this legislation because we agree that we can save taxpayer dollars by improving the federal IT acquisition process. Multiplying those kinds of efforts is the only way to break the gridlock.
RN: You were key in getting the Silver Line here to Reston, but Northern Virginia still has many transportation issues. What will be your top priorities for this next session?
GC: I spent nearly 20 years of my life working on the Silver Line. At times, it was a lonely journey but we came together — Democrats and Republicans — to get it done. Phase I is up and running and has exceeded ridership projections. The complicated financing package for Phase II, including a $1.9 billion federal loan guarantee I helped secure, is in place and construction has begun. Shepherding that project to completion will be a top priority in the next two years.
We also need to continue making investments in Metro’s capital program for new rail cars and an overall improvement in the system’s safety and reliability. The $150 million annual federal appropriation is critical to that effort and I will continue fighting for it each and every year.
We made a lot of road improvements over the last five years with Recovery Act funds, but now we need to focus on passing a long-term transportation authorization bill that will allow Northern Virginia and communities across the nation to make real plans to improve our road, rail, and transit networks. That’s an area where Democrats and Republicans must come together to find a solution. I’ll be pushing for that.
RN: What are four other top priorities to help Northern Virginians in Washington this next session?
GC: First, we need to stop the kind of fiscal brinksmanship that brought us the government shutdown and sequestration. Northern Virginians have paid the price for Tea Party intransigence and irresponsibility. We can’t let that happen again. I opposed the shutdown and sequestration because we need to make spending reductions with a scalpel, not a meat ax.
Then we need to pass my FAIR Pay Act, giving federal employees the 3.3 percent raise they deserve after the demoralizing last four years in which they’ve endured abuse, furloughs, pay freezes, and benefit cuts.
We need to protect Social Security and Medicare, because our seniors have earned them. We can come together to strengthen both programs for future generations without slashing benefits.
Finally, we have to pass comprehensive immigration reform. I support the bipartisan legislation that passed the Senate and hope the House leadership will bring it to the floor for an up and down vote.