Oct 27, 2009

Meet the Local Candidates, stances on issues revealed

by Amanda Sullivan

With election day on the horizon, Liberty University students and faculty alike have been bombarded with a variety of ways to vote. Many students are uncertain how to cast their ballot because they are unsure of who the candidates are or where they stand on political issues. For this reason, The Champion staff has interviewed both candidates running for the House of Delegates.

Shannon Valentine (D) is defending her position as delegate against Dr. T. Scott Garrett (R). Valentine was elected to the House of Delegates on Jan. 10, 2006. Her legislative concerns have included “issues of economic development, health care, public safety, energy and the environment, education, open government and human rights,” according to ShannonValentine.net.

Garrett was elected to the Lynchburg City Council in May 2006. He is also a 1984 University of Virginia alumnus. Garrett has represented “fiscal responsibility, (including) keeping city government accountable to the taxpayers,” according to GarrettforDelegate.com.

Each candidate was given the same set of questions concerning their character, voting records and intentions for the future. The interviews also include where the candidates stand spiritually and how their faith plays a role in the decision- making process.

Below are the questions and answers.

If Roe v. Wade were overturned by the Supreme Court and a bill was introduced in Virginia to outlaw abortions except in cases of rape, incest and where the life of the mother is in jeopardy, how would you vote?
Scott Garrett (SG): I would vote for such legislation. As a father and a physician, I believe in the sanctity of life and am committed to protecting innocent human life. Roe v. Wade effectively devalues human life, a circumstance that ultimately diminishes the quality of life for everyone. There has been a dramatic increase in knowledge both scientifically and medically in the 36 years since the Roe v. Wade decision, and we know that the only difference between the born and the unborn, at any stage, is simply a matter of time and growth.

Shannon Valentine (SV): I am proud to have received the endorsement of the pro-life group, Democrats for Life, and I do not believe we should wait for Roe v. Wade to be overturned to do everything we can to reduce and eliminate the number of abortions being performed. As a mother and a legislator, I have worked on this issue so that 1) a woman does not find herself in this position, and 2) if she does, we as a community do all that we can to help her give life – always.

I believe all life is sacred.

I have voted to recognize the independent life of a fetus by my support of sonograms and anesthesia – both of which are believed to significantly reduce the requests for an abortion. I strongly support adoption, criminalizing harm to a fetus and protecting pregnant women from coercion of any kind that would lead to an abortion. And because a majority of women cite economic hardship as the main reason for choosing an abortion, I will continue to support and fund the Pregnant Women Support Fund.
I believe we are all in this together.

What is your position on supporting civil unions for gay couples in Virginia?
SG: I am opposed to permitting so-called civil unions. Essential to strong families, marriage is a sacred institution that has served as one of the key foundations of Western civilization. Efforts to redefine marriage devalue marriage, undermining its importance, threatening the family and diminishing our entire society. The creation of other unions to emulate marriage has the same effect as redefining marriage.

SV: In 2006, I had the opportunity to vote on the Marriage Amendment. I voted to define marriage as the union between one man and one woman, but did not vote to deny the “rights, benefits, obligations and legal status to persons not married.”

A bill was introduced in 2009 to repeal the marriage amendment, how would you vote concerning repealing the bill where marriage equals one man and one woman?
SG: I would vigorously oppose any effort to repeal, undermine, water-down or restrict Virginia’s Constitutional Amendment protecting marriage. Marriage is a sacred institution that should be reserved for one man and one woman. Further, if an amendment to the United States Constitution was offered to state legislatures for approval, I would vote for it as well.

SV: I have no plan to repeal the Marriage Amendment.

As a legislator, how would you vote concerning funding cuts for Virginia’s Tuition Assistance Grant program?
SG: I would oppose efforts to cut funding for the TAG program, which provides critical assistance for students (and, by extension, their families) attending schools like Liberty University. Keeping higher education affordable is essential to increasing opportunity in a changing and challenging job marketplace.

SV: I am a strong and consistent supporter of Tuition Assistance Grants, and I thank the many Liberty students who sent e-mails expressing appreciation. We did preserve the funding for undergraduate students across Virginia.
Also, as many students know, the funding for TAG for graduate students was removed this past year due to the severe budget shortfall. I joined with Delegate Bud Phillips to co-patron a budget amendment restoring this funding. While the final budget did not fully restore the funding, we did preserve $800,000 for graduate students in the field of health care. This is important for students attending Liberty University.

This year, the General Assembly will face budget deficits in the billions, how will you vote concerning defunding planned parenthood as the budget deficit increases?
SG: Planned Parenthood, the largest provider of abortions in the United States, should not be receiving taxpayer funding in the first place. I will vote to defund Planned Parenthood regardless of whether the state is experiencing a budget deficit or surplus.

SV: In my time in the General Assembly, I have voted to balance the budget without increasing debt, raising taxes or delaying tax refunds to citizens. I have supported $5.5 billion in spending cuts, and it is estimated that another $1.3 billion will be cut in fiscal year 2010. These cuts require hard choices. I will evaluate funding for all programs to ensure that we are being smart stewards of the money entrusted to us by taxpayers.

What is your stance on the health care bill?
SG: I strenuously oppose the national health care bill, HB 3200, for several reasons. While we would benefit from genuine reforms to health care, this measure will effectively result in a government takeover, which is not reform. The federal proposal ignores beneficial reforms, like tort reform, portability, health insurance cooperatives for groups and small businesses, and measures that would foster greater competition like allowing insurance purchases across state lines. While we need reforms, the proposed health care bill is not the answer.
It is too far-reaching in the governmental controls proposed and the American freedoms that would be negatively impacted by this legislation.

SV: I do not support a new government-run health care program.
Through my work with doctors, hospitals and as a member of the Medical Society of Virginia Foundation, I believe we must focus on quality of care and not volume of services. I believe we need to increase insurance competition by allowing interstate insurance transactions, address medical malpractice reform and preserve the choice and the trust between physicians and their patients.
I was very honored to be recognized as the Autism Advocate of the Year by the Challenged Sports Exchange for my work in helping children here in Virginia be diagnosed and treated with early, intensive intervention – changing lives and saving millions of dollars. This is the same philosophy I used when I worked with leaders here in Lynchburg to secure seed funding for PACE, a program that allows the elderly to stay in their homes as they receive medical care, keeping them from being forced into nursing homes. This improves their quality of life while, again saving)) millions of dollars of taxpayer money.

While I do not have a vote in Washington, I believe there is much we can do right here in Virginia to improve quality of care as we reduce the tremendous costs of health care.

What is your position on increased meals tax?
SG: I am adamantly opposed to increasing the tax on prepared meals, as I believe, at 11.5%, it is already steep.

SV: I voted to eliminate the food tax in SB6009 in 2008. I have
also led efforts to provide 13 different tax breaks for Virginians, including tax cuts for military families and the disabled.

In what ways do you think that Liberty University students voting will affect the election since Liberty is primarily a conservative pocket?
SG: Liberty University students will have a positive effect on the election. Considering the challenges confronting our nation, our commonwealth, our community and the potential long-term effects of today’s policy decision on those who will be matriculating in the next few years. We need Liberty University students to participate in our electoral process and in this election. We all need to value our vote and vote our values.

SV: My main concern is that students at all colleges have access to candidates, their records and their vision for our future. I have the support of Republicans and Democrats, and I believe my record clearly demonstrates I work diligently to represent everyone.

The real issue here is about access and fairness so that every citizen is able to make an informed decision.

How would you vote if a proposal was introduced to increase gas tax to fund transportation?
SG: I would vote against it. Our families cannot afford to pay more in taxes, and the recession only exacerbates that circumstance. An increase in the gas tax would negatively affect everyone in Virginia, hitting lower-income working families and seniors living on fixed incomes especially hard.

SV: I have already had that vote. In 2008, I voted against increasing the gas tax in SB6009. I am strong advocate for not taxing essentials like food, medicine and gas.
In the area of transportation, I believe we need a comprehensive system of transportation. For example, I led a bipartisan effort to establish intercity rail service from Lynchburg and Richmond to the Northeast Corridor. This service will run along two major highways, US29 and I-95, for three years, seven days a week at the cost of $17 million. Many students may not realize that the cost of one mile of road is now $20 million. So we not only need to look at taxes, we must look at reducing waste and creating new cost-effective ways to build a future.

What is your position on state funding for private organizations that perform abortions?
SG: I am pro life, and am opposed to any funding, state or otherwise, for abortions. Planned Parenthood performs more abortions than any other single entity in the United States, and Planned Parenthood Foundation Association’s income for fiscal year 2007 exceeded $1 billion, with nearly one-third of that amount coming from taxpayers. In a newsletter distributed to its abortionists, PPFA declared, “We see abortion as a necessary, desirable service and as an integral piece of comprehensive reproductive health care services.” Taxpayers should not be forced to contribute to any organization with such a mission.

SV: Whether private or public, any state funding should be limited to what is in the code of Virginia, which is rape and incest, and when the life and health of the mother is in jeopardy.

What is your position on state funding for abstinence-centered sex education programs?
SG: I strongly support funding for abstinence-centered sex education programs. Sex education programs that fail to promote abstinence do a disservice to students. Abstinence-centered programs are vitally important to efforts aimed at reducing out-of-wedlock childbearing among young adult women, improving child well-being and increasing adult happiness over the long term.

SV: As a mother of three, I support abstinence-centered education programs as long as there is access to complete information with parental approval. Evidence now demonstrates that comprehensive education with a focus on abstinence as the best and most effective approach.

I also voted for adding information regarding the benefits, value, responsibility and challenges of marriage in the Family Life Education Curriculum taught in all Virginia public schools.

What is your position on adding sexual orientation to the characteristics protected by Virginia’s “hate crimes” statute?
SG: I concur with the views of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia regarding “hate crimes” laws, and would oppose any effort to expand Virginia’s statute to include sexual orientation.

SV: I believe we are all God’s children, and we all deserve to live our lives without the threat of violence. I condemn all violent crimes committed against anyone for any reason. I do not believe we need a separate hate crimes statute.

What is your position on taxpayer funding of research that requires the destruction of embryos?
SG: I do not support taxpayer funding for research that results in the destruction of human embryos and, therefore, human life. As a physician, I am encouraged by the progress that is being made with research to discover cures and treatments for some of our most challenging disorders. Stem cell research that respects human life, such as adult stem cell and umbilical cord blood, are proving effective in advancing the science of cellular biology, making the destruction of human embryos unnecessary.

SV: I have already voted to support a state ban on embryonic stem cell research using embryos harvested from induced abortions. I also encourage the use of state funds for research using adult stem cells.

Who did you vote for in the 2008 presidential election?
SG: I voted for John McCain and Sarah Palin. Their values and issue positions were significantly closer to mine than were those expressed by Barack Obama and Joe Biden. As evidenced by what has transpired since Jan. 20 of this year, our nation and our world would have been far better off had John McCain and Sarah Palin won the 2008 election.

SV: In our democracy, this is a private decision.

What is your religious background and current religious stance?
SG: First and foremost, I am a Christian. I worship at a strong Methodist church and have for many years. While a member of city council, I had the opportunity to attend many other strong churches as a guest. The church is not confined to a building. Rather is a body of strong believers with strong doctrine.

SV: Every morning I wake asking God with all that I am, and all that I have, and all that I do that I may honor Him. I try to live as Jesus would live, and pray that I may be an instrument of His love and compassion in this world. Of course, I fall short every day.
Our family has attended St. Paul’s Episcopal Church for nearly 20 years.

For many years, I believed I would attend seminary. I completed both a four-year theology course called Education for Ministry and a year-long course called, Just Faith.

Like many of you, I am on a journey, trying my best to do God’s will.

How does your faith play a role in how you vote?
SG: My faith helps guide all of my decisions in life, including how I vote. Some do not believe that God should have any place in the public square. This is a viewpoint with which I thoroughly disagree and I believe to be detrimental to our society.

SV: I could not be in this position without my faith. My faith is my foundation for my votes, legislation and initiatives. From confronting the genocide in Darfur to standing up for children with autism, my faith reflects my belief that all life is sacred.

What is your position on prayer in public schools?
SG: I support students being allowed to pray in class, as their faith leads them. One of our most endearing freedoms is the freedom of religion, not the freedom from religion.

SV: I have always supported prayer in all public forums.

Why are you running for office?
SG: I am running for office, because I want Lynchburg and Amherst to lead the way for the rest of Virginia. My program of lower taxes, meaningful jobs and conservative values is what our region and commonwealth need to lead the way, not the misguided, government-dependent policies now fashionable in Washington. Everyone in Lynchburg and Amherst should be working together to create jobs and expand our economy, thus making our community a better place to live, work and raise a family.

SV: We are living in very serious times. Our Commonwealth is facing significant challenges that I believe will be addressed most effectively if all of us are willing to work together Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians and Independents for the purpose of serving our citizens and communities. Since being elected in 2006, I have been committed to being the kind of leader who puts people before party and politics. At this particular time in our history, I believe it is vital we continue on this path.

What do you plan to do or what have you done for Liberty and Lynchburg?
SG: In my capacity as an at-large member of city council, I have worked on numerous projects such as re-zoning issues to allow further development of Liberty property and improvements along Wards Road (with more to come!). I am working to help create the National Civil War Chaplains Museum next to Docs Diner on U.S. Route 460. To ensure that Lynchburg remains an inviting and wonderful place to raise a family or obtain a world-class education, I remain committed to economic development, arts/cultural offerings, heritage tourism, educational and smart business growth and development.

SV: I have been and will continue to be a consistent strong voice for Lynchburg and Liberty.

For Lynchburg: (for a complete listing, please visit shannonvalentine.net)
-Promoted economic development, job creation and long term growth
-Led effort for new rail service
-Promoted Lynchburg as a nuclear energy hub
-Supported center for advanced energy and research
-Introduced tax incentives for arts and cultural district in downtown Lynchburg
-Secured $25 million for infrastructure to clean the James River
-Introduced legislation to provide incentives for the creation of new jobs

For Liberty:
-Advocated for full TAG funding
-Co-patroned funding for TAG funding for graduate students
-Served as chief co-patron to allow private college representation on state SCHEV
-Led Effort to Confront Genocide in Darfur
-Advocated for Liberty’s educational partnership with Green Rock Correctional Ctr.
-Offered to introduce resolution on Invisible Children
-Consistently supported prayer in public forums

Why have you aligned yourself with your party versus running as an Independent?
SG: Conservative principles, free enterprise, individual responsibility and faith in God are what keep Virginia strong. These are the values of the Republican Party, and they are my values. I am proud to carry my party’s standard in this race.

SV: I believe it is a tremendous asset to Lynchburg and Liberty University to have voices rising up for them in both the Republican and Democratic caucuses, where so much debate takes place. I believe this is the reason we have been able to accomplish so much during these past four years.

Contact Amanda Sullivan at amsullivan3@liberty.edu.

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