October 7, 2009
The two candidates for the Virginia 20th District House of Delegates seat debated last night on WHSV-TV3. (One of the questioners was Cindy Correll from the News Leader, which has a link to a video replay adjacent to that news story.) There were no big dramatic moments or gaffes, and the exchange was very civil, focusing on the issues. Early on, Republican Dickie Bell explained the delay in arranging the debates on the basis of Democrat Eric Curren's abrupt "invitation" to debate that was issued via the news media rather than to Bell himself. That kind of gesture seems like grandstanding, and I can sympathize with Bell's irritation at the less-than-courteous way it was done.
The Democrat Curren says he wants to "modernize" Virginia's tax bracket so as to keep pace with the rate of inflation. Now there's a clever euphemism for "increase"! He also supports the "right to work," but then qualified that by saying that term is not properly understood, as a prelude to expressing support for labor unions. A dazzling exhibition of fence-straddling, ladies and gentlemen! Well, anyone who belongs to the same party as President Obama will have to resort to some creative rhetorical maneuvers to win in a conservative area such as this. Curren is still a little awkward in public speaking, and he seemed to strain just a bit to establish his experience in private business. Clearly, he hopes to appeal to moderate voters.
For his part, the Republican Bell maintained a calm but direct demeanor throughout the debate. As he said, his voting record on the Staunton City Council is well-known to all, and his credentials as a "small-government conservative" are unassailable. As for transportation, he mentioned creative financial tools to pay for needed improvements, but sounded pessimistic about the issue in general, doubting that it will be solved any time soon. (I happen to agree with him that toll roads may be necessary at some point.) Bell agreed in part with Curren that "rail can be part of the solution. I don't think it's the total solution..." He also expressed mild skepticism about the whole "green jobs" idea, which is one of Curren's main issues. Bell's common sense and sincerity make him appealing to a wide range of voters, and will serve him very well on Election Day.
Apparently, the question of Curren's eclectic blend of Christian and Buddhist religious beliefs did not come up during the debate, which is just as well.