Health care, immigration and the economy were hot-button issues at the Asian American Northern Virginia Candidate forum that featured political candidates running in Virginia’s congressional and senatorial districts.
The event Friday night was hosted by several Virginia Asian-American organizations and focused specifically on issues that affect the Asian-American community.
Congressman Jim Moran (D-8th) sent a representative in his place, Austin Durr, to face off against challenger Col. Patrick Murray. Missing from the invitation list were Independent candidates running in each of the districts.
Asian American Voters Could Turn Election
Asian Americans make up a large majority of the population of Northern Virginia and comprise 17.6 percent (or 193,180 people) of Fairfax County, according to 2010 Census numbers.
According to a telephone survey conducted earlier this year, political campaigns at the presidential, congressional and senatorial levels have an opportunity to court votes in the Asian-American community that could turn the election in their favor. In Virginia, the survey estimates 26 percent of Asian Americans are currently undecided.
During the forum, Christine Chen, executive director with APIA Vote, said the survey also found that Asian American voters in Virginia favored democrats on “pocketbook issues, the economy, education, health care, and values to treat all Americans fairly, but are more divided on national security and the budget deficit.”
Candidates Discuss Immigration and the Economy
Each candidate was given one minute to answer each of the questions posed to them, and the questions were different for each district.
Following a question about Bush-era tax cuts, Durr told the audience that the country has pulled out of the recession, which according to the Washington Post and the National Bureau of Economic Research, ended in 2010.
"We are not in a recession right now. Thankfully, we pulled out a couple years ago. Our economic times are still very difficult, but technically, we’re not in a recession," said Durr.
Murray disagreed with Durr’s claim, arguing the unemployed Americans in the country would disagree. [See video above for full response.]
Candidates Discuss Citizenship, Energy Resources and More
When asked if birthright citizenship should be eliminated, Durr told the audience Moran supports the system.
“It’s not the children’s fault that they were brought over here and born in this country, so they deserve the right to have citizenship, go to school and be educated and become a functioning part of our society. That’s what strengthens our community and diversity, said Durr.
Murray agreed that maintaining diversity in the United States was important.
“We’re a county of immigrants,” said Murray. “Frankly, I don’t get a lot of agreement with my party, but I think it’s hard to punish someone who by no choice of their own was brought over here. I think we need to find a way forward, but we have to do it in a bipartisan way. I want to put people over politics and that’s all people and that’s regardless of party and if we work together and put people first, we can come together and create some of these solutions.”
On the topic of immigration and whether businesses should be penalized for hiring undocumented immigrants, Murray said he supports businesses using e-Verify to check on immigration status.
“It’s a system that would work well to force businesses to enforce the law, but also gives them a tool to help,” said Murray.
Moran’s position on undocumented immigrants, according to Durr, is, “If you break the law, you should be deported, and that should be the standard.”
A $700 Billion Question on Medicare
During the debate, Murray also butted heads with Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-11th) about the Affordable Care Act. Murray stated that the act takes $716 billion out of Medicare and calling it an “incontrovertible fact”. Murray’s comment drew strong, negative reaction from Connolly and the audience.
“That is a bogus $700 billion claim, Mr. Murray. Not a dime will be cut to benefits and the same $700 billion savings is in [Republican Vice President nominee] Paul Ryan’s budget,” said Connolly.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, the Affordable Care Act reduces future growth in Medicare costs by $716 billion over 10 years. Both the Republican and Democratic parties have criticized the other over Medicare cuts or savings.
Durr told the audience Moran strongly supports Social Security and Medicare, but said the programs are not perfect.
“There need to be some reforms to Medicare obviously, but the proposal that our opponent and the Republicans with the Ryan budget would turn Medicare into a voucher system, that’s not good for anybody. Moran opposes that and wants to keep Medicare operating as it currently is, but there are going to have to be changes to the program to ensure its fiscal stability in the long run,” Durr said.
Watch the video above to listen to Murray and Durr discuss trade relationships between the United States, China and India.
Following the congressional forum, Virginia senatorial candidates Gov. George Allen (R) and Gov. Tim Kaine (D) were expected to speak. However, both Allen and Kaine could not attend and were represented by Del. Jim LeMunyon (R-67th) and Del. Mark Keam (D-35th), respectively.
Watch videos from Keam and LeMunyon at the forum here.