15 Sep 2014
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Video: Petersen, Culipher Talk Business, Silver Line, Death Penalty

Candidates for the 34th District Senate seat answer resident questions at Vienna debate

The Silver Line was one issue on which Incumbent State Sen. Chap Petersen (D) and Republican challenger Gerarda Culipher couldn't agree Thursday night, in one of the first debates of the 34th District Senate race.

The debate at Vienna's American Legion gave the more than 60 residents that filled the hall an early glimpse of the candidates' positions on roads, businesses, jobs and taxes.

Culipher said she'd would work to triple the number of parking spaces allocated for stations on Silver Line, which would make Metro a more accessible option for commuters from Chantilly and Centreville, she said.

"Inadequate Metro parking is the single reason people do not use it," Culipher said. "I hear [that] time and again from the voters."

In regards to building the Silver Line through Tysons, which "frankly has been beset with problems," Petersen said, more revenue sources need to be brought to the table.

"This is the problem when you say no to every new tax. You want all sorts of new gadgets and roads and parking garages, but you can't have it both ways," he said. "Parking garages don’t generate revenue unless you want people to pay $20 every time they park at the Metro. They’re not generating revenue so someone has got to put up cash for it ... Either there's got to be a tax or someone has to come in and donate 20 million dollars."

Culipher said that kind of donation is precisely the kind she'd try to attract with her commuter tax credit.

Petersen said he would use Tysons as a way to inform other critical transportation needs in the 34th District, specifically on Route 66.

"How are we going to take with what we learned from Dulles Rail and how are we going to use it to make our Route 66 experience better? It's going to need to be improved over the next five to 10 years either by expanding the orange line or bringing in rapid bus transit," he said. "We’ve got to do something about that corridor because that’s where people live."

Environmental issues are in part what will drive Oakton resident John Byrne's vote, he said Thursday night.

"What are we going to do to make a better world for our kids?" he said.

Oakton resident Jim Walsh said he was refreshed by Culipher's perspective.

"We need people who think ahead, not live in the past," Walsh said. "It's time for new blood."

Voters, and the candidates, remarked that despite the differences, Petersen and Culipher engaged in a thoughtful, polite debate.

"There are so many occasions on which my opponent and I disagree: on policy, on political thought, on many, many things. But one thing we agree on is that the tenor of political discourse must be upbeat, it must be positive, it must be healthy," Culipher said. "More than civilized, it must be collegial."

Patch has run video clips of all voter questions asked at the forum.  

For Part One,

Watch the candidates' answers to the following questions, and their closing statements, in the media player above.

Question 5: Is there any possibility the $2.5 billion in Silver Line money will be shifted to highway improvements?

Question 6: Vienna has continued to see business growth over the past few years but much of it has come from chains or medium to large corporations. How will you help revitalize small town business throughout the district, especially as Tysons Corner takes shape? How can you help ease the process of starting a small business?

Question 7:  How do you feel about the use of the death penalty in the State of Virginia?

Question 8:  Sen. Petersen, what do you feel are your main accomplishments for your constituents as freshman senator? Ms. Culipher, why do you think you will be more successful than Sen. Petersen has been? Please be specific

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