Democratic candidates Tim Kaine and Anthony Flaccavento spent much of the day and night in Galax on Saturday, talking to a group at the Galax Presbyterian Church and visiting businesses on Main Street, as well as attending the 25th annual Poor Man’s Dinner and the Old Fiddlers’ Convention. Kaine, a former governor, is facing another former governor, George Allen, in the U.S. Senate race, while Flaccavento hopes to unseat Morgan Griffith in the 9th District U.S. House of Representatives election in November.
Prior to Kaine’s arrival in Galax, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney announced that he had selected Paul Ryan, author of the Republican House Budget, as his running mate. Although Kaine wouldn’t offer an opinion on why he thought Romney choose the representative from Wisconsin and favorite of the Tea Party, he did say it should help undecided voters with their decisions.
“It makes the choice very clear. Ryan’s plan pushes Medicare on to the shoulders of seniors, and he has already said he wants to privatize Social Security,” said Kaine, adding Ryan’s plan to balance the budget would only hurt the majority of Americans. “Balance the budget, but do it the right way. All the cuts Ryan proposes will devastate the economy. Let the Bush tax cuts expire for over $500,000 (in income), with no deep cuts in education, defense and health care.”
“We need to do three things,” continued Kaine. “We need to improve our infrastructure, level the playing field for small businesses in order to help the economy grow, and fund education and workforce development. It is easier to build a child, than to repair an adult. All children are born with gifts and talents, and we need to encourage those. An educated workforce is very important.”
In addition, Kaine said he supports the Affordable Health Care Act. “Seniors now get free preventative care and we’re closing the donut hole (in Medicare prescription coverage); children can stay on their parents’ insurance coverage up to 26 and insurance companies can’t beat people up with crippling health costs.”
He added that improvements in the “cost control” aspect of health care can also be seen in the “600,000 people who will receive a rebate check from their insurance companies. Health insurance companies must spend at least 80 percent of the premiums they receive directly on health care. I would also like to allow Medicare to negotiate with prescription companies. That could save $25 billion a year.”
One thing that bothers Kaine is the campaign approach of the Republican candidates. “The other side continually cranks out the doom and gloom. We’re not negative people, we’re not name-callers, we’re not obstructionist.”
Flaccavento, who has lived in Abingdon for the past 28 years, has worked in a variety of fields. Under his direction, over 200 houses for low-income families have been built; he has helped introduce tobacco farmers to alternative crops, and has been a leading proponent for farmers’ markets. He has also worked with the United Mine Workers.
He said he has three priorities, beginning with the “reversal of trickle-down economics. “It’s never worked and it never will,” said Flaccavento. “From World War II to 1980, our economy tripled in size, and everyone shared. In fact, the wealth of the poor and middle class grew even more. From 1980, it has been exactly the opposite, the wealthy have gotten wealthier and the earnings of the poor and middle class have gone down. The Walton family (owners of Wal-Mart) has more wealth then the bottom 120,000,000 people in this country. We need to invest in small business and independent banks, so they can lend people money. We need a bottom-up economy.”
A second priority, according to Flaccavento, is “administering to the needs of senior citizens, veterans and people living on the edge of the economy. We are a hard-working people, and we can have a strong economy by investing in our communities and our people.”
A final priority is “Getting money out of politics, and it’s not just because I hate fund raising,” said Flaccavento. “I’m a firm believer money has corrupted the process. A small number of people now control who gets elected. I’m in favor of the Fair Elections Now Act; it’s sensible and voluntary, and doesn’t equate money to free speech.”
The Fair Elections Now Act was re-introduced in 2011 in the Senate by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and in the House of Representatives by Reps. John Larson (D-Conn.), Walter Jones, Jr. (R-N.C.), and Chellie Pingree (D-Maine). The bill would allow federal candidates to choose to run for office without relying on large contributions, big money bundlers, or donations from lobbyists, and would be freed from the constant fundraising in order to focus on what people in their communities want.