Clinton, Wittman, Taylor: governing as serious work

The Virginia Gazette has long endorsed candidates seeking election to public office, from the top of the ticket on down. We do so again today.

In browsing through some old newspapers to get a sense of the positions we've taken in the past, one thing was clear: we have always endorsed based on the candidate's positions, not party affiliation.

We've endorsed George Bush, John Kerry and Barack Obama — once. In 2012, we declined to make any endorsements. We've endorsed Democrat Chuck Robb for Senate, Republican Jo Ann Davis for Congress, Democrat Mark Herring for Attorney General and Republican Mike Watson for the House of Delegates.

Our position has been that the well-being of our community, our state and our nation is in the hands of hard-working citizens, not a political party.

That remains our position today.

Our take on who made our grade is below. We understand that others, possessed of the same information may come to different conclusions; so the democratic process goes.

President: Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton's seriousness of purpose, experience and stamina commend her as best fit for this office. Her platform is exhaustive and filled with fine points, but here are some things we find especially important:

On fighting terror, there are two parallel paths: Shut down ISIS in Iraq and Syria while working with our allies root out global terror networks. And we need to do what it takes — support law enforcement efforts at building bridges with Muslim communities, improve intelligence gathering, allow the FBI to stop selling guns to those on terror watch lists — to make life safer here at home.

On taxes, she wants those who are able to pay more to do so. She supports measures like the Buffett Rule that would impose a minimum 30 percent tax on individuals making more than $1 million a year. She also backs assessing an "exit fee" on businesses leaving the U.S. for friendlier climes.

On immigration, her focus on families is firm. She promises comprehensive reform within the first 100 days of her administration, if elected, and that reform would include a path to citizenship. She wants families to be able to buy health insurance through the Affordable Care Act.

On guns, she wants to expand background checks, close gun-show and internet-sale loopholes, and she wants those convicted of domestic abuse, the mentally ill and violent criminals to be barred from owning guns.

Her plan for a free college education at a public college sounds great, but we still don't understand how states will have enough money to make it happen. States have struggled to maintain their financial support for higher education since before the recession. We do like her proposal that those already carrying student debt be allowed to refinance it at current market rates and be able to set up an income-based repayment plan.

She supports providing up to 12 weeks of paid family leave to care for a new child or a sick family member, or to recover from an illness. She wants to guarantee workers would receive two-thirds of their rate of pay while on leave. This is one of the areas where she would invest the money collected by taxing higher wage earners.

For those who point out Clinton's failings, let us not forget that governing is a collaborative process. Each branch — executive, legislative and judicial — and the citizenry keep checks and balances on the other. When she was called before Congress to answer questions about Benghazi and her email server, she went. She did not seek executive privilege. You may not have liked her answers, but she showed, in no uncertain terms, that she understands and respects how governing works.

But, we cannot bring up the presidency without talking about Republican candidate Donald Trump.

Perhaps there is a successful business person out there who could make the transition from a life of a celebrity businessman to a life of public service, but Donald Trump is not that person.

As a disruptor, he plays a starring role.

Saying he'll build a wall across the Mexican border or will deport several million immigrants or ban Muslims or not pay taxes and then complain about the state of the military is the spaghetti you throw on the wall to begin a discussion about serious issues. They're not conclusions, they're not policies, they are not worthy of serious discussion by a serious candidate.

A candidate who contends they are does not warrant serious consideration.

1st Congressional District: Rob Wittman

Republican Rob Wittman has represented the 1st District since 2007, and we like his experience in Washington and where he stands on some important issues, such as taxes and budgets. One particular thought resonated here, and it boils down to: first things first. Before we can talk about cutting or raising taxes, we need to confront the fact of how much money we want to spend.

He's in favor of a biennial federal budget — that's how we run things here in Virginia — saying it would give Congress more time to make thoughtful decisions on how to spend the tax money we collect, how to make adjustments to how much we collect and from where.

But Wittman's biggest asset is his experience. He serves on two House committees of special interest to our area: House Armed Services Committee, and the House Committee on Natural Resources.

While Wittman backed cuts to pay and benefits for service members to avoid base closures, generally, his support of legislation to help veterans and his own personal volunteer work on their behalf serves him — and us — well.

We also applaud his work on the natural resources committee; Wittman wrote the Chesapeake Bay Accountability and Recovery Act, which he described as enhancing coordination, flexibility and efficiency of restoration efforts on the bay.

Wittman has been in the House as partisan politics gridlocked government. He has tried to get traction on a measure that would keep Congress in session through the traditional August break, a stay-until-its-done approach to work. He's had no takers yet.

Wittman's opponents merit mention.

Matt Rowe, a Democrat serving on the Bowling Green Town Council, comes across as smart, engaged and focused on many of the right things: ending partisan gridlock, being accountable for veterans' affairs, and supporting paid family and medical leave. More experience in a larger office will prepare him for eventual work in Washington.

Gail Parker, of the Independent Green Party, is a stunningly focused advocate for rail. While rail should be part of the fix for the region's transportation problems, it's not a panacea. A broader platform could bring more attention and support.

2nd Congressional District: Scott Taylor

Republican Scott Taylor, a member of the House of Delegates from the 85th District, seems to be a straight talker on a lot of things; some with agree with, others not so much. But we like knowing where he stands and where those stands lead him.

On Social Security, he sees fixing it will be the work of his generation — the retirement age will need to be pushed back several years so the system can regain its strength.

On budgets, like Wittman, he supports a biennial budget as a way to bring more stability and thoughtfulness to the process.

On trade, he thinks it's time to update NAFTA and he sees merit in the TPP — he makes the point that, of course, the U.S. wants to trade with Far East nations — but everyone needs to be a party to the partnership. No side agreements.

On clean-up efforts on the Chesapeake Bay, he wants to see a balance between environmental and business interests. He says we need to look at the economic impact of regulations and consider whether to include sunset provisions in the measures.

Taylor studied international relations at Harvard and served eight years as a Navy SEAL, with tours in the Middle East and elsewhere. His background in defense and foreign policy is strong, and will serve him well as we continue to look for solutions to the refugee crisis in that area.

By comparison, Shaun Brown, a successful businesswoman from Newport News with degrees from Brown University, the London School of Economics, and St. Hilda's College at Oxford, seems light on specifics when she talks about issues.

She wants what many in the district want: economic opportunity, retirement security, $15 minimum wage, Wall Street reform, energy independence, and support for veterans' issues. But we haven't seen anything to convince us she knows how to make those things happen.

Wednesday: endorsements for the 1st State Senate district, 93rd House of Delegates district, W-JCC School Board, Powhatan District

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