Kojo and Tom Sherwood chat with D.C. Council Member Elissa Silverman (I-At Large)
D.C. officials lock horns with congressional Democrats over funding for the District during the federal government shutdown. The government closures continue to affect the economies of Maryland, Virginia and surrounding jurisdictions. And the political dynamics of divisive debates on Capitol Hill spillover into Virginia’s gubernatorial race. Join us for our weekly review of the politics, policies and personalities of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.
- Tom Sherwood Resident Analyst; NBC 4 reporter; and Columnist for the Current Newspapers
- Charles Allen Former Chief of Staff, D.C. Council Member Tommy Wells
- David Ramadan Member, Virginia House of Delegates (R - 87th District)
Virginia Del. David Ramadan said he does not support the current proposal for construction of the Bi-County Parkway. Ramadan represents the 87th district in Loudoun and Prince William counties, which the parkway would link. He said it was time for a “fresh start,” citing issues such as where the parkway would end, and said the proposal should be tabled for the next administration. “This project hasn’t matured yet,” he said.
Play The Politics Hour Quiz
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to the Politics Hour starring Tom Sherwood. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
MR. KOJO NNAMDITom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for the Current Newspapers. Today we're jumping right into the Ward 6 race for D.C. Council. We're going to be talking with candidate-to-beat Charles Allen. Tom, how does that work? Is this the Doug Gansler model? I'm not really in it yet until I formally announce, but actually I'm in it. That's the model Charles Allen seems to be following.
MR. TOM SHERWOODWell, Charles Allen was a government worker. He was chief of staff to Tommy Wells, a Ward 6 councilmember and, you know, it would be illegal for him to do any campaigning while he was being paid by the city, by the council. And so, he's done the right thing. He's been quite aware of the ethics issues in the city. And I think he doesn't want to trip over any of them.
NNAMDIUp until a week ago, Charles Allen was chief of staff to incumbent Tommy Wells who is running for mayor. We'll also be jumping into the race for delegate in Virginia's 87th district, talking with incumbent Republican David Ramadan. That will be very shortly. First, we have to talk about things that have been going on in the district, Tom Sherwood. A confrontation that you captured on camera between D.C. Mayor Vince Gray and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
NNAMDIMayor Gray was having his own press conference bemoaning the fact that the District was not being allowed to spend its own money. We're using an emergency fund that's running out of money. And at the same time, some top Senate Democratic leaders were having a conference nearby. Apparently Mayor Gray decided to gatecrash the Senate press conference. Tell us what happened after that.
SHERWOODWell, it was a violation of Senate decorum for sure. You know, the mayor had a very good event for the city on the Senate grounds. Saying that it's unfair that the District can't spend its own local tax dollars during a federal shutdown. He was told that Majority Leader Harry Reid -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was across just a short distance away, 25, 30, maybe 50 yards having his own press conference about the facts of the shutdown.
SHERWOODSo the mayor, after his, he walked over. And I thought he was going to walk over, wait until Harry Reid was available after his press conference and kind of talk to him on the Senate steps.
NNAMDIAre you the one who told him that Harry Reid was having a press conference nearby?
SHERWOODNo. But I knew he was...
NNAMDISounds like the kind of thing you'd do.
SHERWOODI was told that he was going to go over there. And I thought he would, like, walk up the Senate steps, the majestic Senate steps. There's a main talk and that would be good video. I didn't know that he was going to bogart his way right through the middle of the reporters and stand next to Harry Reid while Harry Reid was doing his national news conference. And I think that really irritated -- I was told later, that really irritated Harry Reid that the mayor did that.
SHERWOODAnd so of course when the mayor spoke to him, Harry Reid snapped at him and said, I'm on your side. Don't screw it up, okay? I'm on your side. That's a direct quote. And so he stomped off and the mayor was left kind of defending his action.
NNAMDIBut they seem to be so used to the District of Columbia acting with the appropriate decorum in every situation. Being snubbed, they're protesting in ways that are considered very mannerly. So to have the mayor of the District do something like this may have been upsetting. But could it also have been upsetting because the mayor was pushing a piece of legislation that had been approved by Republican Congressman Darrell Issa.
SHERWOODYes, the mayor stomped over after standing with Darrell Issa, one of the leaders of the Republican House, which is causing the fits and the shutdown. So that was not a good way to start. And then to go over and interrupt. You know, the senators, as much as they are 100 different persons, there is a decorous nature of the Senate which is you play -- you're at risk when you mess with that.
SHERWOODAnd Harry Reid, he seems to be a mild-mannered quiet person, he's a former boxer. He can be a tough guy. He remembers insults and he was embarrassed by this thing. The mayor has Senate floor privileges as mayor of the city, so that got him past the police line.
NNAMDII didn't know he was a former boxer.
NNAMDIHow far did he get?
SHERWOODI don't -- I knew you would ask me some detail. I didn't know. But point being, the mayor I think served his cause well by bringing this up on the national level.
NNAMDIHe later received the phone call from the Senate majority leader.
SHERWOODYeah, there was a phone call. It's not clear to me -- it was later that afternoon or the next day, yesterday. But in any event, there was a cordial conversation. Cordial conversation, in Senate speak means we were polite to each other, but we didn't agree. And so that's where we are with that.
NNAMDIAnd then of course our delegate to the House of Representatives was at the White House where apparently, according to the report I saw on NBC 4 that you did, apparently she had a couple of encounters there with the president who indicated that he understood that she was mad, but that she was just doing her job.
SHERWOODAnd she got mad and she did her wild woman routine because when she spoke about the city wanting to be exempt from the federal shutdown, the president kind of dismiss it in a way by saying, well, you know, all the states in the jurisdictions are having trouble. And so she corrected the president. No, Mr. President, she said, you know, this is unique to the District of Columbia that our local tax dollars are being held up by this federal fight.
SHERWOODAnd of course, she said that this wasn't personal like it was, I think, somewhat between this majority leader and the mayor. She says that after she spoke the president acknowledge that she was doing her job and he kind of hugged her and kissed her after it was all over. But the bottom line is, the nation's capital is treated differently than everyone else. And the city is unable to spend its local tax dollars.
NNAMDIThe District of Columbia, Montgomery County and Prince Georges County all seem to be collaborating on raising the living wage or raising the minimum wage. It would raise to an hourly salary of $11.50. It is a rare degree of collaboration. There is often cooperation but this is clear collaboration among the three jurisdictions. I guess no one wants to give the other any unfair competitive advantage. But Virginia isn't in the mix at all.
SHERWOODNo, it is not. This is part of the fallout from what was the summer hit movie, Wal-Mart, this is the more substantial fall release of the unions and the progressive politicians who want to raise the minimum wage from Maine to California. Here in this region, Prince Georges County, Montgomery County and the District of Columbia leaders all agree that they need to raise the minimum wage to $11.50 from its current $7.25.
SHERWOODAlthough the District is $8.25. But Virginia, and maybe we'll get into that with our next guest is at $7.25 and I don't see any movements there. But this represents about two and a half million people in the region who would be subject to that new minimum wage, which would be raised to $11.25 over a three-year period not right away.
NNAMDIAnd we will get into that with our next guest. Remind me to bring it up in case I do so forget. But it makes news in the Commonwealth of Virginia when former Governor Doug Wilder endorses a candidate for governor because with the former governor you never know where he's going to come down. He refuse to endorse the Democratic candidate in the last gubernatorial election. Here now he has come out in favor of Terry McAuliffe.
SHERWOODYou know, Doug Wilder loves this, oh, I'm going to wait until late and make an endorsement. And I know he didn't endorse Creigh Deeds in the last governor's race. And so he -- I don't know what he does. He's like the exorcist, he sits and spins his head around, decides what he's going to do. You know, we should have him on as a guest again.
NNAMDII'm sure he'll be happy to join us.
SHERWOODHe's a terrific guy. But he likes to make these dramatic announcements.
SHERWOODHe did endorse Terry McAuliffe. He likes to, you know, come in at the moment, Calvary (word?)
NNAMDIWhat does Doug Wilder deliver?
SHERWOODDoug Wilder has a substantial following. He is a former mayor of Richmond. He's a former governor of Virginia. He has a national following. He tends to be kind of brusque in what he says about things and people. So he does have some impact.
NNAMDIAnd he has, as we said earlier, endorsed the Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe which of course his Republican opponent is Ken Cuccinelli. And now joining us in studio is Republican David Ramadan. He's a member of the Virginia House of Delegates. He represents the Commonwealth 87th District, which is located in Lowden and Prince William Counties. Delegate Ramadan, thank you so much for joining us.
MR. DAVID RAMADANGreat to be back, Kojo. Good to see you. Good to see you, Tom.
NNAMDIIf you have questions or comments for David Ramadan, call us at 800-433-8850. You can send email to email@example.com. Or send us a tweet @kojoshow. It was two years ago that you first won your seat by just 51 votes. A lot has happened in Virginia since then. Not the least of which is the last year when Barack Obama won the majority of votes in your district. What case can you make to those voters for why they should support you now?
NNAMDISome would say you stay pretty close to the conservative line. You took the Grover Norquist tax pledge. You voted against Bob McDonnell's transportation plan. Explain yourself.
RAMADANWell, all politics are local, Kojo. And what people are really interested in is not the national news media headlines or "The Kojo Nnamdi Show" headlines on my district. What they're really out for is can their delegates deliver? Can they build roads locally? Can they lower down the Greenway tolls? A big issue in our area that I've been fighting for years. Can we do the cost of adjustment for school so that we can compete and we can have bus drivers that our delivering our kids back and forth to school every morning?
RAMADANAnd that's what I've been able to do for the past two years. And the support has been incredible and humbling. It's been the greatest honor of my life to serve in Jefferson's house.
SHERWOODWhat was wrong with the -- what was the principal that you had a problem with at the transportation plan?
NNAMDIGovernor McDonnell's transportation plan.
SHERWOODYeah, the Republican Governor McDonnell's plan.
RAMADANWho is a good friend of mine and...
SHERWOODOh, that's always dangerous.
RAMADANContinuous to be.
SHERWOODIt's that like a collegiate, a cordial conversation?
RAMADANNo, no. We mean what we say in Virginia unlike across the river in Washington, D.C. The HB 2313, our transportation bill that passed, the problem that I had with it was bi-fold. One, it increased taxes on my constituents more so than the rest of the state. As you know, northern Virginia got an increase from -- to 6 percent on the sales tax versus 5.3 for the rest of the state.
RAMADANThe Tide Water area chose to do the same thing, which we didn't think was equitable nor it was the right thing to do. The second part of it is, I believe that there was a different approach on how we could solve the northern Virginia transportation problem. You know, every dollar, Tom, we send from northern Virginia to Richmond today, we only get 30 cents back in spending in northern Virginia.
SHERWOODAnd the rest of the state loves that.
RAMADANOf course they do. And I believe that things have changed, the Commonwealth Transportation Board make-up needs to be changed so that we can get more spending out of the dollars that we raise out of northern Virginia instead of raising our taxes to spend more.
NNAMDIOn the issue of transportation, we do have a caller, Kathy in Sterling, VA has a question or comment about that. Kathy, you're on the air. Go ahead please.
KATHYHi, Kojo. Hi, David. My question is, David, why are you taking credit for getting transportation funding on your mailers when you voted against the transportation bill that got the funding?
KATHYAnd I am, I will be voting for...
RAMADANThank you, Kathy. I appreciate you calling in. I'm taking credit for projects that I had actually achieved for my district. Route 606 widening is something that we'll be signing next week if a deal has been done between the state and the county. And (unintelligible) the Cox Farm intersection in Dulles South, the lights that we were able to put in on Route 15 next to Clark (sp?) Valley Church.
RAMADANThose are actual projects that are now happening, which you will be driving on in the next couple of years because of my work that I was able to get them for the area. And those are from current funding that exists, not from new funding that is to come in the future years.
NNAMDIKathy, thank you very much for your call. Tom?
SHERWOODYou've been out campaigning in your district. You were saying just a moment ago that the rain is keeping you from knocking on doors and the people you have to knock on doors. What is the feeling now with the statewide Republican ticket? I know you support the Republican ticket, but I also know you speak bluntly about things. It seems like Ken Cuccinelli is having a hard time. E.W. Jackson is having a hard time. Mark Obenshain is kind of getting some of this splashed on him. But looks like the Republicans may go down and lose all three statewide races. And this federal shutdown is not helping.
SHERWOODWhat's gone wrong there?
RAMADANFederal shutdown is certainly not helping, Tom, at all. People in my district are furloughed. In my own family, my wife is furloughed. My brother's a government contractor. He's also at home this week. I was out knocking on doors until yesterday even a little bit during the rain yesterday, and people are not happy with that. People need to pay their bills at the end of the month and...
SHERWOODThe polling is showing the Republicans are carrying most of the blame. There's not a lot of praise for anybody. But most of the blame is going to the Republicans.
RAMADANI think there's plenty of blame to give them both. And I had called in a press release that I put in two weeks ago, I called it terribly frustrated. I had called on everybody to get on the table and do their job. You know, this is the historic difference between Richmond and Washington. We have a balanced budget in Richmond because our Constitution requires us to do so.
RAMADANOur government is running. We just got voted as the number one state to do business by Forbes Magazine, and that's because we run a good, tight, conservative ship in Richmond. And that's what kept the state where we are, and that's the huge difference between us and...
SHERWOODAre the Republicans on the ground worried?
NNAMDIYou called on everybody to do…
SHERWOODAre the Republicans on the ground -- and some of them have said to me they are worried. Can you acknowledge that your party is worried about the impact on the Virginia elections?
RAMADANThere's a huge impact on the Virginia elections. Yes, I acknowledge that. And this is going to be a tight election. However, you were mentioning the ticket. I'm sure you've seen Laura Vozzella's article today in The Washington Post. And it's amazing that you have on the other side a candidate that his own party's not interested in as well. Terry McAuliffe is not bringing out the Democrat base. And that could be the reason why former Gov. Wilder got involved is because Terry can't even bring his own base to the table.
NNAMDIWe're talking with David Ramadan. He's a member of the Virginia House of Delegates. He's a Republican. He represents the Commonwealth's 87th District. It's located in Loudon and Prince William Counties. If you have questions or comments for David Ramadan, call us at 800-433-8850 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. It's one thing to call for people on the Hill to get their act together. Did you have any specific conversations with your Republican colleagues on Capitol Hill or members of Virginia's Congressional Delegation and...
NNAMDI...and ask them what -- I guess indicate to them what you think they should be doing. There was a great deal of emphasis on the Affordable Care Act for a while. That didn't seem to be working out. Now it's gone. What do you think they should be focusing on?
RAMADANListen, the Affordable Care Act is a problem. We do have 65 percent of Americans today that say that's not -- there's no support for the Affordable Care Act, that we really do worry about the implications of that on the best medical system in the world. Spent today with the medical director of a huge medical institute.
NNAMDIBut should it, in your view, have been the major issue in the government shutdown and the government budget?
RAMADANWe should not have shut down the government. The government should not shut down. We air our differences in a democracy through elections. And the government should continue in operation.
NNAMDIYour opponent, John Bell, says moderates are a dying breed both in Richmond and nationwide. He says moderate has become a bad word. He says he thinks it's a good word. Apparently he doesn't consider you a moderate. How do you characterize yourself? And what do you feel about the use of the word moderate?
RAMADANYou know, you can define anything any way you want to, Kojo. And my opponent has certainly gone negative 10 days ago. Obviously his campaign is not catching on with our constituents. He has pure out lied on many issues and trying to say what Terry McAuliffe is saying, which is anything you want to hear to get elected.
RAMADANAs a mainstream conservative, I'm proud of my stance in my life. I'm proud of what I've been able to accomplish. Words are easy, but the record is on there. On my website, davidramadan.com, I placed my entire voting record, and I place a list of every bill that I introduced in the past two years with a description for everybody to see. Actions are louder than words.
SHERWOODMainstream conservative. Does that mean you're not a Tea Party conservative?
RAMADANThere is no such thing as a Tea Party conservative. Tea Party is a movement that crosses lines. It crosses independents, Democrats, Republicans. And it's a movement itself. As a conservative, we stand for lower government. We stand for keeping more of your taxes in your own pocket and making sure that we keep the best prosperous place for families and businesses to grow as we did in Virginia.
SHERWOODIt does seem -- and, of course, there's the liberal left on the Democratic side and the far right on the Republican side. But it seems to me that the Democrats, at least nationally, they seem to be -- the left seems to be less loud, less upset with what's going on this time around while it seems that the Republican Party seems to be just -- doesn't have the unity that you might hope to have.
RAMADANIt's par for the course, Tom. The current president is the Democrat, last I checked, so there is no need to be loud. The other side has...
SHERWOODBut they think he's too soft and has caved in several times, and they -- but this time around, there's almost, like, it's like the majority leader telling the mayor, don't mess around up here with the Republicans. We're in a big battle. And the mayor's backed off a little.
RAMADANWell, he shouldn't have backed off. The mayor has a job to support his city and do what's good for his own constituents.
NNAMDIBack to the issue of transportation for a second, the Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli made news this week by voicing his opposition to the so-called Bi-County Parkway, a proposal to connect Prince William and Loudon Counties. As it's currently constructed, how do you feel about the proposal?
RAMADANI had called the governor to -- for a fresh start on the Bi-County Parkway, and I put that in writing with a letter and a press release about two months ago now. Listen, the area there is very congested, and we need to have north-south and east-west connections. The problem with the current layout of this so-called Bi-County Parkway has major issues.
RAMADANIt has issues in the (unintelligible) and Prince William where the rural crescent is, and people have lived there for generations. It has issues that it ends on Route 50, and so far it's not connected to go all the way to Dulles Airport. So another part of my constituency has a problem with dumping all the traffic on there. This project has not matured yet. I think there is a need for north-south connection but not as laid out. And I had called on my friend, the governor, to lay this on the table until the next demonstration comes in.
SHERWOODSo where does it stand at this moment, just for those of us who are aware of it but not -- where does it stand right now?
RAMADANI think they're still working on these kinks. And the VDOT, Virginia Department of Transportation, is trying to continue on on pace. Yet I believe they should really take a full freeze on it.
SHERWOODAnd this will or will not help Dulles? Dulles seems to need some help. It's not getting the business that -- and that hurts your area.
RAMADANDulles definitely needs some help. However, it needs to be done right. We don't help business on the cost of individual's and people's properties. We need to have a balance on that. We certainly need it not only for Dulles. We need the north-south connector but also for people to be able to commute back and forth between Prince William and Loudon. Yet the way they laid it out, it's not catching on, and constituents do not want it as is.
NNAMDIWe got an email from Jessica who writes, "If all politics is local, why are you taking campaign contributions from conservatives in Texas?"
RAMADANI believe everybody takes contributions from all over. That is just what's allowed by law, and I am thankful to anybody who's willing to send me contribution. And she can do so on davidramadan.com if she likes.
SHERWOODWell, we haven't -- I don't think we've had you in since the -- I can't remember the last time you were in. But...
NNAMDIIt was exactly two years ago when he was running for this post last time.
SHERWOODOh, I know it has to been -- you know, Gov. Bob McDonnell who you say is your friend has had a horrific summer as you know with all this scandal stuff about the operation of the governor's mansion and the gifts he's taken. And he's worked very hard to kind of get that out of the way. Do you think there's any chance that legislature -- do you support ethics reform and limiting gifts or something a little clearer so that citizens will know that the Virginia Commonwealth legislators or governors or other officials aren't on the take or taking things that shouldn't be taken?
NNAMDIIt's been reported that at one point you even appeared in front of a grand jury investigating Gov. McDonnell.
RAMADANI clearly support ethics reform, and I'm the only one in my caucus so far that I've called for a special session -- immediate special session. I'm willing today to freeze my campaign and drive down to Richmond for as long as it takes so that we can have a clear ethics rules in Virginia.
SHERWOODWhat was the grand jury call about?
RAMADANYou know, you attend a wedding, and you give a gift at a wedding, Tom. And then they call you to say so. I believe everybody who attends a wedding should and do take gifts with them. And I cooperated with investigators. I did not have to appear in front of the grand jury.
SHERWOODOh, this was the $15,000 wedding that you went to and then took a gift?
RAMADANI took a gift too, and absolutely was happy to attend.
SHERWOODWas it a nice gift? Was it on the bridal registry?
RAMADANI mean, you're going to have to invite me to your daughter's wedding, Tom.
SHERWOODI don't have a daughter.
NNAMDIWell, thank you for not giving the response I expected. And that would have been, well, Tom, you know everything that is said before a grand jury is private, so I can't comment on...
SHERWOODNo, no, no. No, it is not.
RAMADANI didn't have to appear in front...
SHERWOODThe prosecutors may not speak, but the person who appears before the grand jury may sing as much as he or she wants. And we have a lawyer, I believe, here in the audience, which is his father that could back me up.
NNAMDIYes. He did bring backup indeed in the form of his father, the attorney.
SHERWOODThe witness is allowed to speak.
RAMADANWhen you have nothing to hide, Tom, there's nothing to worry about.
NNAMDIBut to what degree do you think the investigation of Bob McDonnell has hurt the Republican brand in Virginia?
RAMADANI think that it hurt Virginia altogether. I think, you know, this is Jefferson's seat. This is the cradle of democracy, and the home of America is Virginia there. And Richmond, the governor's mansion and our House carry this history that we hold in high regards. It's unfortunate. However, we have a great legal system, and everybody's innocent until proven guilty. And I'll look forward to the results as all Virginians do.
NNAMDIHere is Benjamin in Manassas, Va. Benjamin, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
BENJAMINOh, thank you. My question is for the representative. And as being (word?) in NoVa, what are your thoughts on the stark differences of politics between NoVa and the rest of the Commonwealth? And every couple years or something, I keep hearing rumors of NoVa seceding from the Commonwealth, become its own state in the country.
RAMADANThank you, Benjamin. Yeah, we refer to it as NoVa vs. RoVa, the rest of Virginia. No. We're not seceding from the Commonwealth. We're proud to be part of the Commonwealth and proud to be the economic engine of the Commonwealth. And we will continue to be. Yet we really need to have all of our -- all of my colleagues from Northern Virginia to get together on getting our fair share for Northern Virginia.
NNAMDIGo ahead, Tom.
SHERWOODGiven that the demographics of the state are changing rapidly, where are you on the immigration issues? That was a huge issue nationally this year, and it's kind of gotten bumped off the radar because of all the other issues that have occurred. What is the immigration issue in Northern Virginia and the rest of the state?
RAMADANTom, as you may remember, I am an immigrant. I'm the first immigrant -- first adult immigrant to make the Virginia House in, we believe, over 300 years.
SHERWOODAnd you're from Lebanon, aren't you?
RAMADANI came from Lebanon. I came for the American dream and have been blessed with opportunity, worked hard, and I serve in Jefferson's House. It doesn't get any better than this. So I believe immigration is a great value for America. I believe that we need to continue to bring the best and the brightest from around the world and keep them here.
RAMADANWe do have an illegal immigration problem, and that illegal immigration is not as much in Northern Virginia and Virginia as it is in the Border States. We need to secure that border, and we need to solve that problem. And I say secure the border not just for the immigration issue. Our biggest worry today is terrorism. We have porous borders where we (unintelligible) where we're going to have terrorist coming in any time, and we know they're trying to come in any time through those borders. So that's a National Security issue now, not just an immigration issue.
NNAMDIHow do you feel about issues like the DREAM Act that's been perpetuated in some states and nationwide?
RAMADANUntil we solve the total immigration problem, we need to solve it all as one package and not as a piecemeal.
SHERWOODWell, can I ask about that? Because in Maryland where that issue was fought and people were saying, well, there are children who have come to this country irrespective of what their parents did, and they've grown up and they're now going to school, there are some, you know, paying taxes and all that, and why not treat the children of illegal immigrants in a different way to allow them to latch on to that American dream that you just spoke so warmly about?
RAMADANI -- this is a very humanitarian issue, and I firmly believe that we need to do a full solution and not a piecemeal for it, Tom. And if you just...
SHERWOODWell, that's a Democratic view in setting -- getting the government and budget going forward. We have to have a full solution. That's a Democratic view.
RAMADANI just agreed with you earlier that the government should not shut down, remember?
SHERWOODWe may have to check your credentials.
RAMADANI have very strong in my credentials. The record shows it.
NNAMDIThere's a lot at stake in Virginia's elections this year when it comes to healthcare. The Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe has threatened to veto budgets that do not include a Medicaid expansion if he's elected. You're among those opposed to the Medicaid expansion. Why?
RAMADANBecause we can't afford it. First of all, I don't trust that the federal government has the money to give it to us, or will they? We've seen how the federal government's operating. And that money's only temporarily for a few years. We estimate that then we will be short about $14 billion in our Virginia budget.
NNAMDIWell, why not test the federal government to see if it does, in fact, give you the money?
RAMADANThen what do you do afterwards? You take people off the rolls in an inefficient and fraudulent system that we have no way to fix or control?
NNAMDIWell, according to The New York Times, the alternative is that you leave a whole lot of people in your state who, on the one hand, do not qualify for Medicaid and who, on the other hand, are not covered by the Affordable Care Act, that you leave those people essentially twisting in the wind.
RAMADANNow, I think there are many ways that we can solve these issues without taking Medicaid the way that the federal government has offered. And we'll work on that in Virginia. We continue to increase the number of beneficiaries, and we solve it in a conservative fiscal manner.
SHERWOODWhat is -- are we going to go to a call here?
NNAMDINo, go ahead.
SHERWOODOkay. Excuse me for interrupting. In the Virginia General Assembly, there are 100 members of the House. What is the breakdown now between Republican, Democrats and that?
RAMADANSixty-eight Republicans and 32 Democrats.
SHERWOODSixty-eight, 32, wow.
NNAMDIHere is Sloan in Reston, Va. Sloan, your turn.
SLOANHi. Thanks for having me on, Kojo. Yeah, this question for Rep. Ramadan is I'm just curious, as a supporter of religious liberty and equal rights for lesbian and gay Virginians, I am wondering whether he would vote for or against a bill in the legislature to protect Virginians from job and housing discrimination based on sexual orientation. And I want to know yes or no. Most listeners are not aware that in Virginia and 29 other states, it is perfectly legal to discriminate based on sexual orientation. In 21 states, it's not. Virginia, I think, should join the other states. There's a lot of Republican support for this kind of thing. Barry Goldwater...
NNAMDIAll right. Allow me to get a report from Delegate Ramadan.
SLOAN...was a supporter of it. And I'm just wondering if he would stand with conservative icon Barry Goldwater and support equal rights and religious liberty by supporting this bill.
NNAMDITalk about a loaded question. There's -- yeah.
NNAMDIWhether you stand with Barry Goldwater or not.
RAMADANYou know, there is a lot of misconception on this issue. And the lawyers on both sides have looked at this and said that, yes, the protection exists, or, no, it doesn't exist. So that's still open. I'm not aware of any single case that's filed today in any Virginia court that shows that the current law does not offer the protection needed. So until we see there's a problem, we don't go legislate without a problem existing. This is more of a problem...
SHERWOODSo people would have to come forward and declare that they've been discriminated against in order to...
RAMADANWe simply don't legislate if there's no need for a legislation, Tom. We don't go create laws for no reason if the protection already exists.
NNAMDIHere now is Dolores in Alexandria, Va. Dolores, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
DOLORESI found that response that I just heard very interesting from the representative because Mr. Cuccinelli created laws to make it difficult for women to get an abortion in Virginia. And essentially those repressive views on social matters that the Republicans keep coming forth with in Virginia has made it practically impossible for me as a registered independent to give any consideration to them as candidates for darn near anything. I'd like to hear what Rep. Ramadan thinks about the actions that have been taken to make it extremely difficult for women in Virginia to get an abortion.
RAMADANYou know, I look for the day that we can register as independents, Democrats, or Republicans in the Commonwealth of Virginia, Dolores. We don't. I will vote for a party registration bill, and I will support it and encourage it. So I believe you're an independent but not necessarily a registered independent, and I'm glad to hear from you.
RAMADANOn the matter of life, in Virginia, we follow the federal rules. And the federal rules today allows for certain abortions under Roe vs. Wade, and there's nothing that we can do or would do that would make a difference to that. One of the things that we did do in Virginia this year is that we made sure that women are protected in the same health standards in clinics as they would be in a hospital. We believe that that is done for the protection of women. I have worked on many bills this year, including a breast cancer bill and a home telework bill to protect women and to encourage their time with their families and to give them a better place to live, just like we protect all of our citizens.
SHERWOODIf I could ask -- follow up on that...
SHERWOODYou just said moments ago that you would address the LGBT issue if there is evidence of discrimination, and that's fine. But on the clinics issue, there was no evidence that the clinics that were providing abortions in the state were unhealthy, improperly run, and dangerous to the women. And so to impose that they have the standards of a full-fledged hospital seems to suggest you solved a problem that didn't exist.
RAMADANNo, the problem did exist. And we heard from a lot of women and a lot of physicians that came to us, including a few members in the House that did see that there was a problem in clinics in Virginia. The numbers do exist. The cases do exist, and that's why we went for that. It's not a matter of too many, Tom...
SHERWOODMaybe there weren't too many. But isn't -- but it seems to me the national issue is for the...
RAMADANEven saving one life is good enough for me.
SHERWOODWell, saving one case of discrimination might be worth doing. But it seems to me the national issue is for Republicans have chosen in all the states across the country is to pick off parts of the abortion law rather than to obviously go at the heart of Roe v. Wade. It seems to -- I mean, there's evidence of that from across the country.
RAMADANI'll stick to what we're doing in Virginia. In Virginia, we're simply protecting life, Tom.
SHERWOODOkay. But not...
NNAMDIDavid Ramadan, he's a member of the Virginia House of Delegates. He's a Republican who represents the Commonwealth's 87th District. He is running for reelection to that office. Delegate Ramadan, thank you so much for joining us. And good luck to you.
RAMADANThank you, Kojo. Good to be here.
NNAMDIThis is The Politics Hour. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for The Current Newspapers. This week, Tom Sherwood, President Obama weighed in on the issue of whether or not the Washington Redskins should change its name or whether or not the owner of the team should change its name.
NNAMDIAnd he said that if there were a significant number of people who were offended by the name, he would certainly consider changing it. The NFL met in Washington this week. It was one of the issues it discussed. Mr. Snyder wrote a letter to the fans indicating why he does not think the name is any form of insult or racial slur, but obviously the opposition is ratcheting up here.
SHERWOODWell, the president apparently is evolving on this. Sorry. I couldn't resist saying that.
NNAMDILike evolve on gay marriage.
SHERWOODAnd we hope Mr. Ramadan's family members are all back to work when the government reopens, so that'd be great.
RAMADANThank you, Tom.
SHERWOODThe president said, if he were the owner of the team, then he would certainly consider the impact of the team. So I think he didn't come out with a direct statement of what he would do or not do, and so he gave an if. And then Dan Snyder, who earlier this year said, you can say never, you can put it in caps, never.
SHERWOODI'm not changing the name. Well, with the NFL leadership meeting with the Indian group or planning to meet with the Indian group, there are people who are saying -- I think Christine Brennan wrote in the USA Today article today that this name will be changed far sooner than people right now expect.
SHERWOODSo this has been more of a sustained assault on the name than there has been in the past. In the past, it's kind of come up, lasted a few weeks or a month or so and gone away. This one seems to be opposite gathering steam.
NNAMDISally Jenkins writing in the Washington Post today that Mr. Snyder's memories from when he was six years old seem to trump any other aspects of history whatsoever. Let's hear from Carol in Bethesda, Md. Carol, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
CAROLThank you very much. I have very vigorously oppose any change of the name. Those who feel offended say they are being disrespected by the name and the emblem. Well, if we were to change that name and emblem, we would be disrespecting all of the great players and heroes from the history of the Redskins.
SHERWOODWell, how does that -- how would you disrespect them by changing the name?
CAROLBecause I'm just saying you would be, let's say, ignoring the great tradition of the Redskins formed by our great players and coaches of the past. Mike Mosley, Vince Lombardi, Joe...
SHERWOODWell, they were great players no matter what we called them. Milwaukee Braves moved to Atlanta, and they changed the name of the city. But they didn't take away what happened in Milwaukee. And when the Montreal expos came to Washington, doesn't take away from the success or a lack of success of the expos. How does that -- I'm not sure how that follows.
SHERWOODWhy not just have a name that doesn't offend people?
CAROLWell, I don't know how you're going to do that without negating an 81 year of tradition that is part and parcel of the Redskins. And, you know, it's just not -- those who feel disrespected are not -- should not feel disrespected because there is no disrespect. But by changing the name, it would very severely impact the Redskins tradition.
SHERWOODWould you like the team -- would you support the team if it changes its name?
CAROLI'm about to think about it. It's just so offensive to think that all of that wonderful past that Joe Theismann, John Riggins -- I mean, they would have, let's say, fought for nothing. I mean, the Skins have...
NNAMDIWhat do you say to those people who say that you're talking about 81 years of history, they -- the Native Americans who oppose it -- are talking about thousands of years of history that they were here long before we or the team ever came along, and that's the history that you're disrespecting?
CAROLWell, the -- something I heard recently was that, in fact, in the original days of the team, there were a number of Native Americans. I think there was even a coach coordinator...
NNAMDIHe turned out to be a fake, according to the (unintelligible), he was not really Native American.
CAROLNo, I don't know about that.
NNAMDIBut obviously this is a debate that continues to go on, Carol. And I'm afraid we do have to move on because we're running out of time, and Charles Allen is in the studio. He's the former chief of staff for D.C. Councilmember Tommy Wells. Next week, he will formally launch a campaign for the seat that Wells occupies representing Ward 6. Charles Allen, like Wells, is a Democrat and a former chair of the Ward 6 Democrats. Thank you for joining us.
MR. CHARLES ALLENThank you very much, Kojo and Tom. Good to see you.
SHERWOODThe worst-kept secret I think Mike DeBonis tweeted this week. The worst-kept secret in the history of D.C. politics is that Charles Allen was going to run for the Ward 6 Council seat, which we should tell people is essentially Capitol Hill and my neighborhood near Southwest Washington.
ALLENTom, it's much more than Capitol Hill, Capitol Hill, Southwest, Mount Vernon Square, Shaw, it's the biggest ward in the city.
SHERWOODI know. Well, that's all I care about. Okay. See, that was the first test, if he knew where he's running.
NNAMDIDo you know where Sherwood lives?
ALLENI do know where he lives, absolutely.
NNAMDIOh, good. Yeah.
ALLENI run into him in the neighborhood.
NNAMDIWe got to keep tabs on him. A lot of people in the ward may have gotten to know you over the years from the work here that you've done for the incumbent Tommy Wells. What should they know about the kind of candidate and the kind of councilmember you want to be?
ALLENWell, I appreciate that. I have been involved in Ward 6 and working hard in Ward 6 for really the last 10 years, even before I joined up with Tommy Wells both to run his campaign and then to become his chief of staff. You know, I'm a dad, I'm a husband, I'm a neighbor, been very focused on a lot of issues around the city, worked with nonprofits across the city, worked with a lot of progressive organizations across the city, and this is really an opportunity and exciting challenge to be able to take this next step and be able to put myself forward.
ALLENAnd we've got a lot of new challenges in Ward 6.
NNAMDILet's talk about specifics. Loose Lips columnist Will Sommer wrote yesterday that you see education and the need for more affordable housing in the ward as the two things you need to focus on. Let's start with affordable housing. What are you proposing?
ALLENWell, I think it's about where we focus. We've got, in Ward 6, whether you're talking about in Southwest, whether in Shaw, in Mount Vernon Square, or as we're going to be building out in Hill East down the road, we're putting in a large amount of new buildings and a lot of new housing. If you're looking for studios and one-bedrooms, we probably have that.
ALLENWhere we're really struggling with is our family-based affordable housing. That is what we are losing, and that's what we really have to fight to protect. We need to be expanding that, and I think we need to be putting a priority that, in new construction, we're doing more than just studios, that we're looking to build two-bedroom, three-bedroom family-based housing.
ALLENAnd then in our other neighborhoods where we have a lot of our roadhouse building stock that we've got to find a way to make sure families are able to stay in there and stay in their homes as...
NNAMDIBecause I was about to ask, it's one thing to say we're building family-based housing. It's another thing to say that the families who live there currently will be able to afford to live in those houses because we have had experience in the past that the council and the city has legislated that these things need to be made affordable housing, and then developers have ignored them. And the city had no enforcement mechanism in place.
ALLENThe enforcement has not been there as strong as we need it and as strong as we want it to be. But I think we've got to be looking at not only the new construction, but we have to be looking at how do we make sure families are able to stay in their homes, especially as we're continuing to see the growth across Ward 6?
SHERWOODThis is The Politics Hour. Elissa Silverman, who ran a very strong race for an at-large seat this past year, many people thought she was going to run in Ward 6. She doesn't seem to be planning to do that. Has she endorsed you yet? Some people were saying she's going to endorse you. Is that happening?
ALLENYou know, I -- Elissa...
SHERWOODHave you had any back channel conversations with her?
ALLENElissa and I have been friends for years. I've certainly talked to her. I think, you know, I'm not going to speak for her though today.
SHERWOODOkay. She's back with the Fiscal Policy Institute, I think...
ALLENDoing great work for them. Absolutely.
NNAMDIPretty sure I'll hear from her either before this broadcast is finished or shortly thereafter.
SHERWOODWell, you know, she would be a strong candidate if she were to get in there.
ALLENShe absolutely would be. Absolutely.
SHERWOODAnd so I wanted to see what she has to say. Maybe she'll call in...
ALLENYou'll have to ask her that.
NNAMDIThe guy you worked for up until last Friday spent years pounding home the message about how he was for creating livable, walkable communities. Where does livable, walkable fit in to the campaign you're going to run, especially because there are critics, among them longtime residents of the ward, who are more concerned about issues like crime and affordable housing?
ALLENWell, I think to make a livable walkable city, to make a livable walkable neighborhood, it's going to be a safe neighborhood, and it's going to be a place where it's affordable. I think one of the things that Councilman Wells did really well is he took that brand of livable walkable, and it is now something that everyone talks about. All 13 council members at some point or another have been up on that dais and said, I'm supporting a livable walkable city.
ALLENIt really is where our city has gone. And it's become just a standard, frankly, our neighborhoods.
NNAMDIWell, you've been his chief of staff. Between you and me, what are some of the things that he did really badly?
ALLENI know that I'm going to get questions like that.
SHERWOODHow do you differ with Tommy Wells?
NNAMDIOkay. Clean it up, Tom. Thanks.
ALLENWell, I think that we share the same vision. We have a very similar vision for the city, for our neighborhoods, and how those are going to continue to grow and how we make sure that we keep those families there. I think -- obviously I think he's done a great job. I think Sharon Ambrose before him did a fantastic job. I think we've had a track record of really strong leadership in Ward 6 for the city.
SHERWOODBut Sharon Ambrose doesn't seem to be as -- she doesn't seem to like the council members as much as she did at the start.
ALLENWell, I'm not going to get into those politics.
ALLENBut I know that I think she's done a great job.
SHERWOODHave you ever run for something before? Are you aware of how different it is to be the candidate as opposed to the staff member telling the candidate what to say?
ALLENI know that you're going to teach me all along the way, Tom.
SHERWOODWell, let's talk about ethics for a moment. Tommy Wells has tried to stake out an ethics position. The city is scarred by the ugly ethics that the prosecutor has rolled out in front of us almost every few months. How strongly do you feel about corporate contributions to campaigns? I think you part of the Initiative 70, I think it -- you were part of that. What can the city do aggressively and soon to kind of change the atmosphere of the ethics over this city?
ALLENWell, I think, you know, we do have a cloud and in general just a -- there's a broken public trust, I think, with our district government and with our voters, and that's something that we're all going to have to work hard to bring back. I obviously was a part of a ballot initiative to try to help reform our campaign finance system.
ALLENIt didn't get put on the ballot, but it was a huge grassroots effort with a lot of people involved with it. Councilman McDuffie I know is coming out with his proposal which has a lot of good things in it. And we'll be moving that forward at some point very soon, I assume. I know that...
SHERWOODOkay. Let's take the position then on Mayor Gray. Mayor Gray, we don't know yet he's going to run or not run. But do you think the mayor should run for reelection 2014 with a new campaign apparatus without explaining what went wrong with his old campaign in 2010, whether he gets any criminal charge or not?
ALLENI don't think that the mayor should run for reelection. I'm supporting Tommy Wells for mayor. You know, I think that the questions in the clouds that have been over that have really damaged the city. And I think a way the city moves forward is that we're going to go through an election on April 1, and I think that's going to be a part of that.
ALLENTo touch back on your question though about how I'm going to be running my campaign, I'm not going to take corporate contributions or contributional PACs. I'm going to focus on individual contributions. I would challenge anybody running for office, they should do that. I just think it's the right policy to go.
ALLENI think one of the things that I've been disappointed with is I hear people talk about this as a very anti-business perspective. I personally going to have support from a lot of business owners and small businesses throughout the ward. They are the backbone of a lot of our neighborhoods. I just want their contribution as an individual, and I have to be proud to be able to stand right there next to them.
NNAMDIWell, let's talk business because the city's currently considering that proposal to offer public support for the construction of the new soccer stadium for DC United right in the middle of your ward. The executive director of the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute, Ed Lazere, has launched a coalition of activists this week.
NNAMDIThey're calling into question whether the stadium is in the best interest of all D.C. residents, not just the team and its supporters. What would you say to some of those concerns? Some people feel the city should not be in the business of offering public financing of any kind to professional sports stadiums.
ALLENIf you know the neighborhood around Buzzard Point, you know that it is an area that does not have a lot of economic development. It is an opportunity that can really be a great economic benefit for that neighborhood. I think that there's a lot of potential there. I know that, as I look at it, I start with -- I support the D.C. United staying in D.C., and I support a stadium in Buzzard Point.
ALLENThere's two things that I want to see, though, that come out of this. One is this is going to be a huge investment in Southwest. And I need to see, how is this going to be connected to the rest of the neighborhood? How is this going to be from a transit connection, from the traffic that comes with it, from the investment in the streetscape and the sidewalks? That neighborhood needs an investment.
ALLENAnd if we're going to -- if the city's going to be a part of financing a new stadium, the city has to have that same investment strategy for the entirety of that Southwest neighborhood to make sure it works and we're not just plopping down a stadium. In the same way that when we built the ballpark, you had Yard Park out there right next to it.
ALLENThose two things together were catalysts. The baseball stadium by itself was helpful, but the Yards Park, which is an amazing park along the river, is just as important in that. The second piece, I'll say, is I also want to see that the city makes an investment in our youth sports parks. We have an ocean of asphalt just north of RFK.
ALLENWe've got a great proposal on the table about how we could turn that into athletic field space, soccer space. And in the same way that when we had the Nationals' ballpark put in, we built baseball academies and really made it an investment in the city, so that we grew those sports and created athletic space for children and for families. We've got to do the same thing with this.
SHERWOODSo what about -- so that's a perfect segue into the effort by Jack Evans and others who bring the Washington football team back to Washington to have it at its own expense build a stadium at RFK. Can there -- is there enough land? Some say there is, some say there isn't enough land to have a new Washington football team stadium at site of RFK, plus all those things you just talked about.
ALLENI think that there certainly is plenty of space there. I am not thrilled with the idea of putting a new RFK stadium, a new Washington football club stadium out there. I think that really -- I want to focus on the things around Reservation 13 and the master plan that has really looked at that mixed-use development, the new housing, and everything (unintelligible).
SHERWOODIt should have started years ago.
ALLENWell, it should have started a long time ago. We do have the first of the ward that's going in, and that is going to be the catalyst for the next stages of that. I think that it'd be great to have the team back in D.C. Maybe there's some great land over by Poplar Point.
SHERWOODI got one. Can I just mention I got one crank tweet from somebody, a message that -- oh, it's Tommy Wells. He wants to point -- he wants to point out that Charles did, in fact, beat Jack Evans to be a delegate for the Howard Dean Democratic nomination.
NNAMDISo he has run for something against a (unintelligible).
SHERWOODSo he ran -- he has won something.
NNAMDINevertheless, there are people...
ALLENThat's correct, yeah.
NNAMDI...your opponents will say that experience in a Wilson building in which several previous occupants of that building are even under court supervision are in jail is not necessarily the best reference point for your ability to hold this office. What would you respond in 30 seconds or less?
ALLENWell, I think you can actually look at the Wilson Building right now. We've got a great new councilmember, David Grosso, got a lot of experience with the council, also worked with Eleanor Holmes Norton, but, you know, he has been able to come in. And I think it's the experience that he had on the council that he's hit the ground running. He's contributing very early and is a significant voice in the council.
NNAMDICharles Allen is the former chief of staff of D.C. Councilmember Tommy Wells. He'll be announcing for Ward 6 councilmember next week. Thank you for joining us.
NNAMDIGood luck to you.
ALLENThank you very much.
NNAMDITom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for the Current Newspapers. Thank you so much for joining us.
SHERWOODAll right. Let's hope this shutdown ends over the weekend.
NNAMDIAnd I have to welcome your cameraman to our studio. William Heinz, I know him. It's bad because he's my homeboy. Thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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