Montgomery County State's Attorney John McCarthy discusses his efforts to address gang violence. Plus, D.C. Councilmember Trayon White joins us to recap the "grocery march" protesting food deserts east of the Anacostia River.
D.C.’s (presumptive) incoming mayor sits down with its (presumptive) outgoing schools chief. Maryland’s gubernatorial candidates turn up the heat on each other. And a Virginia county talks about turning down federal funds for schools. 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
- Angela Alsobrooks Democratic Primary Winner, State's Attorney, Prince George's County (Md.)
- Jeff Barnett Candidate, U.S. House of Representatives (D-Va., 10th District)
Politics Hour Extra
Jeff Barnett, candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives (D-Va., 10th District), talks about what he sees as his opponent Frank Wolf’s (R-Va., 10th District) failings on securing sufficient funding for public transport projects in Virginia. Barnett proposes focusing on new rail projects that would run out to Manassas, Dulles airport, and possibly as far as Leesburg:
Angela Alsobrooks, the winner of the Democratic primary for State’s Attorney in Prince George’s County, discusses her plans for addressing issues with domestic violence prosecutions. She discusses solutions to witness intimidation and delivering the social services needed to support victims:
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Politics Hour" featuring Tom Sherwood. I'm Kojo Nnamdi. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC4 reporter and a columnist for the Current Newspapers. Hey, Tom.
MR. TOM SHERWOODGood afternoon.
NNAMDIJack Evans got married this week, the Ward 2 D.C. City Councilmember. Congratulations to the happy couple. Hopefully, this can be helpful to "The Politics Hour," Tom. Guess how. Here goes.
SHERWOODAm glad I'm not answering that question.
NNAMDIHere goes. Message to Michele, Jack's new wife.
SHERWOODOh, my goodness.
NNAMDIMichele Seiver, if Jack says he's coming to the studio any Friday at noon, please, make sure first that he was invited. If he was invited, please, accompany him to the studio so that he can be persuaded to leave when his segment ends. Tom and I are sure that he'd rather spend time with you than with us. Otherwise, if the kids are in school, he has got nothing else to do, his legal and city council responsibilities not withstanding. So help a brother out, Michele. And thank you. That said, also try to keep Jack calm. Jack Evans apparently got pretty heated at a city council pre-legislative breakfast this week, according to Mark Segraves of WTOP. Tom, you heard about that?
SHERWOODI heard a little about it, but since I was on vacation -- I mean, he got heated over the budget was -- more budget issues in the city. And then next week, we should hear from the revenue folks that there's another $70, $80 million shortfall in the city budget. There's already a $34 million shortfall from some Medicaid funding. So without getting into the weeds on it, hundred-plus-million-dollar budget problem they have to face now. Evans has been complaining. He voted against the budget for the first time in his career, I believe, this past spring, saying, the council and the mayor at the time, Mayor Fenty, were not paying attention to the dire economic situation. So if there was something else he got mad about, I don't know.
NNAMDIYeah, he was very upset in that meeting about a piece of legislation that has his name on it, that he said he did not originate...
NNAMDI...but that's another story. Just, Michele, try to keep him calm.
SHERWOOD(sounds like) Inside baseball.
NNAMDIPresident of the -- speaking of baseball -- and you were on vacation this week -- the president of the Washington Nationals, Stan Kasten, resigned from the Washington Nationals. One of the reasons you moved to Ward 6 near the Nationals Stadium had to do with the presence of the Washington Nationals. Are you now thinking of selling and moving?
SHERWOODJust like education, my interest in baseball is not based on one person. So Stan Kasten, I do believe, you know, has been a good face for the Washington Nationals. There's been -- Tom Boswell, the excellent writer for The Washington Post, had it best yesterday, I guess. Stan Kasten has done well about this -- about the Lerners, to get them a competitive team, but they haven't done enough. Now that Kasten is ready to move on, he is regarded as the person who brought -- who built the Atlanta franchise. There were other people who were actually were involved, too, but he was the face of it. And so I hope that this is not a backsliding moment for the Nationals team.
NNAMDII was hoping that you would just have a few brief words to say about this, but apparently...
SHERWOODI can talk -- we can make the whole show about it.
NNAMDIYeah, apparently not. I'm glad you made the crack early about, "just like education, I don't think this is about one person," because City Council Chairman Vincent Gray, who everybody expects will be mayor of the city after the November election, sat down yesterday with D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, and after the meeting was over, apparently held a press conference to announce -- well, we had a discussion about philosophy. You cannot make a decision about whether or not to retain or fire somebody before you've actually got the job yourself.
SHERWOODYes. I think the media is going to have to ratchet down on Mr. Gray.
SHERWOODThat's what you said in your column...
NNAMDI...The Northwest Current.
SHERWOODBecause I do believe that he is deliberative person. He had said consistently this -- during the campaign season, and particularly since he won Sept. 14, he's not going to discuss any jobs 'till after the Nov. 2 general election. He said, don't send me your resumes. And he is holding to that. Now, it is hard for me to believe that he had a 90-minute meeting, and the job, the issue of her job...
NNAMDIHere goes the media.
SHERWOOD...did not come up. I just find that almost impossible to believe, but I'm told that Gray can do it.
NNAMDIYep. And apparently, he did it yesterday. So we will have to await word of what's likely to happen in the future. This is, of course, "The Politics Hour" featuring Tom Sherwood. And you mentioned, however, in your column about Vincent Gray, that he may be surprising a lot of people in the District who were expecting to take a long time making decisions. That won't necessarily happen.
SHERWOODWell, I think he's aware of the image that -- and he fights against it -- that he doesn't make decisions, and he'll say he does. I just think this election was more about Adrian Fenty than it was about Vince Gray. I think part of the racial split, if we get into that, is that a lot of people in the city don't know Vincent Gray. And we kind of tend to know the billionaires a lot better than we know the council members.
NNAMDIThis election was more about getting rid of Fenty.
SHERWOODYou know, that horrible poster that -- what I saw on some places around town -- it said, you know, elect anyone, but slap this brat, had the picture of Fenty's head on a baby on a rocking chair.
NNAMDII saw that.
SHERWOODA rocking horse. I mean, that's what people did. I mean, there was no one responsible for Adrian Fenty's loss but Adrian Fenty.
NNAMDIWe're going to talk about Maryland now, and joining us in the studio is Angela Alsobrooks, the winner of last week's Democratic primary in the race to be Maryland's states attorney representing Prince George's County. Since in Prince George's County is in the District, the registration is heavily Democratic. Angela Alsobrooks is expected to be the next Maryland states attorney representing Prince George's County. She joins us in studio. Angela Alsobrooks, congratulations.
MS. ANGELA ALSOBROOKSThank you very much.
SHERWOODTerrific last name. You know, I was asking about it -- North Carolina, Native American last name.
NNAMDIWere you familiar with it before she became prominent?
SHERWOODNo. No. But I'm familiar with the great migration of people from North Carolina to the Washington area.
NNAMDIIt is Tom and my habit, Angela Alsobrooks, to discuss other issues having to do with Maryland before we get to your specific candidacy so...
NNAMDI...feel free to join up in that discussion. There's a big race, of course, for governor of Maryland. It pits the incumbent against the former governor, the incumbent being Martin O'Malley, the former governor being Republican Robert Ehrlich. O'Malley is still out-fundraising Ehrlich by a ratio of nearly three to one, but the Republican Governors Association is pitching in. Tom Sherwood, it looks like this is going to be a horse race.
SHERWOODWell, you know, the Republicans...
NNAMDIA close horse race.
SHERWOOD...are feeling their hopes for nationally. I mean, the Democrats are staring at a difficult situation in November. They believe, even in largely Democratic Maryland, that this could happen, that Bob Ehrlich can make a return trip to the governor's office. You know, Senate Majority Mike Miller...
SHERWOODHe's the majority leader?
NNAMDIOkay, I always get his name wrong -- I mean, his title wrong. I mean, he's quoted in the Gazette. Excuse me, the Gazette is saying that, you know, this is tough. The Democrats have to get out their base vote. They may easily lose.
NNAMDIWhat do you think, Angela Alsobrooks? I'm assuming that you are backing Robert Ehrlich in this race, correct?
ALSOBROOKSNo. Actually, I'm backing the governor.
ALSOBROOKSAnd I think that you're absolutely right. The turnout will be, I think, the deciding criteria here. We were concerned about the turnout. Last week, we found it to be, I think...
SHERWOODTwenty percent in Prince George's County. That's nothing.
ALSOBROOKSThat's nothing. You're right, and I think we must do much better. We had rallied together. There are a number of unity events, and I think we're working very hard to increase turnout. And I think we're going to be able to do so. There has to be an urgency around it. I think everyone understands the urgency to vote, to increase turnout and to get the governor back into the governor's mansion, so...
SHERWOODAre the Democrats scaring the voters? I mean, that's, you know, what has happened in the District. Phil Mendelson, a candidate for city council, had a name confusion on the ballot with one of his opponents. And he scared everyone and said, you know, I'm going to lose if we do go out and vote. So people went out and voted. Are you going to scare people that you're going to -- the Democrats are going to be in real trouble?
NNAMDIKeep fear alive.
ALSOBROOKSYou know what? I think that people don't respond to fear anymore. I think that's what we found even in the last election, where Sharon Baker who won for county executive last week had a message that I think resonated, and that was good to great. Let's take this county from good to great. I think it resonated. And I'm finding that people are tired of negative, and people will turn out because they want to see Prince George's County move forward. They want to see the state move forward and not because people are...
NNAMDIYou're killing Stephen Colbert's October 30th rally here to keep fear...
SHERWOODI'm going to that rally, to Keep Fear Alive.
NNAMDITo Keep Fear Alive. And, of course, if you -- and if and when you become Maryland state's attorney representing Prince George's County, you're probably be having to keep a close watch on what takes place at the new Hollywood Casino in Maryland. Tom Sherwood, guess where it is -- a new Hollywood Casino that's coming to Maryland. It could be operating slots by this time next week. It's in Perryville. You're going to need your GPS and your MapQuest to find it because it's in northeast Maryland. That's, what, like Delaware, right?
SHERWOODYeah, but why even go there if you can go in the opposite direction for less in an hour and be at the Hollywood Casino, where there's actually table games and all kinds of activities?
NNAMDIWell, it's in Perryville, which is in the northeastern part of Maryland, pretty close to Delaware. Is my geography correct, Angela Alsobrooks?
ALSOBROOKSYou know what? I have not visited Perryville.
ALSOBROOKSSo I'm not entirely sure.
NNAMDIIt's not Prince George's County.
ALSOBROOKSYeah, that's for sure.
NNAMDIBut you may have a hard time finding it, but that's where it could be starting as soon as next week.
SHERWOODAnd when will the state actually get the first dollar bill from the slots emporiums?
NNAMDIThat, I haven't checked on as yet. But as soon as I do, I will let you know. And I hope that dollar will be yours. Angela Alsobrooks, crime is an issue that looms large in Prince George's County. According to The Washington Post, the county had more rapes, more burglaries and stolen vehicles last year than Baltimore did. The office you're shooting for plays a pivotal role in the county's criminal justice system. What's your vision for it? The Washington Post reports that the office is understaffed. The attorneys have too many cases, that there are great many challenges that you face.
ALSOBROOKSThere are great many challenges, but the good news is that there's also lot of opportunities. I began my career in that office in 1997 as the first full-time domestic violence prosecutor, and so I am very familiar with the office, familiar with all the various divisions. There is great talent in that office although we could attract more. I believe that we should also attract more experienced attorneys. And so the priority will be to train, retain and to inspire the attorneys who are in that office, to work to their potential, to handle well and thoroughly the cases that come before us and to make sure that we send the unmistakable message that crime will not be tolerated in Prince George's County.
NNAMDIBut given the state of the economy, what can Sharon Baker -- or you for that matter -- do about salaries, do about shortage of lawyers, do about caseloads? What can you do about that, given the economic situation we find ourselves in? Can you promise raises? Can you promise to hire more lawyers?
ALSOBROOKSI can promise an effort in that regard. What I will also promise is to work collaboratively with state officials, with federal -- with our partners on the federal level as well to bring as many dollars to Prince George's County as possible, including some grant dollars that will be helpful to us in fighting various divisions, including gang violence, domestic violence. And so there's lots of money there. So we'll work together with our partners, and we will also just be smart about the dollars that we do have. One of the benefits, I believe, I bring to the office is that I have served as executive director of the county's revenue authority for the last six years. And so I am very familiar with budgets. And we've worked even during tough times to make sure that we have been very fiscally sound. And we're going to do the same in the United States Attorney's Office.
NNAMDIIf you have questions about the prosecution of crime in Prince George's County, you can call us at 800-433-8850, or go to our website, kojoshow.org. Make a comment, ask a question there. Send us a tweet @kojoshow or e-mail to email@example.com.
SHERWOODMs. Alsobrooks, you say in your -- on your website that you're for safer schools and safer neighborhoods. And it sounds like you're going to get -- be a lock-'em-up, get-tough type of attorney to say that criminals have to get the message that if you're going to commit crime in Prince George's County, we're going to hold you accountable, put you in jail. How tough do you think you are going to be?
ALSOBROOKSYou know, I think tough isn't so hard. I think smart is more appropriate. And by smart, I mean that we must be tough on violent criminals. We must insist that our neighborhoods will be safe, that our children will attend safe schools. But we also have to be smart and understand that part of crime-fighting is preventing it before it starts. And so I will focus not only on being tough and making sure that we prosecute firmly the cases that come before us and fairly the cases that come before us, but the other thing that we must do is to work as hard to prevent people from getting to the criminal justice system in the first place. Where it is appropriate, we will insist on drug treatment, intervention, programs for first-time, low-level, non-violent offenders to make sure that we are able to decrease some of the recidivism that we are seeing because that's a huge problem as well. And so tough to me means smart, that we are firm, that we are fair and that we also do everything that we can to prevent crime from occurring.
SHERWOODIf someone grows up and is not a juvenile but a young person that doesn't have a lot of opportunities for education or for a career and then gets involved in carjacking or car thefts, which is an issue in the -- in the county, or becomes a criminal, is it your view then that that person must serve tough sentences even while you try to change the direction for people who might be coming behind that person? I mean, do you -- I don't quite...
SHERWOODEveryone says if we can just steer people from, away from criminal activity...
SHERWOOD...better school programs, better after-school programs, better educational opportunities, but meanwhile, people are afraid in their homes sometimes, that their neighborhoods...
SHERWOOD...are not safe.
ALSOBROOKSWell, you know, what...
SHERWOODHow do you draw that distinction?
NNAMDIWell, I was about to add to Tom's question, that you have said in the past that you would like to bring a criminal recidivism plan to Prince George's, similar to one put in place in San Francisco by San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris. What is that? What does that plan look like? What does it involve? It's my understanding that it involves fairly tough punishment but the opportunity to also get out and change your life. How does it work?
ALSOBROOKSAbsolutely. It's the Back on Track program. It's a nationally acclaimed program. And you're right. It was instituted by Kamala Harris. And what it involves is first-time, low-level, non-violent offenders will have an opportunity through various partnerships to attend college, to attend job training, to do any number of things that will help them to rejoin the community in a productive way. And if they do not follow through in these programs, then the original sentences are instituted. So it is firm in that there is a consequence for the illegal conduct, but it also gives people an opportunity to rejoin our community in a productive way through education, through job training and other opportunities.
SHERWOODAnd violent criminals, what happens to them?
ALSOBROOKSViolent criminals go to jail, that much I can tell you.
NNAMDIThe first issue that you list on your website is what? You spent five years prosecuting in Prince George's County, domestic violence. How will that factor into your approach as a prosecutor -- as the county's chief prosecutor now? And what do you plan on doing differently from your predecessor on that issue? You are the expert -- it would appear -- on domestic violence.
ALSOBROOKSRight. And I didn't spend the entire five years in domestic violence, but I recognize domestic violence is a horrible issue, not only in our community, but throughout the state and throughout the country. And what I intend to do is to build upon, actually, what Mr. Ivey has done. I believe he did a great job in terms of bringing more attention to domestic violence, and it involves two things. First, as we've always said, making sure that we are tough in making sure that we hold accountable people who are involved in domestic violence, but it also involves education. I believe that we ought to reach our young people much sooner than we have. Unfortunately, I believe we have to begin talking to them even in middle school about what healthy relationships look like.
ALSOBROOKSAnd then we have to provide places for victims of domestic violence to go to break the cycle, similar to what happens in Montgomery County. They have a wonderful Family Justice Center that provides places for victims to go. It's kind of like a comprehensive place for jobs and other resources, for money, housing and some of the things that generally cause victims to go back to abusive situations.
SHERWOODTo many people, the most reluctant witness often is a domestic abuse case where the person is confused or scared for what might happen to him or her, usually her. But how many -- are there prosecutions? Do people go to jail for domestic violence? How -- what kind of record is there on that?
ALSOBROOKSWell, there's -- when we talk about domestic violence cases, then we talk about assaults -- and they're broken out in different ways, and I don't have all the numbers as to how many of the assaults in the office now are a result of domestic violence and some of the other burglaries and other things.
SHERWOODBut people -- and it's principally men abusing women, I think. That's generally correct.
SHERWOODI mean, do people generally go to jail in these cases, or do they get -- what happens to them?
ALSOBROOKSI think it depends on the nature of the crime. I think for serious assaults, they do. I think for stalking cases, they do. It just depends on the nature of the offense. I think for violating protective orders, some do and should go to jail, I believe.
SHERWOODAnd do they get, you know, anger management courses, those kinds of things?
ALSOBROOKSAnd they do. And, you know, much of that -- or all of that actually depends upon the judge in the case because the judges are responsible for the sentencing...
NNAMDII know one of the biggest headaches for prosecutors in domestic violence cases is when the victim changes -- usually her testimony -- changes, decides not to testify against the abuser. Is there anything you can put in place knowing that it'll often -- that testimony is changed under fear or threat of violence from the abuser? Is there anything that a prosecutor can put in place to make sure that those women know that they are protected?
ALSOBROOKSI believe that there are -- well, there were...
NNAMDIEspecially when there have been highly publicized murders by people who are under protective orders?
ALSOBROOKSAll right. Witness intimidation is an issue that has been addressed even more recently in the General Assembly. Laws have been put in place to address that, and so we also have -- in addition to the recent legislation around witness intimidation -- we have, I believe, an excellent group of victim witness coordinators. We have a whole area that works very closely with the victims in those and witnesses in the case as well, to provide them security. We work along with apartment owners as well to provide safe places for them to live. And so we do as much as we can to ensure our victims and witnesses that they are safe to testify.
NNAMDIHere is Douglas, who is on the road. Douglas, you're on the air. Go ahead, please. Angela Alsobrooks is putting on her headphones. Alsobrooks.
DOUGLAS(unintelligible) Yeah, I think it was the last week where there was an article in The Washington Post concerning older prisoners in a Virginia prison.
NNAMDIYeah, I saw that.
DOUGLASSo I thought about writing a letter to the newspaper, but I never got off my rusty dusty. But it seems to me that if young people who are just entering the criminal justice system were exposed as a part of their treatment, if you will, to these older criminals, some of them who have been there for 20, 30, 40, 50 years and others for a lesser periods for crimes that range the whole area of what is criminal, I just thought that might make a very profound impression on these young people as in, do you really want this kind of thing to be the way you want to live the rest of your life?
NNAMDIFor those of you who may not have read the article, it had to do with prisoners who have been incarcerated for so long and who have become so elderly that they are now suffering from chronic and other ailments and become a burden on the prison system itself, but they still have to serve out their sentences. Angela Alsobrook.
ALSOBROOKSThank you. First of all, thank you so much for the call. I think you're right. I think that part of what we have to do is to expose our young people to the consequences of crime, including having them visit at times the prison system to see what the realities are of being imprisoned. There are programs. There's one called Scared Straight...
ALSOBROOKS...that I know has been very effective over the years. And it sounds similar to what we're talking about in terms of having them visit older criminals, who I believe in many instances will advise our young people against a life of crime after they have spent their -- most of their lives in jail. I think many of them can have a very profound impact on young people.
NNAMDIDouglas, thank you very much for your call. I want to go back to a fairly troubling case in Prince George's County and tell us what you extracted, what you drew from that case -- the case of Ronnie White, the one in which a man accused of murdering a police officer was found dead in his jail cell. The state medical examiner said his death was a homicide. Corrections officer said he committed suicide. Glenn Ivey, your predecessor, the current state's attorney, ultimately decided against pursuing charges. What did that case reveal to you about how the different arms of the county criminal justice system, the courts, the police, the prosecutors, worked together or not -- corrections officers?
ALSOBROOKSWell, you know, first of all, I have to tell you that as the state's attorney-elect for the last -- I've been here about seven days. I haven't had an opportunity to had -- to be privy to all of the information in the case at this point. But what I can tell you from watching is, it looks to me that in the future going forward, there could be better coordination, I believe, probably between the Department of Corrections, one of the other departments. Obviously the result was troubling -- was extremely troubling to me and to everyone who watched. I understand that there was a problem with the medical examiner's report. That's pretty much where the confusion is, even at this point that their -- that it is inconclusive to some extent as to how the -- how Ronnie White died, and I believe that that is troubling on so many levels.
ALSOBROOKSAnd so better coordination, I think, is essential. I think the public deserves transparency in terms of knowing where we are on that case and what the conclusions have been. But I've -- I agree that, I think, definitely better coordination is, you know, the kind of thing that -- the officer's death was horrifying. The prisoner's death was horrifying, and it was just the kind of thing that really should never happen in Prince George's County or any place else.
SHERWOODWhat about the image generally that Prince George police -- and not corrections officer police -- that the county is making progress, it has a long way to go? Where does it stand in terms of the community feeling like the police department is on its side?
ALSOBROOKSYou know, I believe that they're -- that they've -- that we've come a long way in that area. I've lived in Prince George's County my entire life, and I know that they're having...
ALSOBROOKSSo far, all of it.
NNAMDIWait 'till you get to his age, but go ahead, please.
ALSOBROOKSBut in terms of feeling like the police department is on its side, I believe that if you talk to citizens, they know that there have been problems over the years. But most of them want to see our police department succeed. They understand the necessity of having public safety work together, and they want very much to have a police department, I believe, that is successful. And I think, you know, most officers are good officers. As in any organization, you have some that are -- that are bad apples, but when you talk to police officers, I've heard from them over and over again that they do not like bad cops either and that they seek to root them out at every opportunity. And so I believe that officers don't approve of negative behaviors either.
NNAMDIThere's going to be a new sheriff in town. Michael Jackson, the incumbent, lost in his race for county executive, and the new sheriff is somebody you already know because he used to be the police chief in Prince George's County, Melvin High. What is the nature of your relationship with him? What do you expect from him?
ALSOBROOKSI've worked with Chief High in the past. In fact, we started about the same time. He came to Prince George's County. I find him to be very intelligent. I worked well with him even at the revenue authority, and I believe that we will have a very cooperative relationship. I know that he has quite a bit of experience, and I think we'll work together really well.
NNAMDIYou are the first woman to hold this position of state's attorney in Prince George's County. Is that particularly significant outside of the historical significance of being the first woman and an African-American woman?
ALSOBROOKSI think it's significant for many of the young women who watched the race. Many have come up to me and said, you know, this is just wonderful. They want to know that they, too, have an opportunity to serve in public office. And I think it's -- that hopefully it has inspired many of them to know that there is an opportunity for them to serve. And as we talk about -- to the people -- prisoners and talk about the condition of the county, we have found that the fastest growing prison population of Prince George's County is female, which has been devastating to me. And I really hope that this will inspire women all over the county to know that there are opportunities for them.
NNAMDIUnless -- oh, Tom Sherwood.
SHERWOODI have one more question because I always bring this up...
NNAMDIHe always has one more question.
SHERWOODWell, at -- particularly with Prince George's and the District of Columbia and Melvin High. Chief High had some knowledge of this, and that is the continuing concerns about cross-border crime between -- on Southern Avenue, Sheriff Road and other kinds of places.
NNAMDIChief High has served in the District of Columbia.
SHERWOODYes. He was in the District of Columbia. There is a concern that the District -- with (unintelligible) of the District and with the changes in the District of Columbia that a lot of the crime that used to be associated here has moved to the intersection of Prince George's County just over the border. What is your view of that and whether the city and county are working well enough together? Or does the -- should the county be more worried about the importation of crime from the District of Columbia?
ALSOBROOKSWell, actually Chief High and I worked together many years ago in an effort called Connected Communities. And we met on a regular basis with officials in Washington, D.C. regarding cross-border initiatives, including crime and education and some others. And I'd be very interested in working again in that area. I think it's of concern, not only to Prince George's County but to Washington, D.C. as well. I think that coordination is just smart and that we ought to continue it.
NNAMDIGot to get used to calling him Sheriff High. Before you go, Al in Chevy Chase, Md. wants to speak with you. Al, you're on the air. Go ahead, please. Hi, Al.
NNAMDIGo right ahead, Al.
ALYes. Hi. I have basically one comment and one question. The comment is that the police brutality in Prince George's County is so known that all over the Metropolitan area, they are saying that -- try not to get arrested, or try not to do anything wrong in Prince George's County because you don't know what is going to happen to you when that happens. And if that is that -- police brutality -- anything can be done about it, any disciplinary action can be taken or what the ultimate decision would be.
NNAMDII guess the...
ALAnd the other thing, just what's...
NNAMDII guess that gives me the opportunity to also ask -- to add to Al's question about your relationship with Police Chief Roberto Hylton in Prince George's County.
ALSOBROOKSI have a very good relationship with Chief Hylton. We've worked over the years, even at the Revenue Authority. Chief Hylton has done a wonderful job with community policing. And we've worked together in what is known as livable communities. And I think he's done an excellent job in developing relationships and partnerships, especially with community leaders. And we have seen through his leadership a decline in crime. We're already about a 20 year low in terms of crime in the county -- actually, even lower than that. I believe we're at a 35 year low in terms of crime statistics. And I think he has been very successful, especially with the community policing, and I look forward to working with him.
ALSOBROOKSAngelo Alsobrooks is the winner of last week's Democratic primary in the race to be the state's attorney, the Maryland state's attorney representing Prince George's County. Angelo Alsobrooks, thank you very much for joining us.
ALSOBROOKSThank you so much.
NNAMDIGood luck to you.
SHERWOODWe got through this whole program talking with her without saying the words gang violence. I just want the record to show.
NNAMDIThis is true. What that means...
SHERWOODI don't have time.
NNAMDI...is that the next time you'll come back, you'll be getting a lot of questions from Tom Sherwood about gang violence.
ALSOBROOKSI look forward to coming back. Thank you very much for having me.
NNAMDIYou're more than welcome. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC4 reporter and a columnist for The Current Newspapers. The number here, of course, is 800-433-8850. You can send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Tom Sherwood, Virginia has executed the first female prisoner, the first woman, in a hundred years. She was a plotted -- she was convicted of plotting with her lover to kill her husband and stepson for insurance money. A lot of appeals were made to Governor McDonnell, but he decided, no, that this should go ahead. Any thoughts about that at all?
SHERWOODWell, there was some concern that she was put to death for a crime that she engineered but that the person who did the shooting got life sentence. It seems a little odd and inconsistent. But I had no expectation that Governor McDonnell was going to grant clemency to her.
SHERWOODI think he would -- just as the prosecutor who's sitting here, I think he wants to send the message that we don't tolerate. There's so many -- there were families who were affected. Lives were lost. And I think it's a -- Governor McDonnell was clearing his -- his time as attorney general and elsewhere. He's not going to have a soft ear to that type of situation.
NNAMDINever expected it to happen, that there would be clemency. There was not clemency. So the first woman in a hundred years has, in fact, been executed in Virginia. You're listening to "The Politics Hour," featuring Tom Sherwood. Frank Wolf has represented his District in Virginia since the year 1981. He is getting a challenge this year from Jeff Barnett. He is the Democratic candidate in the race to represent Virginia's 10th District in the U.S. House of Representatives. He is Wolf's Democratic opponent. Congressman Frank Wolf is a Republican. Jeff Barnett joins us in studio. Thank you very much for joining us.
MR. JEFF BARNETTKojo, it is a pleasure to be here.
NNAMDIWell, we've mentioned that Frank Wolf has been representing this District since 1981. Even with the momentum of Barack Obama's presidential campaign two years ago, Frank Wolf beat his Democratic opponent by some 20 points. Why are you running? And what gives you the confidence that you can win?
BARNETTGreat question. I get that a lot. This is the perfect time to be running. First, the anti-incumbent sentiment is extremely strong across our district. I don't know how many times I've heard Mr. Wolf described as being there a long time, and it's not meant as a compliment. Also, we're in an economic crisis. It's severe, and it's not over. And Mr. Wolf was at the nexus of it. He had oversight of the Securities and Exchange Commission, and he did a disgraceful job in that oversight rule. Finally, this is the only election that's on the ballot in Virginia in my district. So there's no senators up this year, obviously no president. There's no statewide races going on and very few local races. So Mr. Wolf is exposed, and I'm the right messenger. And I've got the right message to win this race.
NNAMDIIf you'd like to join this conversation with Jeff Barnett, Democratic candidate in the race to represent Virginia's 10th District, you can call us now at 800-433-8850. Send us a tweet @kojoshow. Here is Tom Sherwood.
SHERWOODI was reading your biography on your website about your extensive career in the Air Force, how you spent many years building up to doing increasingly more and more responsibilities -- and you ought to be pretty proud of that career. Is that correct?
BARNETTI'm very proud of my military career. I'm -- I served for 26 years. I retired as a full colonel. I saw a combat at the beginning of my career, and I was a peacekeeper at the end of my career. Matter of fact, the peacekeeping mission I was on was called by the RAND Corporation, the most successful peacekeeping mission by the U.N. in (unintelligible)
NNAMDIWhich one was that?
BARNETTIt's called -- it was in Eastern Slovenia. And I will give our listeners a pass for not knowing what Eastern Slovenia is.
NNAMDIThey're still trying to figure out how to get Perryville, Md. for -- find the new slots casino.
SHERWOODWell, the reason I asked, because you do have a distinguished career -- assuming it's all correct, and I assume that it is -- but my thought, as I was reading it, you had spent a lifetime in the Air Force. I mean, I think your father was in the Air Force, correct?
SHERWOODAnd I was thinking, well, longevity is not an issue. I mean, someone didn't come along 20 years into your military career or 25 years and say, okay, you've been here long enough. We need someone else. And I'm just wondering if Frank Wolf says, you know, he's been there since '81...
SHERWOOD...but the seniority system works in the same way. He's been there for a long time. He's had a fairly distinguished career in his time, parked many political issues, and if the Republicans are going to take over the House this fall -- likely, it's possible -- wouldn't have the northern Virginia voters be better off having someone who has all the bells and whistles of power on January -- when January comes? I mean, why the throwing out because he's been here since 1981?
NNAMDIPlus, he's on the...
SHERWOODWhy is that a negative?
NNAMDIPlus, he's on that appropriations committee so he can argue he can bring the (word?)
SHERWOODRight. Why is it a negative instead of a positive that someone has been there a long time? This is a common refrain in the politics. Throw the incumbents out. Throw the people out who have been there a long time. Why is that a negative?
BARNETTWell, in my case, two faults. Number one, my military career -- what I learned were the values of leadership and accountability. Leadership and accountability, and I think that's what we all learn in whatever endeavor we go into. And that is directly applicable to this job. Number two is -- and again, this might appeal to some of the real policy in policy, in political walks in the room. The congressman from Northern Virginia has an incredible advantage on Capitol Hill. Right now, most congressmen do not live in the area. They fly home to their districts on Thursday night. They come back in Monday night or -- if they're from the West Coast -- Tuesday morning.
BARNETTBut our congressman has the opportunity to work two full extra work days a week on issues that affect our District. Mr. Wolf is not taking advantage of that advantage. And I'll give you a good example. The rail to Dulles -- we got the lowest percentage of federal funding for rail project in the country and not by just a little bit, but by about half of what everybody else got in the country. And this was for the most arguably federal project of everything. It was, you know, connecting our national capitol with this international airport. So it's fine to have seniority, but it's not enough when you don't use it.
BARNETTI'll give you another example. There was a bill recently that was to freeze federal spending. The Republicans voted en masse to freeze -- not only federal spending but to freeze federal salaries. Now, Mr. Wolf, to his credit, voted against that freeze. However, he could not lead his caucus. So you can have seniority, but if it doesn't have an effect, then it doesn't have any value.
NNAMDIAllow me to go to Stephanie in Potomac Falls, Va. Stephanie, you are now on the air. Go ahead, please.
STEPHANIEOh, I'm so glad about the comments that you just made about having seniority and using it because I assume that they are two different things. I have been voting for Frank Wolf since 1984 when I was first able to vote. And I've been very pleased with him and have even donated to his campaign, but I am not planning on voting for him this time. I'll be voting for your guest there. I have my own reasons based on legislation that Frank Wolf has voted against that have come up recently. But I'd like to hear the guest's reasons for the main mistakes he thinks Frank Wolf has made, especially in terms of legislation he has not supported that he should have supported or vice versa.
BARNETTWell, I'll give you two examples, one social issue and one -- an economic issue. On the social issue, Mr. Wolf voted against equal pay for equal work. Now, how can you do that? How can anybody justify that? This was a Lilly Ledbetter Act, and he voted against it. You know, I thought that that issue was settled when President Kennedy signed the Fair Pay Act almost half a century ago. And here, we have, you know, our congressman -- my congressman -- actually voting against equal pay for equal work. But on the economic issues -- and that comes up a lot -- you know, our economy is in trouble, and when our economy is in trouble, the polarization cascades all through our society. We get at each other's throats. The guys who got us into this mess are not the guys who'd get us out of it, and Mr. Wolf is at the nexus of all the bad decisions that we were made -- that were made throughout the Bush years.
NNAMDIWould you have voted for the financial regulation bill?
BARNETTI certainly would, and Mr. Wolf voted against it. But I'll say this, Kojo...
NNAMDIWould you have voted for the healthcare bill?
BARNETTYes, I would.
NNAMDIWould you have voted for the cap-and-trade bill?
BARNETTYes, I would.
NNAMDIAll of those were opposed by Frank Wolf. But you told The Washington Post that the healthcare bill was too much change, too fast. So if you -- if that is your opinion -- why would you have voted on it? Or what would you -- what would have been a sounder approach in your view?
BARNETTYeah, the too much change in too short a period of time is what generated the antibodies to the healthcare bill. You know, as it stands right now, you know, one out of seven people in the State of Virginia do not have healthcare insurance. So when they get into an accident, and they're carried into the emergency room, guess who pays for their care? We do. In addition, the healthcare industry has shown, you know, no moral judgment. They've been rescinding people from their healthcare coverage when they get sick. They've been refusing people with pre-existing conditions on suspicious grounds. So the healthcare bill gets to those problems. But in terms of both the healthcare bill and the financial reform bill, the implementation is what has to be worked now. And we need an act of Congress, not a-- an act of congressmen, not an act of Congress. We need an act of congressmen to implement those bills, and I'm dedicated to do that. Mr. Wolf is dedicated to some Quixotic quest to try to repeal those bills instead of building upon what we've already done.
NNAMDIEarlier, Atty. Gen. Ken Cuccinelli opposes healthcare reform because it says it violates the Constitution. Americans should not be forced to pay for anything. They should be allowed to make that decision themselves about whether they have to pay for anything they may or may not want it. How do you respond to his criticism?
BARNETTThe only way to make the healthcare bill work in this country and to make healthcare work is to deal with the aspects of pre-existing conditions. And the only way to deal with that is to pull everybody into the system, so that's how I would respond to it.
NNAMDIStephanie, thank you very much for your call.
STEPHANIEThank you. You got my vote now.
SHERWOODI would say -- would you read...
BARNETTThank you, Stephanie.
SHERWOOD...Mr. Wolf as a moderate conservative, conservative moderate? How would you? I'm just wondering, how is the Tea Party -- actually, the question I'm really asking is, how is the Tea Party having any impact in your race, or is it?
NNAMDIAnd on how you campaign.
SHERWOODAre you seeing any evidence of the Tea Party in your district?
BARNETTWell, sure. The Tea Party invited all the candidates to a debate out in Ashburn. I showed up. Mr. Wolf didn't. I answered their questions. Now, I'm not going to tell you I got many votes that day, but I think I got a couple because what these guys want is our politicians who are not going to lie to them and give them straight answers. And that's what they got from me. But to answer the first part of your question, Tom, when you said, how would I characterize Mr. Wolf? He characterizes himself -- there are transcripts where he calls himself a very conservative Republican who supports President George W. Bush across the board. So not just Republican, not just a conservative Republican...
SHERWOODI think the...
BARNETT...but a very conservative Republican.
SHERWOOD...statute of limitation's running out on -- running against George Bush, though.
NNAMDIJeff Barnett is a Democratic candidate in the race to represent Virginia's 10th District in the U.S. House of Representative. He's running against the incumbent Congressman Frank Wolf, who is a Republican. If you have comments or questions about that race, you can call us, 800-433-8850. Here's Jose in Leesburg, Va. Jose, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JOSEHi. Thank you, Kojo. I have a question. I am a mortgage fraud investigator. And recently in the news, we learned -- I mean, I was aware of it several years ago -- but we got aware that giant lenders on services such as GMAC continuously use forged documents and false affidavits to foreclose on thousands or even millions of homes. After 7 million American families have lost their homes in the last five years, what are you planning to do? What is your position regarding the foreclosure news in Virginia as far as legislation in the federal level and in the state level? I want to hear about that because I deal with thousands of families every week, every month, ever year. And whenever they go to court, the court system in Virginia just shuts them down. It's like they are sold out to the lenders right away. They come in with proof that the documents that they are using to foreclose are fraudulent, false, but the judges keep the ruling in favor of the lenders. What is your position regarding that?
NNAMDIHere's Jeff Barnett.
BARNETTYeah, that's come up, obviously, a lot during this campaign. And from the beginning of the campaign, we have talked about the foreclosure crisis and the fact that, you know, the government treats the big bang as too big to fail. But we treat average people as too small to save. One of the ways that I would like to address foreclosures is to be able to -- for people to get back into the game, back into the housing game. Obviously, if you can't afford your house, you've got problems. And government cannot bail out everybody on an individual basis. We all understand that.
BARNETTBut if you are foreclosed, you're out of the housing market for at least seven years. What I would like to do is have legislation that would institutionalize the short sale process, and that would give the homeowners the lever to force a short sale by the part of their lender. So, in essence, sell the house for the market value of that house. I would hope that most lenders won't go along with it, so it will be more of a lever that then the mortgage holders will then work with the homeowner 'cause we want to try to keep people in their house. But right now, Jose, as you just said, all the cards are stacked in favor of the banks. And I want to give a couple of cards to the homeowners to try to help them stay in their house, and I think institutionalizing the short sale process is a good tool.
SHERWOODWe can't. We have to talk about transportation in Northern Virginia. Frank Wolf, in his time in Congress has -- and on his website -- talks about all the things he has done to bring federal monies and federal concerns to the transportation grid in Northern Virginia. Just this week, we learned that there's a billion and a half dollars in unspent federal funds and state funds in the state government that apparently the Democratic administration didn't spend. What are -- do you have any differences on what Frank Wolf has done for transportation in Northern Virginia compared to what you think should have been done?
SHERWOODI think it's a terrible mess. And I hate driving, and I can generally speak for it.
BARNETTRight. When Mr. Wolf says that he's done a good job on transportation, then I just say, well, are you going to believe Frank or your own eyes? Transportation is bad. It's getting worse and worse and worse. You know, our parents overbuilt Northern Virginia's transportation network. All we've done is lengthen and widen what we inherited. And yes, you need to do that. But we also need to take our game to the next level. And you need to have a vision to do that. You know, as the book of Proverbs says, you know, without a vision, the people perish. And our transportation system is going to kill our economic growth because people are going to continue to flow in to Northern Virginia.
SHERWOODBut an example of -- how would you -- what one thing would you change that's different? Would you...
SHERWOODMore federal funds, more -- quicker planning, what?
BARNETTWell, one, our fair share of federal funds. And again, our fair share of federal funds. When you only get 17 percent of a major rail project, and the average to that year is 36 percent for the rest of the country, then getting the fair share is job one. But I think that we need to be focused on rail. That's my own personal opinion. I think we need rail out to Manassas. We need rail that goes pass Dulles out to Leesburg. And we need rail that crosses the Potomac, so that people can get out of their cars. And they're on that big U-shaped commute, you know, down 270 and across the American Legion Bridge and then back up the Dulles toll road, but that's my vision. What we need to do though is force a consensus. And what gets me, is that our congressman, the 10th District congressman, is in the perfect position to bring together all the different constituencies, you know, multi -- you know, federal, state, local, Northern Virginia, Maryland, District of Columbia.
NNAMDISeveral listeners would like to speak with you. First, Franklyn in Alexandria, Va. Franklyn, go ahead please.
FRANKLYNHow you doing, Kojo?
FRANKLYNMy question is, you know, him being a former of the military, how does he think that, you know, the programs -- the government has the plans to get out of Middle East by next year? How does he think that's doable? Or is it just basically what the government is saying to calm down people, you know, because they promise we were going to get out? And you know, this question (unintelligible)
NNAMDIWell, allow me to have him answer that one question first...
NNAMDI…because we're running out of time. Getting out of Afghanistan.
BARNETTFranklyn, I say this, not as a politician but also as a dad. Our youngest child is currently flying combat in Afghanistan. She'll be returning the first week of November, so that's going to be a pretty exciting time for our family. I back the president's strategy. I believe that Afghanistan is not just about Afghanistan. It's also about Pakistan. And of course, Pakistan is where the remnants of Al Qaeda and the old Taliban leadership are residing, and they are now trying to destabilize the country of Pakistan -- a nation with about half of our size in terms of population, 175 million people, and it has nuclear weapons. And we can't let that happen. The president's plan is to pull completely out of Iraq by the end of '11 and out of combat -- out of Afghanistan by the end of '11. I will be a strong advocate for the president to keeping to those timetables, and I will advocate for that from inside the Congress.
NNAMDIFranklyn, thank you for your call. Here's Mark in Ashburn, Va. Mark, your turn. We're running out of time. Please make your question or comment brief. Hi, Mark. Are you there? Oh, Mark's not there. So here's Ginger in Arlington, Va. Ginger, it's your turn. Go ahead, please.
GINGERYes. I am one of those 3,000 people that was dropped to self-insurance of -- by UniCare was dropped in Northern Virginia. And I am 63 with pre-existing conditions. I'm tired of hearing people say that nobody can deny you coverage. That's correct. However, my premium -- I'm self-employed -- will double or triple, possibly up to $1,500 a month. And I'm hearing nothing about caps on the coverage.
BARNETTGinger, I will be very honest with you. I'm going to try to implement the current law before we try to have massive improvements to it. We are going to have to be doing improvements to this law over time. But first, we need to implement the present law. And so the exchanges and the ability to, you know, go online and shop around for different policies -- that's coming. It's got -- going to be by 2014. I wish that the Republicans had joined with the Democrats to really write a law that would be more applicable to our current situation. It's not. But I'm going to focus on getting this present law implemented. That's my number one priority.
NNAMDIHere's Tom Sherwood. You got a minute.
SHERWOODQuickly, is the House Campaign Committee -- Democratic House Campaign Committee giving you money?
BARNETTThey've given us interns. They've given us resources. But, Tom, to answer your question...
BARNETT...directly, most of the Democratic incumbents, you know, they've taken up all the oxygen in the political environment.
NNAMDIAnd just briefly, what do you think the Congress should do about renewing or rolling back the Bush tax cuts?
BARNETTI believe that that we should continue the Bush tax cuts for all but the top 2 percent. I believe that...
NNAMDIGot a lot of those top 2 percent in the 10th District.
SHERWOODThat's over $200,000 for individuals.
BARNETTYes, sir. Yes, sir. I mean, at every -- I think anybody who is serious about balancing the budget must start now. As you know, Bobby Kennedy said, you know, if not us, who? If not now, when? That's $70 billion a year for the top 2 percent who make, on average, over $800,000 a year. We've got to start somewhere, and I think that's where -- place to start.
NNAMDIJeff Barnett is the Democratic candidate in the race to represent Virginia's 10th District in the U.S. House of Representatives. He's running against Congressman Frank Wolf, a Republican. Jeff Barnett, thank you very much for joining us. Good luck to you.
BARNETTKojo and Tom, I really appreciated this. Thank you very much.
NNAMDITom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC4 reporter and the columnist for the Current Newspapers. Next week, back to work.
SHERWOODYes. Back to work. Have a good weekend.
NNAMDIYou, too, have a good weekend. And thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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