The four local candidates for Congress faced off during a rather heated exchange on Tuesday, at a debate sponsored by the Arlington County Civic Federation.
While Independent Jason Howell and Independent Green candidate Janet Murphy focused on changing the current state of affairs by overcoming partisan battles, Republican Patrick Murray largely set his sights on taking jabs at incumbent Jim Moran (D).
Murray said one topic he actually agrees with President Obama on is disgust over certain members of Congress using privileged information to benefit on Wall Street deals. He aimed his insider trading frustrations directly at Moran.
“You know, Jim’s done pretty well. He’s a pretty wealthy guy now. I’m sure that insider trading had something to do with it,” said Murray.
Moran denied any illegal involvement with such deals and downplayed his alleged wealth.
“I was never at this meeting where supposedly insider information was disclosed,” said Moran. “I have zero assets, I live in an apartment in Arlington with my son, and the financial disclosures will show you my asset value of zero.”
Regarding a question to candidates about the situation in the Middle East and strained relations with Israel, Moran said he supports the recent Syria uprising. He doesn’t, however, support sending American troops to assist with the situation.
Following earlier remarks referring to Moran as anti-Semitic, Murray honed in on the topic of relations with Israel. He was the lone candidate advocating increased support for the country.
“We have one solid, strong, democratic ally in the Middle East and that is Israel,” Murray said. “I have a great concern with where we are with our relations with Israel. If I’m your congressman, I will always support Israel 100 percent.”
Murphy was most adamant about not increasing support to Israel.
“I think we’re doing way too much for that ally,” she said. “I think they’re off base in Palestine entirely. I think we’ve had way too much of re-organizing the entire Middle East to their purpose.”
Howell suggested the U.S. foster other relationships in the Middle East, such as with Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
“With all the friends that we have in the Middle East, and all the challenges that there are in the Middle East, we should find better ways and nuanced ways, innovative ways to lean on those partners,” said Howell.
Turning to domestic issues, the candidates discussed the validity of more investments in clean energy. Moran stated his belief that America relies too heavily on fossil fuels, and pushed for more funding in areas like solar and wind energies.
“The fact is that this world is warming, that the climate is changing,” Moran said. “We will all pay the price, but not as steep a price as our children and grandchildren, if we don’t do something today.”
Moran stated that the collapse of Solyndra was an inexcusable, unfortunate incident, but it’s the exception and not the rule. He therefore advocates investing in other clean energy companies.
Also referring to Solyndra, Howell said the government isn’t always proficient at choosing companies to invest in, so he instead advocates “investing in ideas” rather than targeting specific companies to receive funding.
Murphy said America is “late to the game” in promoting clean energy, and she would like to see fossil fuel use end altogether. She would like to impose a 25 cent transaction tax on each Wall Street transaction, which would be set aside for green energy jobs.
Murray said he’s for green initiatives, if they’re functions of the free market. He also favors building the Keystone Pipeline.
“That is 200,000 jobs. And not only that, it is 50 percent of our reliance on OPEC oil right there,” Murray said. “It is the biggest no-brainer we have.”
One debate attendee brought up Americans’ dissatisfaction with Congress, as reflected in the downward trend of its approval rating. The person asked why any incumbents should be re-elected at all.
“Why should you re-elect any of them? You shouldn’t,” said Murphy. “We need to just snap out of it and stop getting dragged around by whatever subliminal messages we’re being told to respond to in these advertisements.”
Murray concurred, claiming current members of Congress are quick to point fingers at others for partisanship, but shirk their own responsibilities. Murray then took another jab at Moran, which garnered some gasps and boos.
“We have a situation now where 144,000 people in Virginia are going to start losing their jobs. It’s all defense spending,” Murray said. “Who sits on the Defense Appropriations Committee? Who’s the Congressman of this district? Who’s been spending money like a crack addict for 22 years?”
For the most part, Moran avoided slinging accusations and attempted to turn attention to what he’s achieved during his time in Congress. He mentioned working in a bipartisan manner to fund projects over the years, such as Metro’s expansion in Arlington.
“When you don’t want to share your policy and vision with your constituents, you rely on personal attacks,” said Moran. “This is one of the finest places to live and work and raise a family in the country. And I’m proud of the fact that I’ve had some small, constructive role in achieving that objective.”
In light of the sometimes nasty atmosphere during the debate, Howell capped off the night by reiterating his focus on civility and working together.
“Some of the problems we have in Congress is just a great deal of disrespect,” he said. “I’m going to bring the same respect to Congress that I’m happy to offer Mr. Moran and the other candidates tonight.”