Views & Brews Dems 1st Congressional Debate Distinguishes Candidates

| April 10, 2018 | 0 Comments | News

Indivisible NoVa West and The Prince William League of Women Voters organized a 1st Congressional District Democratic Primary Candidates Debate, which was held Friday, April 6, to a packed house at Old Bust Head Brewery in Warrenton.

The event brought together Democrats of all ages, including activists who organize outside of the established political spheres. Everyone was excited to see the high turnout.

“We’re here on a random Friday in April in a district that hasn’t had a primary in this millennium. The blue wave started right here in 2016,” said Candidate Edwin Santana.

The Debate

Each candidate had a chance to answer each questions submitted by the audience and selected by the organizers. The first person to answer, could also respond at the end. The order rotated.

Dr. Stephen Farnsworth, Professor of Political Science and International Affairs and Director of the Center for Leadership and Media Studies at the University of Mary Washington, moderated.

In their opening statements, candidates introduced themselves.

Edwin Santana

Edwin Santana is a first-generation Puerto Rican American, a father, husband, engineer and USMC Officer and Logistics Consultant. He is a former Marine and husband to a Marine.

Santana said he decided to run immediately after the 2016 Presidential election. He is a progressive fighting for a single-payer heath-care system, strengthening public schools, and securing economic security for all Americans.

John Suddarth

John Suddarth is a U.S. Army veteran, accomplished businessman, and a community leader. He is a graduate of West Point with a Bachelor of Science in engineering. In the Army, he rose to the position of captain. John worked as an aerospace engineer at GE then attended Standford University to earn an MBA. He became a senior corporate executive, running companies with multinational operations. He is the founder of Linden Tree Capital.

Suddarth, a pragmatist said federal money will be spent wisely when politicians refused to be influenced by campaign donations from large corporations. He is also progressive in the sense that he is in favor of a single-payer healthcare system, Medicare for all.

Suddarth’s father died when he was a child and his mother was a Prince William County Schools bus driver. He went to college thanks to the GI Bill and student loans. “Were I a Republican, I would say I am a self-man man, and may even believe it.”

Vangie Williams

Vangie Williams brings with her 30 years of professional experience including work with the Science-Application International Corporation as a Strategic Planner/Senior Project Control Principal. She has high-level project management experience in aerospace, construction, defense contracting, government operations, IT and national security.

“I hired the most Federal employees in our nation’s history [as a TSA manager after 9/11],” she said.

She has an A.A.S. in Construction Management, B.B.A. in Federal Acquisitions and Contract Management, a B.S. in History and an M.B.A in Project Management. She is working towards her doctorate in Business Administration.

Williams is an African American woman, wife and a mother of six daughters, who raised herself up from a difficult childhood that left her homeless at 15. She pledges to be a Congresswoman to “all people,” regardless of political affiliation.

The Issues

All three candidates advocated for progressive social issues such as gay rights, women’s equality, forms of increased gun control, strengthening public schools, protecting against climate change, a responding to sexual abuse, assault and harassment, and creating and sustaining a strong economy especially for working-class people.

Gun Control

Suddarth wants an assault weapons ban, to merge all databases, and restrict those who could buy guns. “I am so strident and outspoken about this.”

“We want an airtight definition (of assault weapons) that gun manufacturers cannot design around,” said Santana

Williams called for “common sense gun reform,” and would limit magazine sizes, not ban assault weapons. “If you need 30 bullets to shoot a deer, you need to go fishing.” She is considering stricter state reciprocity rules and a buyback program.

Sea Levels Rising

Be proactive, said Williams. “Why would Wittman cut the budget for the Army Corp of Engineers?” She opposes fracking. “No frackin’ way.”

Santana said climate change is a priority. “You can’t bury your head in the sand about his issue.” He said environmental protections will help create new jobs.

Suddarth wants to reduce the carbon footprint and return to the Paris Agreement.

Public Education

Santana said “invest in it [education] like the national priority that it is,” prioritize it like we do national defense.

Suddarth opposes vouchers: “Those who have the least are giving it to those who have the most.” He’s skeptical of standardized testing. “A pig doesn’t get fatter if you weigh it every day.”

“No charter schools on a Federal budget,” said Williams, and teachers should be treated as “rock stars”

Sexual Assault

“As a woman and a mother of six daughters, I take this question very seriously,” said Williams. She wants hospitals educated about rape and harsher penalties for rapists.

Suddarth said the answer is enforcing existing laws. “I’m surprised it took so long to get to the ‘me too’ movement…There is a legal dispute between the president and porn star, and most people are rooting for the porn star.”

“Make affirmative consent as the standard across the county,” Santana said. Take sexual assault issues out the hands of the military. “Military officers have no incentive to report something that will make them look bad.”

Military Families

“Wittman does not care about military families,” Williams said, just “military contractors.” Meanwhile, veterans are on food stamp. “I’m very encouraged that we have a small tsunami coming…(let’s) focus on our people, not corporations.”

Santana said his 24-year-old brother is a disabled veteran and he and his wife are both military people, so he would definitely support military families.

Suddarth said that the single-payer system could support everyone and free up veterans hospitals to focus on specific veterans needs such as wounds and PTSD.

Opioid Crisis

“The war on drugs is a war we lost,” Santana said. He would treat it “as the health epidemic that it is…because addiction is a disease.”

Suddarth wants to take on the pharmaceutical industry. “We need to take the profit motive out of the provision of healthcare.”

“I am the child of a woman who was addicted to drugs,” said Williams. “I vow I will never take money from a pharmaceutical company nor a healthcare company.” She said it is not just opioids but crack, meth and other street drugs that need to be addressed as medical issues, not crimes.

Illegal Immigration

Candidates said they could help some immigrants find a path to citizenship but that does not mean they support open borders.

The same people who (claim to oppose illegal immigration) used illegal labor to suppress wages,” Suddarth said. He is in favor of seasonal immigration visas and protecting competitive pay for Americans.

Williams said she wants to support the DREAMERS and allow hardworking people a solid path to citizenship.

“Democrats should have stood up for this issue,” said Santana, supporting DACA. “First generation immigrants commit crimes at a lower rate.

LBGTQ Rights

“As a mother of a child who is nonbinary, I have learned so much,” Williams said. She wants equal pay for LGBT people and laws to make them feel comfortable in the mainstream workforce.

“This is just a new way to discriminate,” said Santana. “It is absolutely unacceptable in this country in 2019.” He wants to bring LGBTQ voices to the table.

Suddarth wants laws in place to protect women and LGTQT people; then he believes attitudes will change.

Biggest Foreign Policy Concern

The Russian Government meddling in U.S. elections while the administration does nothing about it, said Santana. “North Korea has been crazy for a long time.”

Suddarth said it is too much money in politics and the military industrial complex.

Williams said Russia and cybersecurity threats, plus the trade war with China could hit us hard.

On How to Attract Those Outside the Party

Williams thinks she would be best, because she is independent and fiscally minded, and they call her the “tea-party whisperer.” “We all represent the red, white and blue.”

“I am a proud progressive and I don’t care who knows it,” said Santana, but he is also a Marine, and he believes being a progressive is very popular today.

Suddarth said he would work for an appeal to those people in the middle who don’t attend rallies but just want their government to work. He has a plan for a strong economy and lower taxes.

Social Security

“Stop letting Congress borrow from social security,” said Williams. She thinks getting rid of the healthcare individual mandate was a good step because some people had to pay for the insurance when they have no access to healthcare in their communities.

Santana said he supports a livable wage and people earned their social security, and it needs to be protected.

Suddarth said social security will not run a deficit, but we need to make sure that Congress does not steal from it to give tax benefits to millionaires.

Closing Statements

Santana said he is a “young proud progressive” who would bring a new perspective to Washington and represent working families, not the wealthy.

Williams said she doesn’t define herself as a liberal or conservative. She is a 50-year-old woman with experience in government and the ability to get diverse people on her side.

She said being a woman does matter. She wants to change the status quo where men to women “how to act,” and “how to be.” She said the campaign is not about her: “This is not my campaign; this is our campaign.”

Suddarth said he has a proven track record of success, having turned around many businesses on the verge of bankruptcy. He said he can go to Washington, earn people’s trust and actually get something done. “I know how to work in tough situations with difficult people.”

Supporting Each Other

Everyone said they would absolutely support each other in a general election, and no one plans to run a nasty campaign.

“I’m so excited again, that we are having a primary,” said Santana.

“This is what democracy looks like,” said Williams. “Give yourself a hand.”


Eighteen-year-old Sadgi Gill wore a Santana button.

“What resonated with me was the talk about the difference between defense spending and education spending and the emphasis should be on the education side,” Gill said.

Evelyn Brumar said at this point she is supporting Vangie Williams. Brumar said she “got to know her first,” and shared her struggle with adopting a daughter as a gay woman. She liked that Williams was supportive, compassionate and willing to listen to her.

Her friend Catherine Hulbert agreed. “As the mother of a transgender child, to have that empathy piece for that issue, it’s like somehow walking in my shoes.”

Peggy Futrell also said it is nice to send another woman to Congress. “This time, I’m really pro-woman.”

One Indivisible woman said that John Suddarth seemed the most qualified because he had done his research and had the data to back up his position. She was also impressed by his experience.

Kristi Black wore a Santana button. Said she had a group meet with Edwin Santana and he did not want to talk, but to listen to them. She appreciated that.

© 2018, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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