Good afternoon and thank you all for being here at this beautiful Oakton library. We opened this library last Fall. It represents what can happen when we work together, collaboration among the community, the private sector and government. Getting things done. Results that matter. That’s the ethos that imbues my approach as the chief elected official of Virginia’s largest local government and that’s the ethos I want to take to the United States Congress. Getting it done, reaching across the aisle, building coalitions, focusing on practical results for our citizens. That spirit has produced a county that has been named the best managed in America with a triple AAA bond rating and the lowest crime rate in the nation. As its Chairman I started a prevention program that cut gang involvement in half, an affordable housing initiative that has preserved thousands of housing units, a living wage policy for our employees. Working with the Sierra Club we launched a Cool Counties plan that will reduce greenhouse gases and address the global warming threat here and across the 3066 counties in the United States. We have produced the most progressive government in our county’s history. Government that works, results that matter.
Sadly that spirit is not what characterizes our federal government, a government that is broken and dysfunctional here at home and abroad. These past seven years of the Bush administration have seen a wholesale retreat on the environment, respect for civil liberties, a woman’s right to choose, health care and spiraling federal deficits. If one needed a compelling image of a dysfunctional national government you need look no further than Katrina. The tragic incompetence of Brownee and FEMA left New Orleans, one of America’s oldest and proudest cities, devastated. Lives were lost, whole sections of the city destroyed. The utter indifference of the Bush administration in preparing to meet the worst natural disaster ever to hit the continental United States is a stark indictment of its incompetence and indifference in the face of unprecedented human suffering. And abroad America’s image has been damaged. The opportunity to unite world opinion to America’s cause immediately after the tragedies of 9/11 was squandered by cowboy diplomacy and a reckless war in Iraq.
We have work to do in the U.S. Congress.
The US economy is rapidly headed into recession, and President Bush has proposed a budget with $407 billion in red ink. We balance our budgets at the local level, and here in Northern Virginia we have produced a dynamic economy that has created hundreds of thousands of high paying jobs. I want to take that can-do attitude to the next Congress.
The next Congress must boldly confront rising health care costs and ensure quality, affordable health care for 47 million uninsured Americans. As the next Congressman from the 11th District of Virginia I will work with a broad based coalition to design a plan that emphasizes preventive care, expands the SCHIP program to kids and makes it illegal for insurance companies to cherry pick and deny treatment because of pre-existing conditions.
On the environment I will take to the federal level what we have begun here at the local level. We need an EPA that respects the science of global warming and that advocates for clean water and clean air. As a member of Congress I will work to restore America to the forefront of environmental leadership in the world.
In Northern Virginia we have worked hard to build the finest schools in the country, with record high test scores, record graduation rates, and among the highest rates of on- to- higher education in the U.S. Unfortunately the federal government has not been a helpful partner in these achievements. We are denied impact aid even when federal facilities add significantly to our school enrollment, and unfunded mandates add millions of dollars to our locally funded budgets. No Child Left Behind is a classic example of federal good intentions gone awry. It is rigidly applied, takes no account of large immigrant populations for whom English is a challenge and costs local taxpayers millions of their dollars to implement. As a Congressman I will bring the awareness of local impacts to federal legislation and will oppose federal unfunded mandates.
The Federal Workforce:
Here in the 11th District we house many federal agencies and tens of thousands of federal workers. They deserve a Congressman who will fight for them—challenging the needless outsourcing of their jobs, promoting telework, as I have done in the metropolitan region, fighting for pay parity and demanding respect for their public service. As the Congressman from the 11th Congressional District I will be their advocate.
Iraq and Foreign Policy:
I spent ten years of my career as a senior staff member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee traveling to 76 countries, and advising the Congress on the Middle East, the Persian Gulf and a score of foreign policy issues. I want to take that special expertise to the Congress to help restore America’s image abroad, and to end a war in Iraq that has cost us in blood and treasure. As a member of Congress I will insist that torture has no place in American values, and will fight to restore our leadership and credibility in the international community.
You see we have a lot of work to do in the next Congress. I am the only candidate who brings both extensive local government management and foreign policy experience to this race. I bring a passion for progressive values, and an ethic of getting things done. I want to bring that same expectation—the expectation that government will work for its citizens—to the United States Congress. We voters in the 11th Congressional District have an opportunity to change the direction of our country, to restore our leadership in the world and to move beyond the harsh ideological rhetoric of the past. Today I am formally announcing my candidacy to be the next Congressman from the 11th Congressional District of Virginia . We have work to do, we have changes to make, let’s get to it.