Fifth District Race: Compare, Contrast – Douglass

Published 4:57 pm Thursday, November 1, 2012

(Retired Brigadier General John Douglass, a Democrat, is running for the Fifth District congressional seat. Douglass served in the Air Force and was a part of President Reagan's Strategic Modernization Program. After retiring, Douglass was appointed by President Clinton to be the assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition. A farmer, Douglass was also recently the president and CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association.)

The Herald: If you could submit only one piece of legislation as a member of the next Congress, what would it be and why?

Douglass: Well, I've already made a promise that my first piece of legislation would be to ban uranium mining in residential areas and so I'd have to make good on that promise if I could only do one.

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And, of course, the reason is that uranium mining in a wet climate like we have here in Virginia is so, so dangerous. And, you know, God forbid it get into the air and the water. And it's already depressing so many people's property values down in the Southside. So that would have to be my first thing. If I was only allowed one, I would have to make good on that promise.

The Herald: How do you view yourself in light of your party's presidential nominee? How do you see yourself as alike or different?

Douglass: Well, you know, I've had a different life than our presidential nominee. I've served our country in the military most of my professional life, then had a business career. So, while many of the policies we support are, you know, similar, my lifestyle and my life experience has been, you know, enormously different.

So, you know, I'm going to be a candidate for Congress that is a good Democrat. But, I'm going to be about as independent a Democrat as you can be, because my devotion is going to be to the people of the Fifth District, first and foremost, and to our country second and to the Democratic Party third.

The Herald: Jobs and the state of the economy are often listed among the chief issues for concern among voters. What will you do as a member of Congress to improve job opportunities and strengthen the economy as a whole in the Fifth District?

Douglass: Well, you know, what we need is a partnership between the federal government, the state government, local governments and industry. You know, there are four team members on this team and we got to get them all working together. If you try to do it with just one or two it doesn't work very well. We've learned that lesson over and over and over.

And, secondly, it has to have bipartisan support. You can't try to do this simply as a Republican or simply as a Democrat. It's got to have everybody on the team.

When I was assistant secretary of the Navy, for example, I brought the Virginia class submarine to Virginia. We have 50 percent of those submarines are being produced in Virginia right now. And that took a lot of work, working with both Republicans and Democrats. In those days we had: John Warner was a Republican senator, Chuck Robb was a Democratic Senator. We had both Republican and Democratic congressmen from the tidewater area, down where the ships are being built, you know, in Norfolk.

So, it takes teamwork. I know how to do that, of course, because of my time, you know, in the Navy, creating jobs all over the country. So, you know, that's how you do it.

There are plenty of jobs also that we can create by helping farmers. You know, helping them with access to capital. Making sure that crop insurance is working properly. Helping them with their energy problems by making it easier for them to convert to cheaper renewable energy. Making sure that if they do things like solar and other forms – methane energy production – on their farms that they get a fair price for the energy they produce.

The Herald: What steps would you take to avoid sequestration?

Douglass: Well, you know, I won't be in office when this comes to a head. But, I never have voted for sequestration. It is a terrible policy. If it does get executed, both sides of the aisle have pointed out that Virginia stands to lose somewhere in the neighborhood of 200,000 defense jobs and, Lord knows how many jobs on the non-defense side. So, you know, we could see three or four hundred thousand jobs disappear right here, just in Virginia. So imagine what it would do to our overall national economy.

So, our politicians should not – this is kind of like Russian roulette or something, you know, with the economy. And we shouldn't be doing this.

I would never allow – I would never vote for it. One congressman can't say they can personally stop it, but I would use all of my leadership skills to help find the kind of compromise across the aisle that, you know, would lead us to a budget that doesn't require sequestration.

You know, you need to, we need to do three things. We need to raise revenue. We need to cut spending. And we need to grow the economy. And business leaders all over the country are urging politicians on both sides of the aisle to move in that direction.

I just saw, on the news this morning (October 26), where about a dozen of our major corporation CEOs are saying to the Republican side, “Look. You got to agree that some revenue increases can be allowed.”

And, you know, my opponent has taken a pledge to some politician or some person in Washington named Grover Norquist never to raise revenue. Well, it's the House of Representatives who's charged in the Constitution for raising the revenue to run our government. And I will never take a pledge that countermands my oath of office to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.

The Herald: What, if any, provisions of the Affordable Care Act do you believe should be repealed and why? And what, if any, provisions of the Affordable Care Act would you like to see enacted and why – or would you work to keep?

Douglass: Well, I think it's too early to say that any part of it should be repealed. I think we need to look and see how it's working.

But, I would say this. You know, I'm not a doctor; I'm an engineer. It's possible that once we get a year or so into this that we'll find out that there are parts of it that don't work, so we'll, you know, have to modify them.

But, we have to make sure that the healthcare of our people are protected. We certainly don't want to see this Ryan-Hurt budget come in that will, you know, take Medicare and turn it into a voucher system that our seniors are going to have to bring $6,400 to the table every year. We don't want to see the medical care for our veterans taken away, as it's laid out in the Ryan-Hurt budget.

Clearly, we're at the stage now where we're sort of joining the rest of the world that have national healthcare programs that function well. We need to see how this new law actually works. And then, if we need to, modify it.

But, I don't have any specifics on modifying it right now. I certainly wouldn't take away any of the good provisions that are in it, you know, like keeping kids on their parent's insurance up through 26 and things like that.

The Herald: Given the deep divide between the political parties in Washington, what would you do to reach across the aisle in a spirit of bipartisanship?

Douglass: Well, you know, first of all, I'm going to put the interests of the Fifth District first. And, I will do everything I can to develop friendships and working relationships with people on both sides of the aisle.

And I view myself as a person that has, you know, had a very successful military career and a successful business career and I'm a farmer. So, you know, I have a good feel for the needs of our people.

I was homeless when I was a kid, taken in by a foster family. Worked my way through college and high school. So, I can see and having experienced some of the things that our people are feeling today.

You know, you don't learn about homelessness by talking to people. You don't really know what it's like to live in your car on a rainy winter, you know, night with no heat in the car until you've gone through that. And you don't really know what it's like to be hungry and have no food and no money until you've lived through it. And you don't really know what it's like to be sick, really sick, and have no money to go to the doctor and not know what's going to happen.

So, you know, those are the kinds of things that I experienced as a young person. And through the generosity of really good people and people who had faith in me and helped me with my education, I was able to rise to the rank of brigadier general and live a successful life.

So, you know, I'm going to do everything I can to help the people of the Fifth District. And I will, you know, reach out to people on both sides of the aisle to make sure that the interests of our people are protected.