Local Democrats energized for the upcoming election packed Raven’s Nest Coffee House on Davis Street Thursday night to welcome and hear from congressional candidate Wayne Powell.
A U.S. Army veteran, Powell, 61, is running as a Democrat against longtime Seventh District incumbent Eric Cantor, R-Richmond.
A Richmond native and attorney like his opponent, Powell is otherwise very different from 49-year-old Cantor, Majority Leader in the U.S. House since 2011, and Culpeper County’s congressional representative since 2000.
Cantor’s name came up a lot during Thursday’s “Open Town Hall Meeting” hosted by Powell, who was articulate and well received by local constituents in attendance.
“I love this country and we’ve got a lot of problems,” said Powell of why he is running for elected office for the first time.
“But I’m not a whiner and am not a person who thinks fear and loathing is the way to run a country. I think you’ve got be constructive, you’ve got to be engaging and you’ve got to get the facts to find the problem and solve it.”
Powell listed his top three issues if elected as: 1) the economy and jobs; 2) changing the way Congress operates and 3) transparency in government while weeding out the influence of money.
“The economy is off the cliff because we have a Congress that’s dysfunctional. Mr. Cantor is part of that,” Powell said. “We have a difficult debt, but it’s not intractable. It wasn’t made overnight – it can’t be paid off overnight, but we need to pay off the debt. That is not a democrat or republican issue, that’s an American issue.”
According to the Democratic candidate, the budget proposed by GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his VP pick, Paul Ryan, calls for a 2.7 percent increase in the budget over 10 years.
“That’s $6 trillion more in debt. They won’t tell you that, but that’s a fact. We don’t need deficit spending to pay for the services the people of this country need,” Powell said.
The U.S. Defense budget is equivalent to the total budgets of 26 other countries, including China and Russia, he said, noting it as excessive. A veteran himself, whose son served in Iraq and is now in Afghanistan, Powell said he did not and does not support either conflict.
“I opposed the Iraqi War. I was totally against it from the get-go,” Powell said. “Iraq was never a risk or a threat to us. They were never involved with 9-11 – as an intelligence officer I can tell you that. Once we ejected al-Qaeda and the Taliban in December 2001, January 2002 we should have left.”
He went on to say he was against the ongoing war in Afghanistan, where U.S. servicemen continue to be shot dead by the Afghani security forces they are training.
Powell called the war “a waste of time, money and people,” noting al-Qaeda is in Pakistan.
“If there has been no war declared we should leave immediately – that is in the constitution,” he said.
Powell said he wanted to change the way Congress operates, reversing the “dysfunction and obtrusiveness personified by Eric Cantor.”
“It’s been nothing, but nothing getting done since he became Majority Leader in 2011,” he said. “Everybody in this room knows Congress is not working. If you try to govern on an ideological basis and not as an American then we’re not going to prosper as we should.”
Finally, the Democrat referred to “the absolute obscene influence of the glut of money in politics” in Washington, receiving enthusiastic applause.
“You can look at my FEC report, you can ask us who’s giving us money and we’re always going to tell you where it comes from. I am intending to be a public servant, your servant, not the servant of a pharmaceutical industry or some hedge fund on Wall Street,” Powell said.
He called Cantor “the poster child as one who facilitates corruption in Congress.”
“We need disclosure, we need transparency,” Powell said. “When I am in Congress, you are going to know who I am meeting with. And it’s not going to be lobbyists first, it’s going to people first. Mr. Cantor forgets that representation means you have to represent somebody.”
Answering various questions from the local crowd, Powell said, if elected, he would remain committed to being an advocate for women’s issues, including equal pay as outlined in the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, one of President Barack Obama’s first pieces of legislation.
“Of course Mr. Cantor voted against it,” Powell said, keeping up the attack on the incumbent.
“My two basic platforms are economic fairness and social justice. You cannot have justice for everybody if you don’t have justice for both sexes. That means everything needs to be equal – equal pay for equal work. Period. No exceptions. It’s all about human rights.”
Talk of the Ledbetter Act fired up Col. Samuel Glasker, of Culpeper, longtime member of the Culpeper County Democratic Committee. He said once people learn “the facts” about Cantor’s record in Congress they can then make an informed decision on Election Day.
“Cantor voted against equal pay for women,” Glasker said. “That is a disgrace, discrimination and everybody in the streets of Culpeper should understand that, every female who works should be willing to vote against him for that. We know his record – the public does not know his record. People here who are voting for Cantor are doing so because he’s been in there since the beginning. He doesn’t have the courtesy to come and meet the people and they still vote for him. I can assure you when the facts get on the ground about his record, how it affects you personally, you’re not going to vote for him.”
Powell spoke about his support of affordable healthcare for all, saying he supported “a progression toward” Medicare for all U.S. citizens while expressing concern about the cost in light of the national debt and deficit.
Powell took aim at the big banks and persistent lack of financial regulation.
“If they were too big to fail they’re just too doggone big. And what happened to the anti-trust created by this Republican guy Teddy Roosevelt? I mean when is the last time any of the big banks were tested to see why are so big. I think they ought to be auditing to see where this money is going. When you have all these billions of dollars given to these folks and then they give hundreds of millions of dollars in bonuses because they don’t want to lose the talent, hey with talent like that, hey, you know what I mean,” he said.
The last time 1 percent of the country controlled 25 percent of the country’s wealth was in 1929, right before the Great Depression, Powell said. The candidate said he would disclose his tax records, and encouraged Cantor to do the same, saying outright that the incumbent has benefited from insider trading.
The Virginia Chamber of Commerce recently announced a Sept. 28 debate between Cantor and Powell at a member business in the district. According to the chamber, the debate will be open to chamber members and the media.
Asked in Culpeper what one question he would ask Cantor, Powell replied, “Why are you selling out your country? Is all the money worth it? It’s not worth it.”
The Culpeper County Democratic Committee, located on the second floor of the A.P. Hill Building at Main and Davis streets, hosts a grand opening of the Wayne Powell for Congress northern office Aug. 23, starting at 7 p.m.
Cantor strategist Ray Allen laughed and laughed when asked about Powell in a recent phone interview with the Star-Exponent.
“Wayne Powell wouldn’t know the truth if the truth walked up and shook his hand,” Allen said.
Link to original article from Star Exponent