What do you see as the most pressing federal issue in Maryland and how, specifically, would you address that?
In my view the current lack of national unity and lack of tolerance of divergent views is the most pressing federal issue facing Maryland and the country as a whole. Without it, progress on everything else is more difficult. My approach to address this issue is to move Congress beyond divisiveness through empathy and cooperation and communication. As your next Member of Congress, my loyalties will continue to be to the people of our district – I will support measures that help the district and oppose policies and programs that do not. My extensive government experience has taught me how to get things done through the political process. Likewise, my private business experience has taught me how to work with people, both people who agree with me and, perhaps more importantly, those who don’t. I’m not going to go to Capitol Hill to be a partisan – I’m going to represent and help my constituents and to be a patriot, and I’m willing to assume that same designation applies to men and women of good will regardless of party.
Is the current federal spending level acceptable? Where do you think funding should be cut? Should it be increased for anything?
The current federal spending level is not acceptable. According to the Office of Management & Budget, the federal government will collect $3.4 trillion in the coming fiscal year but will spend $4.4 trillion, thus adding to the $21 trillion we already owe. No organization can continue indefinitely like that; not a family; not a business; not a government. Already annual interest on the existing debt is $310 billion and climbing. The interest we pay on the debt is the fourth largest item in the federal budget. Where to cut? Everywhere, but thoughtfully. Unfortunately, every special interest group in Washington will scream. Career politicians usually placate those who scream loudest. But I am not a career politician. I believe it’s time to take an honest look at where the money is being spent and force a vote on whether that’s something we want to do or need to do. “Needs” I will support. “Wants” I won’t.
How should America’s infrastructure needs be prioritized and funded?
Priorities and federal funding allocations for infrastructure need to be decided through open debate in Congress. Most members have roads, bridges and other infrastructure improvements in their districts that they would like. Some are obvious priorities, but many are debatable. That’s why we should elect a candidate who is committed to working with others, not just voting the party line. Yes, there will have to be trade-offs. That’s politics. They get something they need; we get something we need. The key word, however, is “need.” And how do we pay for it? At present there are three routes: bonds (debt) to be paid off over the life of the project; user fees such as gas taxes; and increasingly, public-private joint ventures like the Dulles Greenway. Another idea worth exploring is an infrastructure bank initially funded by a federal grant and thereafter by repayments on loans. Canada established such a bank two years ago. It would be worth a look to see if it might work here.
Should federal policies on medical cannabis or recreational marijuana be changed? How?
If medically useful, I do not object to cannabis joining the list of proven therapies together with appropriate guidelines for its effective use. However, some people support approval of medicinal cannabis as a route toward approval of recreational usage. They argue that by making it legal you can tax it much in the manner of alcohol, while ignoring the cautions from, for example, Yale University researchers who call marijuana a “gateway” drug, opening the psychological door to other, more destructive substances. I am on the side of being cautious. Drug addiction is a serious health problem for our country, and anything that has a potential to increase it concerns me greatly. I also believe that we need to consider other aspects of potential recreational use, such as the definition of impairment from marijuana while driving, for example.
What federal immigration policy changes would you support, and why?
The first modern comprehensive immigration policy was adopted by Congress in 1952, and major changes were made in 1965 giving preference to immigrants with needed skills and those with relatives already here legally. We are overdue for a review, because patterns of immigration have evolved considerably since that time. However, the issue is not so much what the law says, but rather how it is – and is not – and whether it should be – enforced. If we are not going to enforce a law, then we should work to change it or repeal it, rather than let enforcement be the practice in some places and not others. That fosters a climate of disobedience and decreased respect for all law. One specific immigration challenge that should be addressed today, in my view, is that of the DACA children, who came here innocently through no fault of their own. I support finding a route to allowing them to remain, but I do not want to see that issue misused to ignore, disrespect or simply bypass our laws.
Are guns in America over-regulated or under-regulated? What specific changes, if any, to gun laws would you support or oppose?
The answer depends on where you live, as gun laws are largely state, not federal, and what might seem reasonable in a rural area might not in an urban setting. Maryland has among the toughest laws in the country. A survey by the Washington Post found both California and Connecticut also have strict gun laws. However, those laws did not stop the San Bernardino shooting or the Sandy Hook shooting. In Sandy Hook and, more recently, in Parkview, Florida, no law restricting gun ownership would have been effective in stopping the crimes as in both instances the shooters used guns legally obtained by a parent. Rather than specific changes to gun laws, I support common sense gun restrictions, stronger enforcement of current laws and better federal background checks to keep guns out of the hands of people with mental illness. Again, as with immigration, ignoring existing laws creates a certain amount of disrespect for all laws.
How should America’s health care system be changed?
Our health care system accounts for more than 17% of the U.S. GDP, hence even minor changes can have big repercussions. Today too many people have costly health insurance premiums and/or inadequate health care. I support changing the “Obamacare” features that can be improved rapidly, for example, raising the number of employees for small businesses before they are subject to measures that hamper their growth. The current insurance program encourages small businesses to, as much as possible, use part time work forces. I also support measures to allow cross-state competition for insurance, which would likely reduce insurance costs. Some would have us go to a Canadian-style single-payer health system. But, according to the Fraser Institute, the wait time to see a specialist in Canada is 9 ½ weeks, causing an average of more than a thousand Canadians a week to come south for treatment in the United States. Fundamentally, I believe we are likely to be better off if we apply free market solutions to healthcare and eliminate – or at least greatly reduce – the endless requirements and regulations that impede access to quality healthcare.
Does Congress need to do more to address substance abuse in America?
There were over 2000 deaths from opioid abuse in Maryland last year. Governor Hogan has rightly called it “a public health emergency.” Drugs come from multiple sources – from prescriptions for painkillers to international smuggling operations. Congress needs to fund stepped-up border security and policing of shipping channels to interdict this flow. We also need to use our intelligence resources to locate sources of illegal shipments and seek the help of other countries to shut it off. Congress also needs to provide funded measures to improve tracking of the domestic supply. Finally, I believe Congress needs to provide resources to local communities to design and execute programs tailored to local circumstances to provide rehabilitation facilities and services. Personally, I will continue to speak out to 6th District families urging them to watch for signs of drug use by their loved ones and, when confirmed, guide them to where they can get help. I had a member of my own extended family face just such a situation and I can report that he became free of addiction.
Some residents in Frederick County are concerned about congressional districting and consider the 6th District to be gerrymandered. Do you support national redistricting reform? If so, under what circumstances? If not, why?
They are right to be concerned. The United States Supreme Court will rule on a challenge specifically to the gerrymandering of the 6thDistrict. Brought by seven Republican voters, they argued that Maryland Democrats deliberately denied them their First Amendment rights to political association and expression by redrawing district boundaries that effectively punished them for voting Republican. They noted that longtime Republican Congressman Roscoe Bartlett’s vote in the 6th District plunged from 61% in 2010 before redistricting to 38% in 2012 following redistricting. And the state’s eight-member congressional delegation was left with only one Republican Member of Congress. While the Constitution leaves the drawing of Congressional districts up to the states, it is at least possible that the Supreme Court could set limits on political gerrymandering as it did once before in forbidding gerrymandering based on race. Whatever the decision is, it will clearly impact on national redistricting reform.
What role should the federal government have in education?
I believe the federal government should have only a minimal role in education. Education control belongs as close to the teacher-student relationship as possible. As a Member of Congress I will support efforts to improve our schools and colleges but resist efforts to impose any ideological agenda on them.
What sets you apart from the other candidates in your primary?
My experience allows me to uniquely address effectively both national and district issues. As a national security expert, formerly Deputy Under Secretary of the Army under President Reagan, I had oversight of the Army’s entire research and development programs and I oversaw the allocation of billions of dollars and the R&D personnel and laboratories. In this role I was honored to be able to get things done for the benefit of our country’s soldiers. Following my years at the Pentagon, I started my own business, over 25 years ago, consulting with government and private industry on defense, homeland security and environmental cleanup. I understand the problems of growing a small business – one sale, one job, one step at a time. And for years I’ve helped support, as a Board member and a donor, the House of Ruth Maryland, an organization that offers shelter and legal services to abused women, so I understand the needs of people in tough situations. Since I focus on working with people in all parts of the 6th District, I understand in depth the needs of the entire district.
How do you plan on working with people with views different from your own?
My mantra is to approach all issues with empathy and cooperation and work with others, wherever they sit relative to the aisles, to find common ground so that we can get useful things done.