VIDEO: Favola, Merrick Square Off in Arlington Forum
Stark differences emerge between the two women seeking to represent portions of Arlington and McLean in the state Senate.
Barbara Favola showed she still had plenty of fight in her Tuesday night despite a tough-as-nails primary battle that lasted into late August.
The Arlington County Board member met McLean businesswoman Caren Merrick head-on in the Washington-Lee High School auditorium. The two were among a slate of area legislative candidates asked to participate in a forum hosted by the Arlington County Civic Federation, the unofficial kick-off to general election season.
Both women came across as polished as they laid out their respective platforms in opening and closing statements. Both seem like they would be strong standard-bearers for their respective political party. The winner will be the one best able to mobilize the most voters in a redrawn district that favors Republicans much more than it used to.
Favola talked about the need to make investments in education and transportation, and the need to promote green jobs and environmental protection.
Merrick, who built a software business with her husband from the ground up, spoke on the need to reduce taxes and regulations in order to foster entrepreneurship; the need for dedicated transportation revenue from leases for oil and gas exploration off Virginia’s coast; and the need to teach science, technology, engineering and math at an earlier age.
“You can’t have science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, without being able to fund (K-12 education),” Favola quipped.
She painted her opponent with the same brush as Republicans already in Richmond, who she attacked for cutting funding to education, shepherding “divisive” anti-immigration bills through the House of Delegates and limiting access to abortion.
“Government should use its power to provide opportunities for people, and to ensure power and influence aren’t just reserved for corporate America,” she said. “Regulation is not a bad word.”
On social issues, the two showed they were as different as night and day when asked about women’s rights and gay rights.
Favola promotes herself as pro-choice and pro-equality, and talked about the need repeal the Marshall-Newman amendment, which stipulates marriage is only between one man and one woman. She said she’d work toward allowing gay couples to be foster parents or to adopt in Virginia.
Merrick was careful with the issue, answering in front of a left-leaning crowd of about 200 people.
“I’m pro-life. But I have a record of helping women who are homeless, who have been abused, who have had to rebuild their lives,” she said.
She added: “In terms of discrimination, I think discrimination is wrong. I’ve hired people from all walks of life. I’ve worked with people from all walks of life and the entire political spectrum. When I hired people, it was based on merit. It was based on, ‘Could you do the job? Could you fill the customer’s needs? Could you create value and solve problems?’ ”
Merrick brought up “celebrating all walks of life” again later when flexing her pro-business muscle.
“As someone who has created a company that grew to 1,100 people, I truly understand the courage and sacrifice that it takes to start and grow a business,” she said. “…I actually believe that we need a permanent research and experimentation tax credit, to have a big sign on the commonwealth to say, ‘If you have the courage to start a business, we support you.’ ”