The differences between 31st District Senate candidates Democrat Barbara Favola and Republican Caren Merrick became clearer Sunday as they discussed issues ranging from background checks for gun ownership to new regulations for abortion clinics at an appearance at
The candidates are competing for the open seat in the dramatically reconfigured 31st Senate District, which stretches from National Airport north to Loudoun County. Most of the district and the voters are in Arlington County. Election day is Nov. 8.
Favola, an Arlington resident, has served on the Arlington Board for 14 years. She told the Jewish Community Relations Council on Sunday that she looked forward to her son's graduation from George Mason in June.
Merrick, a McLean resident and businesswoman, is running for the first time. She told the crowd or more than 100 that she is the daughter of a U.S. Marine and the first woman in her family to earn a college degree.
Here is a sampling of view they offered during the nearly hour-long question-and-answer session:
Question: Your views on the new state regulations for abortion clinics?
Favola: "The bill that passed is a very unfortunate bill," she said. It requires women health clinics that provide a range of services "to actually meet the requirements of a hospital.
"In many parts of the state this is the only access to (medical) care that most women have ... the motive behind this is to deny access to safe abortions,” she said.
Merrick: She said she had not seen the bill and was not involved in it. “I have no vested interest in this,” she said. She said when she had a D&C procedure, she was glad she was in a hospital.
The New York Times reported the Virginia Board of Health in mid-September approved a set of regulations for abortion clinics that abortion rights advocates say could result in the closing of a number of the state’s more than 20 clinics. Supporters of the measures say they will make the clinics safer. The Virginia General Assembly passed a bill in February approving the establishing of new restrictions, and state government officials spent the summer writing them.
Question: Should there be a background check on those seeking to buy a gun in Virginia?
Merrick: Never directly answered the question. She said, as a former Marine, "My father owned guns and he modeled safe and responsible" behavior around guns. She said she supported the Second Amendment right of citizens to bear arms.
The National Rifle Association grades state candidates: Merrick received an A-. Favola an F.
Merrick said her position on guns was the same as Virginia's two Democratic U.S. senators and that her NRA score was line with that of Vienna Del. Mark Keam, D-35.
Keam, who attended the forum, said Merrick was incorrect in implying that he filled out the NRA survey. He said he did not. He understood that the NRA based grades of current state legislators on their voting records. Keam received a C from the NRA.
Favola: "I think background checks are critical," she said.
Question: On immigration: What steps should the federal government take for comprehensive reform and what should individual states do?
Merrick: “We are personally and passionately involved in how to solve this problem," she said, because her husband is an immigrant.
She said she supported expanding H1B visas, which U.S. businesses use to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise in specialized fields, such as scientists, engineers or computer programmers.
"Let's relax the H1B visa requirements," she said. She added that foreign students should also be allowed to stay in the United States to work after graduation.
Favola: Immigration is the responsibility of the federal government "and you don't want state and local governments involved in it." She added that she's concerned that so many anti-immigrant bills were introduced in the Virginia House of Delegates this past legislative session.
At the beginning of the forum, as part of her stump speech, Merrick nearly always mentions that she and her husband, Philip Merrick, founded a company, webMethods, in their basement and therefore as a small business person she knows how to create jobs.
She never mentions that in 2007, Software AG, a German company, bought webMethods, a leading business integration and optimization software company, for $546 million, according to the Software AG website.
After the hour-long forum with the Senate candidates, other candidates were introduced and gave short presentations. They included:
32nd Senate District: Sen. Janet Howell (D). Challenger Patrick Forrest (R).
37th Senate District: Incumbent David Marsden (D)
34th House District: Challenger Pamela Danner. Incumbent Barbara Comstock (R) did not attend.
35th House District: Incumbent Mark Keam, (D) who is running unopposed.
48th House District: Incumbent Bob Brink (D). Challenger Kathy D. Gillette-Mallard (I).
Arlington/Falls Church Commonwealth Attorney: (D) who is running unopposed.
% of District
This district was composed almost entirely of Arlington County until April's redistricting when the eastern half of McLean, Great Falls and part of Loudoun County were added.