This year, Virginia matters. The commonwealth of Virginia, the mother of presidents, is barely a consideration in presidential politics, thanks to the timing of our primary and our relatively meager numbers in the Electoral College. But the Senate race matters. Both parties are spending millions of dollars to win the pivotal Senate seat now occupied by Charles Robb. To win back the majority in the Senate, the Democrats must defend Robb's seat and win five more. For Republicans, no less than control of the Senate is at stake in George Allen's candidacy. But come Nov. 7, it's all up to the voters.
So we posed the following questions to U.S. Senate candidates Charles Robb and George Allen. We hope their answers will help you figure out who deserves to be your senator.
1. Recently Gov. Jim Gilmore was angered by the use of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts' space for a Sally Mann exhibit and lecture. He considered some of the art depicting nude children to be offensive. Do you believe that Sally Mann's art or the art of some creative people should not be sponsored by the state because it offends the values of some Virginians?
Allen: I have not seen the art display. All I know is what I read in the newspapers. I'm not going to pass judgment. Theoretically, could art be considered offensive in a state tax [funded] facility? Yes. Having children urinating. I don't see the great value.
Robb: I've always supported funding for the arts for National Endowment and for other projects when I was governor and at the federal level. I believe that art is the way we pass on culture. There is certainly art that is described as art that I would disagree with. Most people who are hoping for support for the arts would be wise to stay away from things that would put funding in jeopardy. But I've tried not to put the government in the role of excessive censorship. And I think that, for the most part, with respect to the voting I have done I didn't follow the particular controversy that you referring to that I have supported funding for the arts and will continue to do so. I seek to remind artists that if they get too far out of bounds with respect to community standards that would certainly jeopardize both public acceptance and funding.
2. What is the first piece of legislation you would introduce in the 107th Congress?
Allen: The $1,000-per-child educational-opportunity tax credit. Parents could spend up to $1,000 for computers, software, tutoring. Say a child needs more help in math. This would empower parents to make decisions for their children. In my view, it would be helpful to lower- and middle- income people. People who are wealthy already have kids on computers. This will help bridge the digital divide. My opponent has criticized this. He thinks it [money] should be sent to Washington.
Robb: I've introduced so many pieces of legislation I just don't know what I would introduce. You're talking about someone who has been in the Senate for 12 years. I have consistently sponsored or co-sponsored certain legislation, and you can expect me to continue to support the legislation I have supported in previous Congresses.
3. Conservatives have assailed what they consider a destructive, selfish force in American culture. In George W. Bush's acceptance speech he addressed the issue and assured the voters that he would be very different than President Clinton. Even people who were members of the counterculture during the 1960s have admitted that their generation was impatient, excessive and at times destructive. What is the legacy of the baby boom generation? Has it been largely selfish and destructive? Is President Clinton the embodiment of the dark side of that generation?
[image-1](Motoya Nakamura / The Virginian-Pilot)Charles RobbAllen: I would never want to burden the baby boom generation with the association with Bill Clinton. I'm part of that generation. I don't associate myself with such a shameless individual. I think the legacy is still being written. In the baby boom generation there has been innovation in technology. I think it's very positive for subsequent generations. Not everyone in the baby boom generation thinks alike. I like the individual nature of the people. I like independent thinking. Individualism is what built this country. I love the concept of liberty, but it needs to be understood there are certain standards of conduct. For the most part, the generation is more responsible than in the 1960s. I was never pleased with the burning of flags.
Robb: As you are probably aware I am not a member of the baby boom generation. That question might be better directed at members of that generation. Each generation has it's own strengths and weaknesses. I'm not in a position to evaluate an entire generation based on one or two individuals.
4. In the last 10 years there has been criticism of the war on drugs by both right- and left-wing intellectuals. They have said that the war on drugs is at best a noble failure, and at worst a severe violation of individual liberties. Do you believe that the war on drugs has been a success? Should we change our nation's drug policy? How would you change it?
Allen: I think in the 1990s there has not been consistent, credible leadership to fight the war on drugs. It has to be fought on a variety of levels. Externally, we need to stop drugs coming into the country. Anyone who sells a drug to a child should be looked at as selling rat poison. I believe in a mandatory minimum 10 years in prison for anyone who sells drugs to a child. I think the DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) is great. According to drug enforcement agencies, first time heroin use is 17.6 years. I think the community of faith should get involved. This is another difference with my opponent. If there are people who want to be involved in treatment they should be allowed to give that treatment. I've seen people who have been turned around by faith. You have to hit drug dealers. It is a business. Those who have illegal assets, if they are fruits of ill-gotten gains, they should be seized. The money should be used in drug enforcement. Using their ill-gotten gains is like catching a shark and cutting it up and using it for bait. The majority of crime is drug-related. There are addicts stealing and drug dealers with turf battles. I know there are those who support legalization, but they are oblivious to reality. If more people use drugs, they will cause more victimization.
Robb: I've always felt we can't look at just one aspect
and that's the punishment for those who offend. I'm not suggesting that those who are distributing ought to bear the full brunt of punishment that society hands out. But we also need to concentrate on the demand side, and the treatment of those who have become addicted to drugs, or we're going to perpetuate the society that is increasingly dependent and engages in criminal activity to support their habits. But as long as there is a significant demand generated in this country there will be some country or countries that will respond to that demand and supply those drugs. And, for the most part, that has been either South America or from Asia, particularly the south Asian subcontinent. I've talked with [White House Drug Czar] Gen. [Barry] McCaffrey and others any number of times on this topic, and I believe that we will ultimately achieve more success if we create a message for young people because that is where the problem is most acute. There are serious physiological consequences, as well as societal and criminal consequences, for using illegal drugs in ways that endanger their health and endanger others that may be subjected to their irrational behavior.
5. Is Virginia clean enough; what approaches to clean air and water do you favor, what are the wrong approaches?
Allen: Virginia is improving. We [the Allen administration] had proposals based on sound science. We need to embrace the advances of science and technology to improve the quality of air and water in Virginia. As governor I proposed over $70 million in new funds to clean up the Chesapeake Bay. The Potomac's major problem is wastewater. We put in $5 million to improve wastewater treatment. We also put in substantial tax credits for companies to buy recycling equipment. At the federal level the same approach ought to be done to buy equipment. The federal government ought to use good science to improve the environment. Many of the Superfund sites are in urban areas. A lot of lawyers make money out of lawsuits. I'd like to see them clean these up. Give them immunization from lawsuits. The other [proposal] is encouraging teleworkers so people don't have to be on the roads. It will improve our air quality. This is using technology to improve the environment. The current Clinton administration is fearful of people working at home. OSHA wanted to regulate home workplaces so they could sue if you tripped over a cord.
Robb: Some rather strange questions, the way you come at them. I have long been a supporter of the environment. I was not only one of the original co-signers of the Chesapeake Bay Agreement, but I have supported the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. My opponent takes a different approach to both of those. But the bottom line is the League of Conservation Voters gave me a lifetime rating of 78 percent, and my opponent a lifetime record of 13 percent. So we have very different approaches to how we support an environment as clean, as pristine as possible, and passing on an environment that is even healthier than the one inherited to our children and grandchildren.
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