By Chris Teale (Photo/Chris Teale)
In his campaign for Virginia’s 8th congressional district, Republican candidate Charles Hernick said he believes the current crop of politicians can do better, and that their constituents expect more.
The Arlington resident said he sees the frustration people have watching a bruising presidential race between Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton, and a Congress that has relied on a slew of continuing resolutions to prevent government shutdowns after repeatedly failing to pass a federal budget.
And Hernick said, if elected, he would look to shake things up.
“I’m running as a change agent with an explicit focus on a couple of different issues that I think we can move the needle on that I think people are uniformly concerned with across the congressional district,” he said. “I’m very encouraged by how I’ve been received. It’s good, and it’s moving. We expect more and people can make change.”
Hernick is challenging first-term incumbent U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D) in a district that includes the cities of Alexandria and Falls Church, Arlington County and portions of Fairfax County.
Also on the ballot is Independent Julio Gracia, while Mike Webb, whom Hernick defeated in the district Re- publican Party’s nominating convention May 7, is running a write-in campaign.
One of Hernick’s top priorities is to get the economy moving by creating the right conditions for small businesses to open and grow. He said this is imperative, given that small businesses create two-thirds of all new jobs. By simplifying the tax filing system for small businesses, Hernick said owners could spend more time on the “business of their business” and less on preparing their taxes.
He said lowering the corporate tax rate to 25 percent would allow American companies to be more competitive with their European counterparts and bring it in line with the averages of 34 members of the worldwide Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a fo- rum for market economies to work together.
“What I find is that there’s no shortage of people that are interested in starting a small business,” Hernick said. “The shortage comes through when people start learning what it takes to do the small business, then they back out of it. That’s discouraging.”
With the federal government as one of the 8th district’s major employers, Hernick said there is an opportunity to modernize its operations, especially with the impending retirement of many baby boomers. Hernick said he is not as concerned with eliminating agencies, but instead incentivizing employees finding a way to operate efficiently.
Instead of the so-called “use it or lose it” system where unspent money from agency budgets is taken away the following year, Hernick said employees should get financial bonuses for finding ways to save their agency money and be more efficient.
On national security, Hernick criticized Beyer and the current Congress, who he said have failed to effectively check the growth of the self-proclaimed Islamic State in the Middle East and the resurgence of al Qaeda in North Africa.
“Congressman Beyer was an ambassador, but he’s absolutely misunderstood and dropped the ball when it comes to being articulate about the terrorist threat,” Hernick said. “He said that in two years, ISIS will be gone, the way of al Qaeda. The truth is that over the last six months, al Qaeda has picked up strength and recruits from ISIS and is in fact stronger in Syria than they were before.”
Instead, Hernick said he wants to see the American military be better equipped and have a clear mission with an authorization of use of military force by Congress, and that officials engage more with the U.S.’s natural allies in unstable regions.
“We need to use that authorization so that the executive branch is well founded and has very specific mandates from Congress in terms of how it’s going to approach ISIS or radical Islamic terror wherever it exists,” he said “[The] reason for that is very specific. If we don’t define the terms of our engagement, our enemy defines them for us.”
Locally, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s safety concerns weigh heavily. And while Metrorail has undertaken its SafeTrack program to do three years of rebuilding and maintenance in one year, Hernick said the effort does not go far enough.
He said he wants to see the federal government play a greater role, given that the system transports so many federal employees to work, and that public-private partnerships should be sought to expand the system so there are more than the two tracks currently available, and maintain it.
“At the end of the day, we’re always going to have a service versus safety trade-off as long as we only have two tracks,” he said. “This is the capital city of a great nation, and so we need to be willing to make that investment and we need to be willing to en- gage the private sector to help finance that, and they would get a good return on that in- vestment, we’d be able to fast- track these investments to get people to work and to keep the economy growing.”
And as for his potential colleagues in Congress, Hernick said he would like to see paychecks be performance-based. If the legislature’s 535 members cannot pass a federal budget, they should have their salary withheld, he said.
The campaign is entering its closing stages, with Election Day on November 8.