Thursday, October 09, 2008

The Sharp Difference Between Connolly and Fimian

If, as Tip O'Neill once famously said, "all politics is local," then I've been terribly remiss politically for not staying more local, especially with an important congressional race right in my district. The stakes couldn't be higher. With the country in economic turmoil and our foreign policy an abject failure, we desperately need leaders in Congress who will make wise decisions, write good legislation, and take courageous stands for the people of their district and for the entire nation. All politics may be local but when you're in Congress, your actions and your decisions affect the well being of the whole country. And as we're seeing with the way the financial-credit crisis is now cascading across the globe, those actions and decisions can affect the entire world.

This is not the time for a neophyte in Congress. If Keith Fimian were really interested in politics and serving the people, he would do what most other successful politicians, regardless of party, do. He'd do what Gerry Connolly himself did. He'd run for elective office at a lower, local level and get some experience in how the legislative process works. It's also what Tom Davis did before he launched his successful career in Congress.

The difference between Gerry Connolly and Keith Fimian couldn't be starker. Or more substantive. As the October 9th issue of The Chronicle states it:
Voters in the 11th Congressional District have a sharp choice between two very different candidates—Democrat Gerry Connolly, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, and wealthy Republican businessman Keith Fimian.

Connolly has a long record of successful public service, including 10 years working on the staff of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee. His long record of elective office started in March of 1995 when he was elected as the Providence District supervisor. In 2003 he was elected chairman of the Fairfax Board of Supervisors and he was re-elected in November of 2007.

Connolly is a graduate of Maryknoll College in Illinois and has a master of arts degree in public administration from Harvard University. In addition to his elected office, Connolly has served and continues to serve on a long list of organizations including but not limited to: the Northern Virginia Regional Commission, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, Virginia Association of Counties, Fairfax Chamber of Commerce and the Fairfax Partnership for Youth.

By contrast, Keith Fimian has never held elective office and has no government experience at any level. Fimian is a graduate of the College of William and Mary, which he attended on a football scholarship. An injury prevented him from trying to move to the NFL. A CPA, Fimian first worked for the national accounting firm KPMG. In 1986, he was a co-founder of Radonics and he is the chairman and founder of U.S. Inspects, Inc., the nation’s largest home and commercial inspection business.

Fimian’s business career has been very successful and he has become wealthy. Fimian is using his resources to help fund his election. To date, he has loaned his campaign more than $300,000. Fimian’s biggest problem is finding an issue to run on. Since he cannot talk about his non-existent record of accomplishment other than he has made a lot of money, his focus has been to characterize Connolly’s years of successful government experience as a failure. That is proving difficult for him.
This article points out that Fairfax County has won awards for its good governance and excellent schools. Most residents are very satisfied with the services they enjoy and the education their children receive in our county. However, Fimian has sought to pin the projected $430 million deficit on Connolly's management of the Board of Supervisors. But here's The Chronicle's rejoinder to that:
Blaming Connolly for the budget challenge that the county faces best illustrates Fimian’s total lack of understanding of the critical issues facing the county, state and federal governments. It would appear that he doesn’t realize that virtually every local government in metropolitan Washington is struggling with the same issue. For example, last year Fairfax County was able to close a significant budget shortfall and maintain essential programs with only a three-cent increase in the property tax rate, which, for the average taxpayer, represented no actual increase in taxes as a result of the decrease of the average assessment. By contrast, Republican-controlled Prince William County raised their tax rate by 27 percent.

This coming year presents the county with an even greater challenge, but trying to place the blame for the problem on Connolly is just plain silly. Apparently Fimian also doesn’t understand what is happening to the national economy or what caused it. If he wants to place blame he needs to start with President Bush and his tax cuts for the wealthy, the Iraq war and lax oversight of a financial services industry that has been allowed to bring our economy to the verge of ruin. Yes, all Washington area counties have a big problem, but it isn’t caused by local mismanagement. It is caused by the collapse of the real estate market and the national economic crisis. For a candidate for Congress not to understand those facts is pathetic.

When Fimian isn’t trying to place blame on Connolly, he repeats, mantra-like, a call to control spending. Either he is ignorant of the facts or he wants to forget the particulars, but under President Clinton there was a budget surplus; it was his favorite Republican buddies who blew through billions of dollars and put the economy on the rocks, not the Democrats.
And even on the controvery over Fimian's membership in a radical, theocratic business organization with ties to the founder of cult-like Ave Maria township in Naples, Florida, here's what The Chronicle says:
A little mini-controversy has been bubbling for a few weeks. As a result of Keith Fimian’s position on the board of Legatus, the very conservative Catholic business leaders association founded by Tom Monaghan, the founder of Domino’s Pizza, Democrats have questioned Fimian’s position on social issues. They have linked Legatus to opposition to contraception, whether a woman should be “submissive” to her husband, the right of pharmacies to refuse to sell contraceptives and other issues.

It is not clear to us exactly what Legatus’s position on these various social issues actually is, but that is far less important than what Fimian’s position is.

While Fimian has acknowledged opposition to fetal stem cell research and to abortion unless the life of the woman is at risk, he has absolutely refused to reveal his position on any of the many important social issues facing the country. It would appear to us that while he is trying to fill Tom Davis’s seat in Congress, he doesn’t want voters to realize that he isn’t a clone of Tom Davis and that he very definitely doesn’t share Tom Davis’s more liberal social positions.

Not only has Fimian refused to divulge his opinions on these important social issues, but as a diversion he has attacked Connolly—a Catholic—for being anti-Catholic. Fimian does not appear to understand that Congress votes on social issues and that voters are entitled to understand where he stands on them. If his beliefs are actually very conservative on social issues, he shouldn’t be trying to hide them; he should be proud of his judgments and proclaim where he stands and ask voters to support his positions. Unfortunately, it would appear to us that he is trying to fool voters into believing he is something that he isn’t.
They are exactly right. The issue isn't what Legatus believes. It's what Keith Fimian does. But instead of answering citizens directly, he has sought to portray Gerry Connolly and others who raise these questions as anti-Catholic. That is ridiculous. Gerry Connolly is not only also Catholic, he is a former seminarian. The real issue here, as I've said all along, is whether Fimian would seek to impose his religious views on others. And his views on the legal availability of contraceptives and a person's right to purchase them are important because Congress does indeed vote on issues like this.

But right now I think the voters are mainly, and quite rightly, mostly worried about the economy and foreign policy. Their main concern is whether they will have a job, whether their pensions and investments ever recover, whether they will have credit available to buy a new home, whether they will be safe from terrorist attack, and whether the United States will maintain its standing as a first rate nation in the world? Those are the questions voters in the 11th CD - as well as all across America - are worried about.

And frankly, between the two candidates, I agree with The Chronicle that Gerry Connolly is the candidate who best can answer those questions and provide a level of comfort that he will know how to achieve those goals in Congress.


Activist said...

Careful - Jim Webb had never run for office before he became our Senator

Karen Duncan said...

But Jim Webb had extensive public service experience, including being Secretary of the Navy. Further, he displayed knowledge of issues and policy that Keith Fimian has not shown. And Fimian doesn't even appear to be aware of what he doesn't know. That's what concerns me more.

He certainly is a man of accomplishment - I don't want to demean his real achievements. But I'm not sure he has a transferable skill set. He's not only a newcomer, but I'm not sure he was even a long time activist or is truly knowledgeable about policy or even how to be a legislator. I'm not sure he has any government experience at all.

Again, that would be acceptable if he was running for Board of Supervisors or mayor of a small city. But even then, he would need to show more understanding of the local issues.

Activist said...

I agree & think you should post your response to me in your Blog - it's great

Anonymous said...

great analysis, AIAW. very astute as usual. DD is a lucky guy.

Karen Duncan said...

Thank you both; careful or you'll turn my head :)

Anonymous said...

Nor did Mark Warner have any political experience before running for Governor.

Karen Duncan said...

But Mark Warner was actually well versed in policy. And he had been an activist in the Democratic Party for years. He had run for the Senate earlier and proved he had a grasp of the issues. He was a known quantity.

My whole point is that Fimian was unknown even to Republicans. He seemingly had no interest or involvement in the political process until he burst upon the scene. Which is fine if you want to run for a local office. Everybody has to begin somewhere.

Not, however, at the top. Frankly, if these had been calmer, less troubled times, it probably isn't an issue that would have caught on. But now is not the time for a neophyte in Congress. The issues upon which he will have to vote are complex and crucial. We need somebody who will know what he is doing from the beginning.

Keith Fimian has not convinced me he is that person. Gerry has. He's got a proven record of succeeding at the local level. Why wouldn't you want somebody knowledgeable, competent, and experienced in troubled times?

The key, of course, is that he's knowledgeable and competent. I'm not suggesting that somebody who has been around for years but never did anything to distinguish himself would be a good choice. It's that Gerry Connolly is both experienced and capable of doing the job well. He's proved it. He's a better choice.