Obenshain, Moore eye campaign differences

FRONT ROYAL – Democrat April Moore and State Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, drew sharp contrasts with each other Tuesday over their priorities and stances on issues affecting the 26th Senate district.

Moore said her campaign is focused on opposition to lavish campaign spending by corporations, curbing global warming and support for Medicaid expansion. Obenshain cited job creation and education as his top issues.

“Big money has been taking over our government,” Moore said in her opening remarks. “We have legislators on both sides of the aisle who are serving giant corporations.”

Obenshain said he was committed to “creating jobs for our kids here in our communities so that when our kids graduate from high school, whether it’s in Rockingham County or Warren County, that they have the opportunity of living here, settling here and getting good jobs and being able to raise their children here.”

Obenshain cited Virginia’s strong right-to-work laws, and his general opposition to business regulation and support for “affordable” energy as examples of his approach to job creation.

On climate change, Moore warned that “our children and grandchildren may not have a livable planet, and there are reasonable measures for dealing with this that will actually invigorate our economy.”

Obenshain, who has been a staunch supporter of charter schools as alternatives to public schools deemed to be failing, said he wanted schools that “are the best they can possibly be.”

“The quality of your education should not depend on where your zip code is,” Obenshain said.

Moore said the opposition of Obenshain and other Republican legislators to Medicaid expansion has meant that “billions of dollars that could improve our economy have been sent away to other states, depriving tens of thousands of people here in our district of having good health coverage, all for partisan purposes. We don’t need partisanship; we need to work together for the common good.”

Obenshain called Medicaid, which serves low income people, a “broken” program that has become an excessive fiscal burden for state governments.

“Making Medicaid bigger is not going to fix the problem,” Obenshain said of delivering health care to the needy. “It is making a big problem worse.”

Moore and Obenshain spoke for a total of about 17 minutes. They were the first candidates in several contested races to appear before an audience at a packed voters’ forum hosted by the Front Royal-Warren County Chamber of Commerce.

The 26th Senate district includes Harrisonburg, part of Rockingham County and the counties of Shenandoah, Warren, Page and Rappahannock.

A question from the moderators about gun control was one of the few social issues mentioned during the state senate forum.

“I think our gun control legislation is right where it ought to be,” Obenshain said. “I do not support additional restrictions on the ability of law abiding citizens in the commonwealth of Virginia to purchase or own firearms, period.”

Moore said she had “no desire to take people’s guns away,” but added that she supported universal background checks for gun purchases, a proposal she said is supported by 75 percent of National Rifle Association members.

The two candidates also disagreed over the minimum wage. Obenshain said an increase in the minimum wage “hurts the very people it is intended to help” by reducing the demand for low-wage labor.

Moore said she “definitely” supports raising the minimum wage, adding that past increases have raised “a hue and cry” that it would hurt the economy and eliminate jobs and “every time it’s only strengthened the economy.”

Both candidates also had different ideas for how to reduce traffic dangers on Interstate 81. Obenshain said the state had done “a good job” south of Lexington in adding climbing lanes and reducing chokepoints. Transportation safety should be a higher priority for the state than some other programs in the state budget, Obenshain said.

Moore called for more buses, mass transit, and light rail and rejected widening the interstate.

“We need to get people out of their cars in a good way,” Moore said.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com