The First State races: U.S. Congress

Today I shift focus to the Congressional race. There’s only a handful of states where the number of Congressmen is fewer than the number of Senators, but Delaware is one of them. This means all federal races are statewide.

Currently on the ballot are incumbent Republican Congressman Michael Castle and three Democrats who are seeking to oust him: Karen Hartley-Nagle, Mike Miller, and Jerry Northington. The issues I’ll discuss will be in the same order and point scale as yesterday’s post, beginning with eminent domain and property rights. Unlike yesterday I’m predominantly going to go by the campaign websites since all four are available to me (I’ll add the link to Miller’s after I complete this post.)  And with the exception of Miller, fortunately I’m able to simply link to the issue positions instead of the long quotes I needed to use in the Biden/O’Donnell race. So let’s get cracking, shall we?

Eminent domain/property rights (5 points):

Castle: Mike doesn’t mention the issue on his site; however, there were two Congressional votes where the question of eminent domain came up and Rep. Castle voted against the interests of private property holders in both. I’m deducting three points.

Hartley-Nagle: Karen doesn’t bring the subject up on her site. No points.

Miller: Again, the issue doesn’t come into play there. No points.

Northington: Apparently none of the candidates find this as important as I do, but bear in mind Delaware received a failing grade on the eminent domain issue from the Castle Coalition (no connection to the Congressman, it’s a subgroup of the Institute for Justice.) No points for Jerry.

Second Amendment (7 points):

Castle: As part of the “Keeping Communities Safe” portion of his site, Mike talks about his work on a couple gun-related issues. Unfortunately, that work is on the wrong side and the two key pro-Second Amendment groups (National Rifle Association and Gun Owners of America) have regularly given him failing grades. Deduct all 7 points.

Hartley-Nagle: Karen doesn’t discuss the Second Amendment on her site, so no points.

Miller: The same goes for his site. In fact, his site is very limited as far as issue stances go with the exception of some broad-brush philosophies.

Northington: Conversely to his two Democrat opponents, Jerry has a section devoted to firearms issues. Northington skirts the line between being a gun-grabber and a pragmatist, noting that individuals should be allowed to have firearms for personal use but not be able to have so-called “assault weapons”. (The trick is what is defined as an assault weapon?) Of the four candidates, his position is the best of a bad – or nonexistent – lot so I’ll grant him two points.

Election reform/campaign finance (9 points):

Castle: The Congressman addresses this issue here; needless to say I’m not in favor of that stance. As a check, I also went to the VoteSmart site and saw he did vote for the Shays/Meehan reform (which was the House version of the more well-known McCain/Feingold), but saving him to some extent is his voting for voter ID at the polls. So I’ll deduct only six points. (Do you notice he’s going in the wrong direction here?)

Hartley-Nagle: Karen discusses the subject briefly here as part of a screed about the Republican “culture of corruption”. (And your top-ticket candidate is pure as the wind-driven snow?) I suspect “meaningful campaign finance reform” in her vision is even more restrictions on free speech so I’m deducting three points. 

Miller: With Mike I struck out. No points.

Northington: Even between his site and his blog, I wasn’t able to come up with anything. So no points.

Trade and job creation (11 points):

Castle: He doesn’t go into this on his campaign site, but on balance Mike has shown himself in his voting to be a free trader and usually that’s a good thing – however, he lost a good number of those jobs by supporting the federal minimum wage increase. So I’ll give him two points on the issue.

Hartley-Nagle: Karen talks about economic prosperity and jobs but contradicts herself in that same few paragraphs by wishing to create more jobs but “fighting for better wages and job security.” If you make it harder on business owners to hire someone without the skills to justify the higher wage and make it more difficult to replace a worker who doesn’t pan out, is that really business-friendly? I’m deducting six points.

Miller: Mike advocates a “livable minimum wage” of $9 per hour for any American willing to work. I guess he won’t mind paying $5 for a Whopper if that happens. That’s worth a full 11 point deduction right there.

Northington: Aside from taking the obligitory pot shots at President Bush about statistics cherrypicked by the DNC in a blog post, Jerry doesn’t go into the issue much. The blog post is worth taking off three points by itself.

Education (13 points):

Castle: Unfortunately, Mike’s ideas and record for “improving” education generally fall into the category of increasing federal involvement – completely opposite my goal of ending it. A full deduct of 13 points.

Hartley-Nagle: Similarly to Castle, her philosophy that education is underfunded at the federal level rubs me the wrong way. On a short-term basis, making tuition tax-deductible isn’t a bad thought but eventually that would have to go away under my view of taxation. I’ll deduct 11 points.

Miller: He notes that he’ll “work to ensure every child has access to a Quality Education.” But how? Will you get the federal government out of education? I don’t see that happening, and again his lack of specifics bugs me to no end. Full deduct, 13 points.

Northington: Actually, some of his solutions aren’t bad for attempting on a local level. If you changed one bullet point somewhat to read:

Local communities are for the most part best able to control the education of their children. The parents and lawmakers within the community need the freedom to determine just how and where their children will be educated.

Then you would have a real winner. Aside from wanting more federal dollars to pay for education and wanting formal schooling to start earlier in life, Jerry seems to have a better understanding of the concept of locality than his two Democrat counterparts. I’ll give him two points, which is huge when you figure all of the others lost ground.

Military/veterans affairs (13 points):

Castle: Voting-wise, he’s been pretty friendly to veterans but he’s also gotten worked up about the allegations of detainee abuse at Abu Gharib and Guantanamo Bay. When the other side treats their prisoners as well as we do ours (particularly in the area of beheadings), maybe I’ll listen. I’ll call this a wash, no points either way.

Hartley-Nagle: It might be a hollow promise, but Karen does vow to “ensure our military facilities are fully funded and maintained. Taking care of our military families strengthens our community, making for a better Delaware and a better America.” Of course, what the extent of “taking care” of military families means is left unanswered. But I’ll give her three points.

Miller: Mike has nothing to say on the subject. No points.

Northington: As the only veteran among the group, Jerry certainly is attuned to the issue. He makes some very good points; however, my caution is that the solution isn’t just in throwing more money at the issue. There are efficiencies which need to be considered as well, and some of the problems Northington cites with the VA have existed far longer than the last two Presidential terms. He’ll pick up eight points on this one.

Energy independence (17 points):

Castle: About the only nod to the environmentalists and “alternative” energy crowd that Mike doesn’t make is not wanting to place a windfall profits tax on oil companies. He also has a soft spot for nuclear power, which is good – otherwise, he’s all in favor of regulation and subsidies. I’ll deduct 10 more points. Come on Mike, I thought you were a Republican.

Hartley-Nagle: Karen sounds a lot like Mike Castle on this issue. She does speak to the high-tech jobs she thinks going green will create, but how many jobs will that wind farm create? Now compare it to an oil refinery. The same 10 point deduction applies.

Miller: Once again, Mike has little to say about this.

Northington: Jerry is way, way, way out there on the anti-oil, global warming believer fringe. He stops short of advocating the execution of oil company executives but has otherwise really fallen for the environmentalists on this issue. This blog post is another example of what I mean. The full 17 point deduction applies.

Social Security/Medicare (19 points):

Castle: The Congressman continually votes for making each of these entitlement programs larger, and not for the reform needed to begin an eventual sunset for both programs. I’m going to deduct yet another five points.

Hartley-Nagle: It’s sort of related, but Karen believes that we don’t do enough for health care in this country. She also promises there to “fix” the Medicare prescription drug plan that I didn’t figure was broken in the first place. Again, a five-point deduction.

Miller: Mike promises to ensure that a quality health care system, Medicare prescription drug benefits, and Social Security are protected for all our seniors. He forgets to add the phrase “no matter the cost” because doing so will someday bankrupt our nation. A full 19 point deduction applies here.

Northington: Yep, the left wing is extended fully here. I have one question, though – if patients are expected to pay within their means for their health care needs, isn’t that Marxism? (From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!”) This is a 19 point deduction to be sure. By the way, just so you all know, health care is NOT a right.

Taxation (21 points):

Castle: One area Castle seems to do well in is taxation based on his voting record and backing of Alternative Minimum Tax relief. It’s nowhere near as much as I’d like, but solid nonetheless so I’ll give him 12 of the 21 points.

Hartley-Nagle: I don’t believe that talking about “tax giveaways to the rich” is going to lead to anything more than higher taxes on all of us. Get over your class envy, Karen. Deduct 15 points while you’re at it.

Miller: Not surprisingly, Miller doesn’t discuss this on his site. No points.

Northington: Jerry doesn’t have taxation as an issue but disdains the old notion that “a rising tide lifts all boats” in a recent blog post. Just like Hartley-Nagle, I see a big dose of class envy here so I’ll deduct that same 15 points.

Role of government (23 points):

In truth, I’m not seeing a whole lot to distinguish between or give me hope that any of these four candidates are in any way insisting on cutting the size and scope of the federal government which they seek election to. Mike Castle brings up budget reform, Karen Hartley-Nagle speaks about fiscal irresponsibility, and Jerry Northington questions the government’s direction. But none question whether it is the proper role of government to be in a number of areas.

This may be the most frustrating exercise of this type that I’ve ever undertaken. However, I started this show so I’m going to finish it. By the way, I’m not going to give or take away points for this category.

Border security/immigration (25 points):

Castle: He doesn’t discuss the issue much, but this (at the bottom) was a pretty good idea. With a couple exceptions, his voting record is solid, including being for the Secure Fence Act of 2006. I’ll give him 18 points here.

Hartley-Nagle: For a Democrat she talks pretty tough, but she brings up the “a” word in wanting to “provide all immigrants a path to full, legal citizenship”. To me, illegals have to leave and get in the back of the line – otherwise it’s unfair to those who did things the right way. I’ll give her 7 points because she’s not dovish.

Miller: Never mind.

Northington: Jerry doesn’t address the issue on his site, but did blog about answering this questionnaire from a group interested in the issue back in April. Those answers cost him all 25 points on my card, too.

The Long War (27 points):

Castle: Mike falls someplace between a hawk and dove on this issue. Unlike my current Congressman he does continue to vote to support the troops but like Wayne Gilchrest he thinks diplomacy can be a solution. Beware that hand behind their back, it may hold the knife you’ll be stabbed with. I’ll give him 12 points on this part.

Hartley-Nagle: Similarly to Castle, Karen is a firm believer in diplomacy but doesn’t say she’ll not defund the troops already in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nor does she talk about victory as an end to the war. I’ll give her half of what I gave the Congressman, six points.

Miller: This is an important issue that Mike doesn’t bother to address. Why do you have a website again?

Northington: I wasn’t surprised to find that he thought full withdrawal as quickly as possible was the ideal. He also attempts to place the cost of the war in terms of various other government services, but fails to take into account the cost of lives and treasure that another 9/11 or suitcase nuke would have on our country had we done nothing. (Yes, I know you can’t prove a negative but his argument is just as specious.) He’ll lose the full 27 points because I believe in victory there – victory defined as the point when the threat to our interests both at home and abroad by al-Qaeda and similar radical Islamic fundementalist groups is minimized or eliminated through military means. Diplomacy is not possible with these sorts of groups.

I have finally reached the conclusion of this frustrating but hopefully enlightening to readers exercise. Here’s how the point totals worked out.

Michael Castle: a net zero points. He was positive on four issues and negative on six but they weighed equally.

Karen Hartley-Nagle: a score of -34. She had positive scores on three but negative numbers on six. That’s actually pretty good for a Democrat.

Mike Miller: He only scored in three of 12 categories and all were negative, for a total of -43.

Jerry Northington: I respect his writing and his service, but he’s by far the most leftist among the four candidates with a score of -94. Three positive categories were far outdone by the six negatives he had, including my two biggest issues.

To be brutally frank, I sort of feel sorry for Delaware voters that these are the only choices they have. I’d have a very hard time getting behind Mike Castle but unfortunately no one chooses to run against him on the GOP side. We had a similar Congressman here but finally found someone with the drive and issue positions to oust him from the right, and even the Democrat in our race could probably be to the right of Mike Castle on some issues.

Tomorrow I’m going to look at your race for Governor in a more brief fashion. Not all of my pet issues apply to a state race so I’m instead going to compare and contrast in areas where the candidates themselves have common ground.

Crossposted at That’s Elbert With An E, to reach more Delaware voters.

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