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Gade and Warner Differ on Economics, Healthcare

Headshots of candidates
Daniel Gade (left) hopes to unseat two-term incumbent Mark Warner. He criticizes Warner as a career politician and says the state needs new blood representing it.

In Virginia’s Senate Election, Republican Daniel Gade is challenging incumbent Senator Mark Warner. Gade brings a message of constitutional conservatism to the race, while Warner is running as a bipartisan legislator who knows how to get things done. Both candidates recently spoke with VPM News. Below is a transcript from a story that ran on October 19, profiling the two.


From VPM News in Richmond, I’m Connor Scribner. 

Today we’re profiling the campaign for U.S. Senate where Army officer turned college professor Daniel Gade is attempting to unseat Democrat Mark Warner.

Warner has held the office since 2009, following his single term as Governor of Virginia. Gade casts himself as a political outsider. He says he favors term limits for congressmen, arguing that the current system creates a partisan atmosphere in Washington.

Gade: What's happened right now is that, at least due in part to career politicians, and I'm, by the way, I'm pointing my finger directly at Mark Warner right now, career politicians have retreated into their partisan quarters. And so what they're trying to do is get everything they possibly can for their party instead of doing what's right for the people that they represent.

Warner rejects Gade’s assertion that he’s become too entrenched. He suggests that his business background gives him the skills to work across the aisle, noting that he’s had 55 bills become law.

Warner:  I’m mostly proud of the record that I've built as someone with a business background, I went into public service because I wanted to put points on the board, get things done. I think I've shown that from a bipartisan standpoint.

Warner further countered by criticizing Gade for aligning himself too closely with President Trump on healthcare. In May, Gade referred to Governor Ralph Northam’s mask mandate as tyranny and has praised the president’s leadership during the pandemic. Gade has also said that he does not support the Affordable Care Act, calling it a “bad bill.” 

Warner: My opponent has said the expansion of Medicaid was like giving a cookie to a child and if that child would then want a second cookie. I find that extraordinarily disrespectful to the 400,000 Virginians who’ve got coverage from the ACA through Medicaid.

Warner says Gade hopes to repeal the law, a move he argues would strip protections for those with pre-existing conditions and harm Virginia’s most vulnerable. Gade has previously called attacks claiming he wants to remove those protections deliberately false and offensive.

Gade: Any kind of reform to the Affordable Care Act needs to have a couple of features in place. Number one, obviously, of course, it needs to protect people with pre-existing conditions. And then from there, what you can do is you can use market forces to shape how people are achieving health care that is accessible, that is affordable and that is high quality.

The fate of Obamacare may not be in the hands of congress, however, as a suit backed by 18 states and the Trump administration seeking to overturn the law stands before the Supreme Court. The suit has brought added attention to the confirmation hearings for Amy Coney Barret. Warner categorizes Barret’s nomination as grossly unfair while Gade criticizes Warner for suggesting that a president’s powers only last 3.9 years. 

Both candidates reject the idea of packing the court with Gade calling it absurd. He says it would create a judicial arms race between the parties that could end with 432 justices. 

Another area of disagreement between Warner and Gade was the minimum wage. Gade says the issue should be handled on the state level. He argues that allowing states to compete through wages would allow them to set it at a level that is both competitive and reflects their state’s circumstances.

Gade: Abingdon, Virginia is not the same as Fairfax County, Virginia. And, you know, Fairfax County is not the same as Virginia Beach. And so, anytime the federal government is making decisions like a minimum wage decision at the federal level, they're pretending that Omaha and Dubuque and New York City are exactly the same as each other, and that is a ridiculous way to make policy.

Warner expresses concern over the current minimum wage in Virginia. He favors raising it to $15 an hour over five years, though he added that it should wait until after the pandemic fades.

Warner: I think the fact that the minimum wage in Virginia is $7.25 and hasn't been raised in years is a real disgrace. I think that you can't put food on the table if you're working 40 hours a week and you’ve got a family. 

Gade and Warner also clash on gun policy. In their last session, the General Assembly passed a suite of bills aiming to curb gun violence that Warner argues should become the national model.

Warner: I think there are a broad set of changes that we should make at a national level that would improve gun safety. And that would include universal background checks. Reasonable restrictions, trying to make sure that if you've got a history of mental health issues or a criminal background, you don't have the kind of access to firearms. Make sure that we close things like the boyfriend loophole so that if they're stalking their prior partner, you've got some protections. And yes, I believe we need to have a prohibition on assault weapons, weapons of war.

Warner does not believe these restrictions would unduly burden Second Amendment rights, noting that a ban on assault weapons was in place in the 80’s and 90’s. While Gade joined Warner in lamenting the pervasiveness of mass shootings, he argues that the steps taken by the General Assembly this year were unnecessary and ineffective. 

Gade: We have the right legal regime in place to prevent gun violence, but all too often those laws are not enforced. So just here in Virginia, the Republicans proposed in the last General Assembly session that the penalties for breaking gun laws be increased, and the Democrats voted it down. And it's just absolutely amazing to me that you would, at the same time, say, “we have a firearms crisis,” and on the other hand, say, “we don't want the laws to be, to have teeth.”

On the Climate, Warner says Virginia has made positive steps toward a greener future. He argues tax incentives should be used to spur investment in renewable energy technologies and hopes Virginia can become a hub for both research and manufacturing. 

Gade agrees it’s important to begin a transition to renewables, but doesn’t believe they alone can meet the country’s energy demand. He calls himself an all-of-the above person on energy production and suggests that coal and natural gas will remain part of the United State’s energy mix. He also criticizes Democrats for shying away from nuclear energy despite its low environmental impact.

Both candidates stress the importance of reining in deficit spending though they disagree on how to do it. Gade believes a rising national debt can become a serious liability in crisis situations. He supports the passage of a balanced budget amendment and cutting back federal spending. Gade says those cuts need to start with entitlement reform.

Gade: We're all familiar with the phrase “bend the curve” with respect to COVID and what we need to do with respect to our spending and our, especially our entitlement spending, is bend the curve downwards. And as long as we do it right now, we can do it in a gentle way, but if we, if we wait 10, 15, 20 years, what's gonna happen is we have to, we're going to have to do it in an abrupt way. And preventative care in 2020 becomes an amputation in 2040, and that's a huge problem.

Warner says both parties deserve blame for the nation’s current financial situation but specifically criticizes supply-side tax measures that have been promoted by Republicans.

Warner: We are leaving our kids and our grandkids with a country that’s got a balance sheet that’s out of whack. I feel like neither political party has much credibility on this issue anymore, particularly when we passed a $2 trillion tax cut that Mr. Trump proposed that disproportionately went to people like me who were at the higher income levels. I don't think that was fair or right. 

Gade and Warner will continue to fight for Virginians’ support until Election Day on November 3. Voters are encouraged to cast their ballots absentee, either by mail or in person. The last day to request an absentee ballot is this Friday, October 23. Early, in-person voting continues until Saturday, October 31. 

For Warner and Gade’s full interviews and more conversations with candidates across the Richmond metro area, visit VPM dot ORG slash elections.

I’m Connor Scribner and you’re listening to VPM News.

Connor Scribner is a former VPM News assistant editor.
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