Election Day is about a month away and we want to help you make informed decisions, so we are interviewing the candidates.
This morning we focus on the challenger for the Sixth District Congressional seat, Democratic candidate Andy Schmookler.
Andy Schmookler lives in Broadway, Virginia. That's in Rockingham County.
In 1985, Esquire magazine chose him as one of the men and women under 40 who are changing the nation.
Schmookler is a Harvard University graduate and a published author.
In the 1990's, the United States Army hired him to help with a biological terrorism prevention project.
Hollani: "Welcome, Mr. Schmookler, and thank you for being with us this morning. We have a lot to talk about this morning. My first question is why did you decide to run for Congress?"
Schmookler: "Well, not because I'm a politician. When I was 15, my father told me why I wasn't cut out to be a politician. He said, 'Andy, you're too straightforward. You insist on saying what you really think.' And that's not how politics works. And I saw that he was right. So, I spent my life pursuing the truth about questions like, 'Why do some societies serve their people well and other societies exploit them and injure them?' And I didn't think about running for office in all that time. But now, now it's different. The dishonesty in our politics has become so bad and so often the lies are defeating the truth in our political system that I figure now's the time for truth-telling, which has been my, what I've been dedicated to my whole life. Truth needs its champions and I've felt that we weren't hearing enough truth to have our democracy work the way it's supposed to. So I decided, well, it's my job to do what I can to try to help turn that around 'cause falsehoods are poison to a democracy. We need our citizens to be told the straight facts so that we can give our informed consent."
Hollani: "Is that resonating with voters?"
Schmookler: "I think so. You know, I gave a talk at a bank where there were 350 people there, including Senator Warner and Governor Kaine. And I was given a time limit of five minutes so I just got up there and just swung away with all my might. And I gave a talk and it got video'd. I didn't arrange that. I didn't even know it was happening. But the guy posted it on YouTube and over 90,000 people have seen that video. So, that tells me that the truth has a power to it, which is what I've always believed."
Hollani: "It's never easy to run against an incumbent, but what if your opponent has been in Congress for almost 20 years. That's the challenge Andy Schmookler is facing in the 6th District...You are facing a tough opponent. Representative Bob Goodlatte is a well-known Congressman. As Joe pointed out, he has been in office almost 20 years. If you were to win it would be like a David versus Goliath situation. How do you keep from getting discouraged and stay focused?"
Schmookler: "Well, first of all, I'm not in this for my political ambitions. You know, I didn't get in this for that reason. I don't really have those kinds of ambitions any more than my father's generation had ambitions to land under enemy fire on the beaches of France or in the Pacific. When the country needs it, you do something. So, I don't get discouraged. First of all, I'm building, I feel like, I can see that we're all accomplishing good things. And there is, there is a potential to accomplish something in this district that would be an important message to send to both political parties. To the Democratic Party, I would hope to send a message that shrinking from confrontation, that being afraid of getting defeated by, Goliath or whatever, is not the way, either, to serve the country or to serve one's political ambitions, that standing up and fighting for the American people and using the truth as a weapon is what's best for the Democratic Party to do. 'Cause I feel that there's been a lack of guts or fortitude on that side of the equation. And what's in the message to the Republican party, we need a good conservative party in this country. We need a party that's got constructive purposes, that's honest with the people, like we used to have in the Republican party. The once-great Republican party has become something different and they've gotta be given the message, 'You're vulnerable to this message of the truth. If people see you for what you're doing, they're gonna tell you to shape up or ship out.' And that's what we can accomplish here in the 6th district and I'm very excited at the potential we have to land that kind of a meaningful blow."
Hollani: "Well, listen. We are also asking questions for our viewers."
Schmookler: "Well, good."
Holani: "Pam Giovanelli from Amherst emailed this question for you. 'Could you please detail how you'll approach the partisan politics currently in play in Washington, D.C. and how your approach differs from that of Representative Goodlatte?'"
Schmookler: "Well, we just saw the footage where I was talking about the desire to make the president fail. We now know that the Republicans decided, even before President Obama was inaugurated, that they were gonna make him fail. The respectable Republican president, George Voinovich from Ohio, who's now reitred, said, 'If the president was for it, we were supposed to be against it.' Well, that shows we aren't dealing with patriotism here. We're dealing with pure political opportunism. And Bob Goodlatte has been a rubber stamp for that. He has voted against the bills that could have put Americans back to work. He has voted in a whole variety of ways for the Ryan budget that's gonna take money away from, out of the pockets of seniors, not to close the debt or the deficit, but to give yet another tax break to the richest. And when I get Bob Goodlatte's e-mails, they're filled with falsehoods. I'm not speaking here as a partisan. My whole life has been devoted, as I said, to seeking and speaking the truth and I can't stand, so he's been, he's had a partisan agenda as a rubber stamp for the Republican party that wanted the president to fail even though that would mean that the whole country would suffer. Now what would I do? I would always, I would treat the good of every person as being just as important as that of the richest and most powerful and I would, I promise to tell the truth and let the chips fall where they may. I'm not gonna act as a partisan any more as I'm campaigning as a partisan. And when I say that, I wanna say that I went around this district campaigning for the nomination by telling Democrats around this district about not only the problems with the Republican party, but in some of the major ways that the Democratic party has not risen to the challenge of this extraordinary time. I didn't know how that was gonna work. I didn't know if they would say, 'I don't wanna hear what you're saying,' and throw me aside. Well, there were some people who didn't like that I was talking that way, but I was determined to do it because the truth is what we really need right now in our politics. This is the one time that somebody like me belongs in the political realm. And enough people liked it a lot because they were hungry for the truth on the Democratic side that here I am. I'm the nominee. And I've got a lot of enthusiastic support. And now the question is, how many people on the other side of the divide arte also interested in the truth and are willing to go through some of the adjustments that are required to see what's being done in our name by people who put their partisan advantage ahead of the good of the country?"
Hollani: "Sure. Switching gears here. Do you support a publicly-administered health insurance option?"
Schmookler: "Well, publicly administered, you mean like, well, I don't support the government taking over medical care like happens in Great Britain. But if you could have a program, a public option to compete with the private options, I would have liked that to have been part of Obamacare. If you could have people having the choice of having the public sector, which has been much more efficient, actually, than the private sector in health care, 2% of the money goes into administrative costs, where in the private sector it was like, 30%, which is why we pay twice as much."
Hollani: "The president's health care plan, in essence, still needs tweaking in your opinion?"
Schmookler: "I think it can be improved. It wasn't all I was hoping it was gonna be, but it's a start. And most people who think it's terrible have been told mostly things that aren't true about it. It's a good start and that's one of the areas where the lie has been defeating the truth. It's a start. It's not all that we should have had, but we can have a program where people have the option of buying into something like Medicare before they're 65, not subsidized by the taxpayers, but out of their own pocket, but at rates that are gonna be much more affordable if they can deliver the kind of efficiencies we've already seen the government able to do with Medicare. And then you keep your own doctor, you go to private hospitals, you keep that whole system. But there is the government playing a role to make sure that things are done efficiently and if the government did it poorly, well, then the private sector will get all the business. But if the government does it better than the private sector, then people will gradually move in that direction. So, I think competition is good, but the United States is paying twice as much as every other country. A lot of our financial problems are because of more than one out of every six dollars goes into health care. More than one out of every six. Other countries are paying half as much and they're ranked much higher than we in terms of how well they deliver health care to their people. So I think we can find an American solution that does what other countries have already shown can be done."