Hurt vs. Perriello comes down to the wire

-A A +A

By Tom Wilmoth
and John Barnhart

    Voters will head to the polls this coming Tuesday, Nov. 2, in one of the more anticipated mid-term elections across this nation in some time.
    Control of Congress appears to be up for grabs as the Republicans seek to regain control of the House of Representatives for the first time since 2006 and some political pundits even claim that the U.S. Senate might be in play for the GOP. That remains to be seen, but what has been evident through the past several months of campaigning is that the Fifth District Congressional seat has garnered national attention as an example of a first-term   congressman,  who rode the wave of President Barack Obama’s election to victory in 2008, and who now faces a stiff challenge in the midst of voter angst with Congress.

    Since Tom Perriello defeated long-time incumbent Virgil Goode by less than 1,000 votes in 2008, the first-term Democrat has been in the national political spotlight as the electorate’s response to votes on healthcare, cap-and-trade and the $800 billion stimulus bill were measured by political watchers. The result has led to a hard-fought campaign between Perriello and Republican challenger Robert Hurt in a race that many polls find is still too close to call.
    Bedford County Registrar Barbara Gunter said absentee ballot voting has been brisk with the Fifth District race generating considerable interest, with about twice as many votes being cast in that election as of Monday compared with county voters who reside in the Sixth District. Sixth District Congressman Bob Goodlatte, a Republican, has no Democrat challenger, with only Stuart M. Bain, a Libertarian, and independent Jeffrey W. Vanke appearing on the ballot with him.
    Gunter expects turnout to reach about 50 percent among Fifth District voters when all is said and done with considerably fewer voting in the Sixth District.
    Gunter said voters who aren’t sure which district they reside in may call the office at 540-586-7649. In-person absentee voting can be made this week as well as on Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the city or county registrars’ offices.
    City Registrar Randi Herrick urged voters to realize that there will also be three constitutional amendment questions on this year’s ballot that they will be able to vote on.  Those include:
    • Question:  Shall Section 6 of Article X of the Constitution of Virginia be amended to authorize legislation that will permit localities to establish their own income or financial worth limitations for purposes of granting property tax relief for homeowners not less than 65 years of age or permanently and totally disabled?
    • Question: Shall the Constitution be amended to require the General Assembly to provide a real property tax exemption for the principal residence of a veteran, or his or her surviving spouse, if the veteran has a 100 percent service-connected, permanent, and total disability?
    • Question:  Shall Section 8 of Article X of the Constitution of Virginia be amended to increase the permissible size of the Revenue Stabilization Fund (also known as the “rainy day fund”) from 10 percent to 15 percent of the Commonwealth’s average annual tax revenues derived from income and retail sales taxes for the preceding three fiscal years?
    “People should be prepared to vote for them,” Herrick said.
    She said absentee voting has been brisk and she expects a good turnout Tuesday. In the 2006 midterm election turnout in the city hit 53 percent, though that was well below the 75 percent turnout for the presidential election in 2008.
    Voters wanting to check their registration status or see specific ballot items may visit the State Board of Elections Web site at: https://www.voterinfo.sbe.virginia.gov/PublicSite/Public/FT2/PublicElect....
    City voters will also be able to elect three members to city council. Incumbents Mary Flood, C.G. Stanley Jr. and James Vest are all on the ballot seeking re-election.

On the campaign trail
    Both Perriello and Hurt have visited the Bedford area multiple times the past several months to make their case before voters.
    Hurt calls for streamlining government regulation and lowering the corporate income tax which, he notes, is the highest in the world. He also wants to look at depreciation schedules for business investments, altering them so that they encourage investment. Hurt also favors eliminating capital gains taxes.
    He’s concerned about the current level of federal debt. Hurt said that the national debt has run up to $13.1 trillion in an economy with a gross domestic product (GDP) of $14 trillion. He said that this level of government debt negatively impacts the amount of credit available to business. He said it’s also a burden that’s being passed on to future generations and could eventually put the United States in the same position in which Greece found itself this year — teetering on the brink of a sovereign debt default.
    Hurt believes that people want deficit spending eliminated and both taxes and spending reduced.
    He believes that the country should have an energy policy, but that policy should take an “all of the above” approach. This means gas, coal, oil, nuclear and alternative energy sources.
    Cap and trade, however, should not be part of an energy policy, Hurt has said, explaining that this would make energy costs skyrocket and be a job killer.
    “We have to keep in mind that energy costs affect our daily lives,” he said.
    Perriello believes that innovation is the key to reviving American manufacturing and said that the government should be spending money to support innovation in small businesses, rather than spending it to bail out the failures of big corporations.
    He called for infrastructure improvements, specifically mentioning modernizing the nation’s power grid and expanding the availability of broadband Internet service. He also called for improvements in education, stating college should be more affordable so that graduates don’t finish school saddled with debt that they have to spend the next decade paying off. He also called for better vocational education for those not going to college.
    Perriello mentioned some issues that he would like to help make happen. One involves veterans’ educational benefits. He said that he would like to see these benefits apply for technical training as well as for getting a four-year degree.
    Speaking on energy, Perriello said that there is a large dairy farm in Pittsylvania County that is using methane from cow manure to generate electricity for the farm. He thinks that the project may eventually be able to power the nearby town of Chatham.
    Another area of potential is canola oil. Perriello said that farmers in the Fifth Congressional District who formerly grew tobacco can grow canola, which can be refined to produce diesel fuel.
    Both Perriello and Hurt have flooded television viewers with numerous ads touting their accomplishments and their opponent’s flaws. Thrown into the mix of the battle is just what — if any — difference independent candidate Jeffrey Clark will have on the race. Clark has been at the center of a new ad being run by Perriello. The Hurt campaign claims Perriello is attempting to split the Republican vote.
    “After running at least 11 false negative attack ads, this is an unbelievable attempt by Congressman Perriello to trick and manipulate voters,” stated  Hurt campaign spokesman Amanda Henneberg. “Congressman Perriello’s desperate and dishonest motives could not be more transparent. ... Congressman Perriello has cynically resorted to using a third party candidate as his pawn in an attempt to deceive Fifth District voters.”
    The ad poses the question: “What do real conservatives say about Robert Hurt?” and  uses video clips from a debate held during the Republican primary in which seven candidates ran for the nomination. Hurt won nearly 50 percent of the vote and several of those who lost have weighed in on the new ad and statements they made about Hurt that are used in the ad.
    Among those was Feda Kidd Morton who is quoted in the ad saying: “Robert Hurt would be the opposite of where I am on these issues because of his $1.4 billion tax increase.”
    Morton stated, in response, that she and other conservative Republicans in the district are supporting Hurt. “ Let me make it profoundly clear that I, Feda Kidd Morton, have supported Robert Hurt since he won the Republican primary and nomination on June 8, 2010,” she said, adding that Republicans need to regain control of the House to “fire” Speaker Nancy Pelosi and to assure there is a Republican in office as redistricting occurs.
    Jim McKelvey of Bedford County, who was Hurt’s closest rival in the Republican primary, said he was “appalled” at Perriello’s attempt to “split the Republican Party.”
    “Robert Hurt and I may have had some differences in the past, but we are both focused on the same goal for our country’s future,” McKelvey stated yesterday.
    He also noted some recent mailers from the Democrat Party of Virginia, in which he said his name is used in a false statement about Hurt.
    “These false statements clearly show that Congressman Perriello will do anything to get elected, and that he is willing to stoop so low as to lie to his fellow citizens, because he wrongly believes that such lies will win him the election,” McKelvey stated. 
    He also took issue with Clark. “What disturbs me the most is the fact that Jeff Clark is allowing himself to be used as a pawn for the liberal left, and has done nothing to refute Tom Perriello’s efforts on his behalf,” stated McKelvey.
    An email to Perriello’s campaign about the response to the ad or the mailers had not been answered as of press time Tuesday.