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Democrat Tom Perriello has pledged cooperation as he hands off the 5th Congressional District seat to last week’s election victor, Republican Robert Hurt. Hurt defeated Perriello in the nationally-watched election as part of a wave of Republicans elected to the House of Representatives.
Perriello said that he wants the handoff to be as smooth as possible. Two days after the election Perriello said he expects to meet with Hurt soon and that his staff and Hurt’s staff had already been in touch.
Hurt said the same thing in a phone interview Thursday.
“He has been very gracious to assist us in any way he can,” Hurt said. “I look forward to working with him to make sure constituent services are not disrupted. He says he stands ready to assist in any way he can and I know he will.”
Hurt also said that his staff and Perriello’s staff were already making plans for the transition.
Both men commented on the election results when asked about it.
“There was a big surge of folks who came out against us,” Perriello commented last week as he visited supporters at his Bedford campaign headquarters.
Perriello said that he generally got high marks for working hard and getting results.
“We fought the good fight,” he said. “We just came up short.”
Hurt credited his supporters’ work during the campaign.
“I think it was a tremendous effort by those on the ground who worked for us,” said Hurt.
Hurt believes that a tough primary, in which seven candidates vied for the Republican nomination, helped him. This meant that he had an effective campaign staff that was already functioning after he clinched the nomination.
“It built into a strong team early,” Hurt said of his campaign.
Hurt said also that people understood that Washington needs to get its fiscal house in order.
“We need policies that promote jobs, rather than kill them,” he said.
Hurt thinks that President Barack Obama’s appearance in Charlottesville, the Friday before the election, was a wash.
“It probably helped motivate his [Perriello’s] base,” Hurt said. “It also helped solidify ours.”
Hurt said that President Obama’s appearance reminded people that the President’s policies have led to “out-of-control” spending and a stagnant economy.
What about the future?
Perriello said that he hasn’t had time to think about what he will do after he leaves office.
“I have two more months on this job,” he said.
Along with making sure the hand-off of constituent services to Hurt goes smoothly, there will also be a lame duck session of Congress. Perriello said that this will convene for a week before Thanksgiving, break for the holiday, then return to finish up. He said that he had not yet received any information on what will be on the agenda.
There are a couple of issues he would like to see addressed. One is a fix on the estate tax. The estate tax, often called the “death tax,” is due to return after the first of the year to its pre-Bush tax cut level. Perriello believes that this will have a profound impact on farmers. Perriello wants to see the minimum estate value, at which the tax kicks in, raised to $10 million. He would also like to see farm land and farm equipment evaluated differently.
He also wants to see the “doc fix” applied. This is something that Congress has routinely applied to prevent the rates at which doctors are paid for treating Medicare patients from being cut.
“I had supported a permanent fix,” he said.
Meanwhile, Hurt will be busy setting up offices across the district and hiring people to staff them.
“We want the right people in these offices,” he said.
Hurt said that Sean Harrison, his campaign manager, will head-up the transition.
What about when the 112th Congress convenes in January?
“The first order of business is to get spending under control,” he said.
Hurt said that Congress will need to address the damage done by the health care and financial services legislation passed this year and will also need to promote policies that promote job creation.
Hurt said that the policies of the 111th Congress and President Obama, such as the health care bill, carbon cap and trade, the stimulus, and card check have been an assault on free enterprise. This has left businesses concerned about what will come next and reluctant to invest money, he said, noting that the Dow hit a two-year high the day after the election.
“I think a lot of that had to do with the outcome of the election,” he said.
Hurt believes that Congress must start sending a message that it cares about the impact that government policies have on business. He pledged to “listen to those who are job creators” and seek ways to support them.
“I’m very grateful for the big support we had from folks who are tea party members,” he said. Hurt said that he expects the tea party movement to stay active and hold Congress accountable.
What does he expect from President Obama?
“I hope he is going to operate in good faith,” Hurt said. According to Hurt, the results of the Nov. 2 election, on a nationwide basis, sent the President a message that the American people want change.
On his swing through Bedford last week, Perriello spoke to local volunteers who had worked on his campaign.
“There are people who have food on the table and can pay their energy bill because of what we did together,” Perriello told them. “We stepped into a situation where this country, the strongest in history, was on the verge of depression. ... We really believed in what we were doing.”
In a letter to his supporters, Perriello defended his record.
“Because of our work together, we turned near-economic collapse into nine straight months of private sector job growth,” Perriello wrote. “Because of our work together, 1,800 homes in our district have been weatherized, putting people to work making $20 an hour. Because of our work together, over 20,000 young people in our district are getting more aid to afford college. Over 120 small business owners got the loans to live their American dream.”
When Perriello spoke to the gathering in Bedford, Thursday, he urged his supporters to work to make Hurt’s transition as smooth as possible and make sure he gets off to the strongest possible start.