Three candidates vie for Senate seat

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Democrat Tim Kaine, Republican Corey Stewart and Libertarian Matt Waters will be on the ballot for Virginia Senate on Election Day. COURTESY PHOTO / WYDAILY

Next Tuesday, Nov. 6, three candidates will face each other on ballots across the Commonwealth in a battle to become senator for Virginia. The candidates include the incumbent Democrat Sen. Tim Kaine, Republican Corey Stewart and Libertarian Matt Waters.

These candidates, and their positions on some of the issues most relevant to students at the College of William and Mary, provide a wide variety of choices for those voting in this midterm election.

Stewart’s priorities center on supporting U.S. President Donald Trump’s agenda, preventing illegal immigration and aiding veterans. For Waters, policy priorities in Virginia and nationally should focus on limiting government. Kaine’s vision of Virginia focuses on broadening access to healthcare, growing the economy and improving education.

Student Loan Debt

All three candidates agree that massive student loan debt is a serious issue facing young people today, but they vary wildly in their approaches to solving the problem.

Both Stewart and Kaine touch on career training as a way to ensure students can find jobs upon graduation to pay off their debt faster. For Stewart, this means supporting the HERO Act, which would shift charge of the accreditation process for colleges from the Department of Education to state governments.

According to Stewart, this would allow the state government to work with universities and better determine what skills are needed in the workforce. Kaine, on the other hand, includes career and technical education as merely one part of a multifaceted plan.

“Because there isn’t one path that will work for everyone, I am pushing for a number of strategies that will ease the burden of debt,” Kaine said in an email.

Kaine’s plan includes increasing access to financial counseling and promoting initiatives like debt forgiveness programs, college dual-enrollment programs for high school students and opportunities for students to refinance their debt.

Waters believes that the best way to mitigate student loan debt is to keep the federal government from getting involved in loaning money to students in the first place.

Gun safety policies

The three candidates differ in how they see the balance between Second Amendment rights and the need to increase gun regulations in the United States in light of mass shootings.

According to Stewart’s website, he places emphasis on protecting Second Amendment rights as they stand now, or even adding freedoms for gun owners. Waters also believes that gun restrictions are not the most relevant solution to recent mass shootings but acknowledges the need to deal with gun violence in other ways, like addressing mental illness concerns and ending the War on Drugs.

“Most gun owners in this country … we’re law abiding,” Waters said.

Kaine acknowledges the constitutional right to bear arms, but he said his time as the governor of Virginia during the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting led him to work for measures which would prevent future gun violence.

“There is still more to be done, and I will continue to push for important and necessary reforms including universal background checks, banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and improving our mental health system,” Kaine said.

LGBTQ Rights and Transgender Protections

Kaine said that he would continue his legacy as a former civil rights lawyer, pushing for the Equality Act in the Senate and equality in all aspects of life for members of the LGBTQ community.

“[I] am fighting to pass workplace protections for LGBTQ citizens so that no Virginian ever loses their job again because of their sexuality or sexual orientation,” Kaine said.

“[I] am fighting to pass workplace protections for LGBTQ citizens so that no Virginian ever loses their job again because of their sexuality or sexual orientation,” Kaine said.

Stewart, on the other hand, stated that he feels current anti-discrimination laws are sufficient for protecting LGBTQ rights, and that further legislation would not be beneficial.   

“We have anti-discrimination laws in this country,” Stewart said. “I think continuing to push this issue divides people.”

Waters favors self-advocacy in situations where employers do not meet protection needs, particularly when it comes to transgender protections that U.S. President Donald Trump recently made national news for planning to rescind. According to Waters, the issue of employer protections should remain between an employee and an employer.

Immigration

All three candidates say they favor immigration reform that would make it easier for migrants to become permanent, legal residents of the United States. However, there are stark differences in how they would handle current undocumented immigrants.

Waters believes that the current immigration system is “broken,” and while he is not an advocate for open borders, he condemns the separation of families at the southern border, would keep the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy in place and is open to bringing citizenship to the currently estimated 11.4 million undocumented immigrants living in America.

“You have, what, 12 million undocumented citizens, illegal aliens in this country?” Waters said. “We can do nothing, which is not working out so well, I think. We can build a wall and deport people, or we could take those people … and integrate them into the American family all the way. And that would be my choice, because I think immigrants bring an awful lot to the table.”

Like Waters, Kaine states that he would keep DACA in place and condemns family separations, while also advocating for a secure border. He argues that restrictions on legal immigration, especially restrictions on Muslim immigrants, DACA recipients and Temporary Protected Status members, are wrong for Virginia.

Stewart favors making it easier for migrants who want to enter the United States to do so legally, and then make it easier for visa recipients to become permanent residents. However, he did not back down from his previous action against illegal immigration in Prince William County in 2007.

“[Support for easier legal immigration] means more immigration judges, that means investment in our immigration system to speedily process applications to go from visa status to permanent residency,” Stewart said. “Now, here’s the thing — I am very much in favor of building the wall, of cracking down on illegal immigration.”

Climate Change

For Kaine, climate change is a salient issue which he said imperils the planet’s future and threatens the economy. He said he plans to continue challenging the White House’s previous actions on climate issues, such as withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement.

“I will continue to fight the Trump administration’s decision to abandon the Clean Power Plan, a move that harms the transition toward clean and renewable energy,” Kaine said. “Virginia is uniquely threatened by sea level rise, which is why I have introduced legislation to make regions like Hampton Roads more resilient in the face of flooding and extreme weather events.”

Stewart, on the other hand, favors withdrawing from the Clean Power Plan, stating that it would cost too many jobs for a “negligible” difference in the global temperature. Instead, he would call the Army Corp of Engineers to shore up the Tidewater Aquifer.

“The climate is changing, but the question is … is it due to man?” Stewart said. “And most scientists — only 1.6 percent of scientists believe that the change in the environment is due primarily to man.”

According to NASA, 97 percent or more of climate scientists agree that climate change is caused by man.

In terms of addressing climate change, Waters said he believes that the private sector is more equipped to handle research and solutions than the government is.

“Right now, the current climate — no pun intended — on climate change is poison,” Waters said.

“Right now, the current climate — no pun intended — on climate change is poison,” Waters said.

Charlottesville and White Supremacists

Kaine unilaterally condemned the violent actions of white supremacists at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville last summer. Waters and Stewart both condemned the violence but addressed both anti-fascist and white-supremacist protestors.

“It was sickening to see such displays of violence and bigotry, which tragically led to injuries and the deaths of three Virginians,” Kaine said. “President Trump’s reluctance to quickly and directly condemn the hate, bigotry and racism of the white supremacists and members of the Ku Klux Klan that gathered at Charlottesville was deeply alarming to me and to millions of Americans.”

Waters acknowledged the Constitutional right to free speech, but condemned the violence associated with the protest, saying the actions of self-described “anti-fascist” protestors were equally to blame.

“It’s a free country, and you can protest, and you can be for or against anything you want,” Waters said. “That’s fine … These are bad actors. I’d say the violent far left stuff, the Antifa stuff we’re seeing … and suddenly the neo-Nazi confederate right thing that’s happening — I’d say that’s equally as bad.”

Stewart did not address either group by name, the specific actions of anyone at the Unite the Right rally or the death of Charlottesville resident Heather Heyer at the hands of a white supremacist in his condemnation of violence.

“We have to condemn violence,” Stewart said. “Political violence is not acceptable in the United States, whoever’s doing it, it doesn’t matter what side of the aisle you’re on — political violence is wrong.”

Kaine emphasized that youth voter turnout could be decisive in what issues are prioritized in the Senate.

“Last year’s elections in Virginia showed that every vote matters,” Kaine said. “By engaging with our community … young people have an opportunity to make their voices be heard.”

Correction: A previous version of this article mistakenly used the phrase “chronic climate” instead of “current climate” in a quote from Libertarian candidate Matt Waters.