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Pretend Primary '08--Because Our Votes Don't Count

By the time Virginia, Maryland and the District get around to picking their convention delegates in a regional primary on Feb. 12, 33 states will have already chosen whom they'd like to be president. We will be such a ridiculous afterthought that no candidate in his right mind would bother to spend a penny here, let alone doing any campaigning or giving us a look at their TV messages. In presidential politics this year, this entire region is as irrelevant as a D.C. voter is every year. (Today's column gets into this in greater detail.)

That's why we're having our own Pretend Primary campaign, right here, right now.

For the next seven Thursdays, we'll conduct our own campaign, and then on the eighth Thursday, Dec. 13, we'll vote. Whether or not the candidates care about Virginia, Maryland and the District, we'll figure out what issues are specific to this region, and then debate them right here. If the candidates care to let us know what they think about the issues that matter here, we welcome their participation. If not, we'll know where we stand. I, for one, don't care a bit about former Iowa First Lady Christie Vilsack's endorsement of Hillary Clinton or about Mitt Romney's commitment to "New Hampshire values."

But I'd be fascinated to hear the presidential candidates talk about how sprawl, longer commutes and the collapse of affordable housing in places like Maryland and Virginia have diminished the quality of life for American families and I'd love to hear them talk about income inequality and how the federal government's funding decisions can help steer us back toward a more satisfying sense of community.

More important, I'd like to see you spell out the issues you're not hearing the candidates address. This is not the place to dig into the war, terrorism, or homeland security--those issues sit comfortably atop nearly all the polls about what Americans care about in this election, and for better or worse, the candidates are talking about those subjects in Iowa and New Hampshire. This is the place to identify those issues that are of greater concern in this part of the country than they may be where the campaigns are taking place. So please come ahead with your comments and questions on those issues, and who knows, maybe we'll get a response from a candidate or three.

By Marc Fisher |  October 25, 2007; 7:16 AM ET
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Sprawl and longer commutes are our own fault so why should we expect the politicians to bail us out. Nobody has to have, even if raising kids, a 4 bdrm center hall colonial on a 1/4 lot way out in East Jesus. And anyway with the mortgage crisis housing is becoming more affordable due to thee supply v. demand dynamic. And if they sufficiently address the issue of illegal immigration that will free up even more housing.

Posted by: Stick | October 25, 2007 8:13 AM

I'm curious where each of the candidates stands on Congressional voting rights for D.C. residents.

Posted by: Poking the Fire | October 25, 2007 8:28 AM

The bridge in the Twin Cities could be just the tip of the Iceberg. We live is a country with infrastructure aging and in disrepair in every state. Today it seems that you are just as likely to be late as ontime when you fly. Amtrak still doesn't work for 80% of the country. Commutes going to get worse.

Our transportation systems are stressed beyond belief across the country. What are the candidates going to do about the growing transportation problems in this country that touch all of our lives?

Posted by: Live on Capitol Hill | October 25, 2007 9:19 AM

"Sprawl and longer commutes are our own fault so why should we expect the politicians to bail us out."

Actually, it was politicains at the local level who got us into this mess through height limits on multifamily housing, rent controls, density limitations etc to limit the supply of affordable housing close in combined with agressive "economic development" incentives for businesses that small towns and emerging suburbs could not match. End result = businesses clustered and residents sprawled. Originally not a national issue but the process has been repeated in so many metro areas it is becoming a common concern.

Posted by: Woodbridge VA | October 25, 2007 9:30 AM

Mass transit is a big issue for me, which plays directly into commutes and sprawl.

I know I'm going to get jumped all over this, but...

Every time I'm in Europe, I'm impressed infinitely by the quality of their mass transit systems.

...and before people jump on me too hard, remember that the interstates we all use were brought about by Pres. Eisenhower. ...who was impressed infinitely by the Autobahn.

Posted by: Pompous Magnus | October 25, 2007 9:51 AM

I'd agree that sprawl, in the sense of zoning and development patterns, is predominantly a state issue rather than a federal one. That said, I would be interested in seeing what the candidates would do in those nexuses where federal policy intersects with local ones. For example, federal land use in burgeoning urban areas. This is much more of an issue out west (I'm thinkin' of cities like Las Vegas and Colorado Springs) than here in the east, but it is one example. Another example, what's their position on telecommuting for federal employees? Since many federal employees fall within the departments of the executive branch, it's clearly within their policy sphere. At the same time, it has clear ramifications for the local issue of traffic in DC.

Posted by: Stephen Braunlich | October 25, 2007 9:56 AM

Mitt can solve this situation. Just do the math.And do it.

Posted by: chuck the truck | October 25, 2007 10:11 AM

On the bright side, we're not seeing the candidates' ads and we're not deluged with phone calls from the campaigns each night. It's all a matter of perspective.

Besides, the problems that are unique to the DC metropolitan area - property values that are too high, too much job security, too many health care plans to choose from, an abundant pool of menial labor - aren't real problems for the country as a whole. Sadly, they're the problems that these candidates can probably best sympathize with: "Where do you find a good au pair these days?"

Posted by: athea | October 25, 2007 3:30 PM

I'm concerned about the air pollution in our city and around the world.

Hybrid cars that meet California PZEV air pollution standards, such as the Camry Hybrid and Prius, emit cleaner air than they take in. The obvious solution is to offer incentives for everyone to buy hybrids or other PZEV vehicles when they buy their next car. But once the hybrid exemption in the HOV lanes in Northern Virginia goes away, what incentive will people have to pay more for a clean car?

DC, MD and VA need to come together to grant meaningful incentives for clean vehicles. Continued no-pay rides on the HOV and HOT lanes, free parking at meters, subsidized parking in parking garages, a reduction in property taxes, gradually requiring all vehicles that use HOV / HOT lanes to be clean vehicles -- all these should be seriously considered and implemented.

Posted by: NOVA Voter | October 25, 2007 7:06 PM

Mitt Romney is committed to New Hampshire Values? Does he mean Live Free or Die?

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