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A tale of two districts: Connolly, Perriello split on extending Bush tax cuts

Ben Pershing

Reps. Gerald Connolly and Tom Perriello are both freshman Democrats from Virginia, and they vote together more often than not. But occasionally an issue will surface that makes clear that the two men represent very different districts and constituencies.

At an event Wednesday morning sponsored by the centrist Democratic group Third Way, Connolly and Perriello split on the question that is causing tension within the Democratic caucus -- whether to extend President George W. Bush's tax cuts on the wealthiest Americans, or let them expire at the end of the year as scheduled.

Connolly's Fairfax-based 11th district is the most affluent congressional seat in the country, based on median household income, and he warned his fellow Democrats that the issue might not be the slam-dunk some think it is.

"I honestly think it's a danger," Connolly said of the tax debate. "I part ways, I think, with the dominant view of my caucus on this subject. I do not favor a permanent extension of the Bush tax cuts. I do favor extending the current rate for some period of time until the economy is on a sustained and a robust track."

Connolly argued that the top 5 percent of earners represented a disproportionately large share of consumer spending, so increasing their taxes could blunt the economic recovery. "Democrats need to abandon their ideology on the Bush tax cuts and look at the economic reality on the ground," Connolly said.

In Perriello's 5th district, which stretches from the Charlottesville area down to the North Carolina border, the median income is less than half of what it is in the 11th district. Perriello favors letting the top-tier tax cuts expire.

"I think there's an argument for at least temporarily extending the working-class and middle-class tax cuts, for the same logic of the stimulus," Perriello said, adding: "I think at the higher end, the logic is not there, particularly given that we have a medium- and long-term very serious deficit concern. I think reasonable people can disagree on this."

Connolly responded: "I think this is where Democrats need to reassess their views of who's wealthy and all that good stuff. ... These people voted for us. They are our constituents, and yet we have ... almost consistently picked on them to finance a whole plethora of wonderful ideas."

Acknowledging that the two Virginians were in "a little bit of a tussle here," Perriello disputed the notion that Democrats were picking on the rich. "If you look at who has benefited the most since President Obama came to office, it's been that top percent," Perriello said.

Despite that disagreement, Connolly and Perriello have plenty in common. Both face potentially difficult reelection races -- though Perriello's is universally acknowledged to be more difficult. The two lawmakers benefited from a joint fundraiser Tuesday night, hosted by Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) at the home of real estate developer Al Dwoskin.

Connolly and Perriello agreed Wednesday that Democrats' suffered from a serious message problem.

"If I had a criticism of my fellow Democrats in the time I've been in Congress ... I would say we have frankly not been very good at weaving the narrative," Connolly said. "There is a story to be told that's pretty compelling, actually, both about what we've inherited [from Republicans] ... and what we've done to clean it up."

Perriello added that "one side has had a very consistent message -- government is the problem," while Democrats have been all over the map.

"I think one of the challenges, frankly, with Democratic narratives is that we do have very different districts as we've noted with the two of us," Perriello said. "We share a lot of values but our districts are very different. Both of us want to stand up for middle-class folks, even though the middle class looks a bit different."

Both lawmakers said their party and the White House had done a poor job explaining and selling the economic stimulus bill. They also agreed that job creation was the No. 1 issue in both their districts.

"I think at the end of the day people know I live and breathe the jobs issue," Perriello said.

Perriello announced Tuesday that he planned to hold 20 town hall meetings in 20 different counties in his district in August. He also declared that he opposes the Obama administration's push for approval of a Korea-U.S. free trade agreement, while his campaign noted that his GOP opponent -- state Sen. Robert Hurt -- hasn't declared a position on the issue.

"We've got to start building things, making things, growing things again. That may sound folksy to people in Washington, but it's real," Perriello said Wednesday.

With Obama's approval ratings hovering in negative territory, both lawmakers were asked whether they'd welcome a visit from the president to their district, and whether they'd like a visit from former president Bill Clinton.

"Yes and yes," Connolly said.

"Sure," Perriello agreed. "The commander in chief's always welcome. Bill Clinton certainly knows how to talk to southern voters."

Connolly added that congressional races would be the only ones on the ballot in Virginia in November, so turnout would be key. "I need the base and Tom needs the base excited. If there's somebody who can excite the base, it's President Obama," he said.

By Ben Pershing  |  July 28, 2010; 12:30 PM ET
Categories:  2010 Virginia Congressional Races , Ben Pershing , Election 2010 , Gerald E. Connolly , Tom Perriello  
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The Post makes a great mouthpiece for Gerry Connolly, there have been several stories on this site how Connolly thinks of himself as some sort of a moderate, wanting to hold the line on the bush tax cuts, but the point is never made that Connolly has voted for nearly every single spending bill Pelosi has put forward, while many other democrats, including Former Skins quarterback Heath S, D-NC, have not.

You also write in this story about how Connolly would appear with Obama anywhere any time, but you neglect to point out that when Obama appeared at GMU, days before the healthcare bill passed, which connolly voted for, Connolly was no where to be seen in the front row, nor was he introduced, even know the appearance took place about 10 minutes from his house? Don't you find it peculiar that Connolly would not be introduced at such a major event featuring our president, less than 6 miles from his house?

Taking Gerry Connolly's word on these things is not good enough, do your research, if you care to.

Posted by: fairfaxgoper | July 28, 2010 3:27 PM | Report abuse

Perriello announced Tuesday that he planned to hold 20 town hall meetings in 20 different counties in his district in August

When is Connolly going to start holding open, and advertised in person town hall meetings in the area he serves, as is being done with Perriello??????????????????

Posted by: fairfaxgoper | July 28, 2010 3:31 PM | Report abuse

One other point of interest that was left off this story,
the the real Host of Mr. Connolly's fundraiser, AJ Dwoskin, whose house was the scene of this event, is the same person who wants to build a jobs center for undocumented citizens (illegal aliens) behind one of his shopping centers in Centreville, much over the protest of the citizens who actually live near the complex and do business there, just another example of how removed Gerry Connolly is from the constituency he allegedly serves. Keith Fimian, Connolly's replacement in January, has come out publicly against Dwoskin's plan which would support the illegal hiring of undocumented workers.

Posted by: fairfaxgoper | July 28, 2010 3:55 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for report.

Please include the Independent Green Party candidates in your stories.

This year the "More Trains, Less Traffic" advocates have a full slate of 11 U.S. House candidates in each of Virginia's districts.

Grow Green Jobs in Virginia!

Virginia’s Independent Green endorsee/nominees:

1st District, retired U.S. Air Force officer Gail for Rail Parker: mother, grandmother, businesswoman, conservative.

2nd retired Navy Commodore Kenny Golden

3rd retired U.S. Air Force vet John Kelly. John is father of active duty U.S. Air Force officer. Conservative

4th realtor Janet Murphy - liberal

5th Jeff Clark, businessman, U.S. Army veteran,husband, father. Elected Independent Green Party 5th Congressional District Chairman - conservative

6th Harvard grad, Professor Jeff Vanke

7th Floyd Bayne, businessman, husband, father, elected Independent Green Party 7th Congressional District Vice Chairman

8th retired Navy Captain Ron “for Rail” Fisher, husband, father, grandfather.

9th businessman, U.S. Army veteran Jeremiah Heaton, husband, father, businessman, conservative

10th accountant Bill Redpath(L)*

11th realtor Dave “for Rail” Gillis, Virginia native, conservative

Virginia's Independent Green Party advocates "More Candidates, Less Apathy"

"More Trains, Less Traffic"
Build High Speed Rail across Virgina, and the United States. Light rail into where we live.

"Fiscally Conservative, Socially Responsible"

Balance the Federal Budget. Pay off the Federal Debt. Install and auditable accounting system at the Pentagon. Stop no bid uncontested contracts.

Indy Greens web site

Follow Green Party at

Posted by: CareyCampbell | August 4, 2010 7:15 PM | Report abuse

The Indy Greens have endorsed the Green Party candidate for Arlington County Board Kevin Chishom.

Posted by: CareyCampbell | August 4, 2010 8:33 PM | Report abuse

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