Local teens interview Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District’s candidates, Representative Elaine Luria (D) and Scott Taylor (R)

October 9, 2020

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Leila Abrams is a ninth grade student in Princess Anne High School’s International Baccalaureate program. She served as a Virginia Senate Page under Senator Jen Kiggans of the 7th Senatorial District throughout the 2020 Virginia General Assembly Session. This past summer, she interned for Senator Kiggans.

Drew Goodove is a 10th grade student in Ocean Lakes High School’s Math and Science Academy. He served as a Virginia Senate Page under Senator Frank Wagner of the 7th Senatorial District throughout the 2019 Virginia General Assembly Session. During the summer of 2019, he interned for Virginia Delegate Jason Miyares of the 82nd District. This past summer, Drew interned for the Democratic Party of Virginia.

Even though not old enough to vote, these two students say they were thrilled to be part of the political process and the opportunity to interview Virginia’s 2nd District Congressional candidates.

Representative Elaine Luria
Leila Abrams and Drew Goodove: What would you like the Jewish community to know about your support of Israel, and what can your constituents do to support the U.S.-Israel alliance?
Elaine Luria: I have been a stalwart supporter of Israel in Congress and plan to continue my work to further the bilateral U.S.-Israel relationship. Whether it is calling on the President to preserve Israel’s qualitative military edge against her adversaries in the region, supporting $3.3 billion in annual security assistance to Israel, or working to weaken Iranian malign influence in the Middle East, I have never wavered in my support for Israel.

My constituents can continue to register their support for Israel with my office and with their other elected officials. Hearing from constituents who feel passionately about supporting Israel has been helpful to me in my first term in Congress.

L&D: Do you think that Congressional support of Israel is reliable and currently with bipartisan support?
EL: Absolutely. There are a few loud voices, on both sides of the aisle, whose criticism of Israel gets a lot of attention. However, when it comes to votes, the vast majority of members of Congress from both parties strongly support Israel.

L&D: Recently, Israel reached historic agreements with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to establish full diplomatic relations. If elected, what will you do to speak out in support of this diplomatic breakthrough? And what can Congress do to encourage future efforts to bring peace and stability to the Middle East?
EL: I have released statements supporting the signing of the Abraham Accords and even attended the historic signing ceremony at the White House. The normalization of relations between Israel and the UAE and Israel and Bahrain are proof that what I have always believed is true: Israel’s right to exist is undeniable, and it is beneficial to all countries in the Middle East to partner with Israel to improve regional security and foster economic growth. Iran remains one of the gravest threats to peace prospects for the Middle East, and the Iranian regime’s continued state sponsorship of terror, arming of Shia militias, and other destabilizing activities must be stopped. That is why I co-led H.R. 3331, the Countering Hezbollah in Lebanon’s Military Act, which will force the Lebanese government to stand up to the Iranian proxy and protect Israel.

L&D: Which foreign relations issue(s) impacting the Middle East directly or indirectly is of grave concern? What would you like to do as a member of Congress to help resolve it?
EL: Besides the obvious, such as the threat of a nuclear Iran, I am deeply concerned by the impact of climate change on the Middle East. As average temperatures rise, desertification intensifies, and resources become increasingly scarce. Climate change can act as a threat multiplier. Young men are more susceptible to recruitment tactics by violent extremist organizations when they lack educational and economic opportunity, and climate change threatens to exacerbate income inequality in less developed countries. That is why I strongly support policies that will help reduce carbon emissions and attempt to slow climate change.

L&D: With our country’s current uptick in anti-Semitic and racist incidents, what can Congress do in cooperation with the Jewish and Black communities to eradicate hate speech and incidents?
EL: Our nation stands at a pivotal moment where the status quo cannot remain. I am a member of the Congressional Caucus on Black and Jewish Relations, which seeks to build the historic friendship between the Black and Jewish communities. Just as Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel marched with Dr. Martin Luther King during the Civil Rights era, the Jewish and Black communities must join together to fight the scourge of racism and anti-Semitism in America.

L&D: What can we do to encourage ALL to exercise their right to vote during this national pandemic?
EL: Voting is a key part of the American experiment in democracy, and this election is incredibly important. Every person should register to vote, and everyone should make a plan to be sure that they vote before Election Day. No matter who you are supporting, making your voice heard is always important.

L&D: What is your advice to Americans who are not old enough to vote, but want to be engaged?
EL: It is never too early to start engaging with your elected officials at every level. I love visiting with students who want to share their thoughts about issues that are important to them.

Scott Taylor
Leila Abrams and Drew Goodove: What would you like the Jewish community to know about your support of Israel, and what can your constituents do to support the U.S.-Israel alliance?
Scott Taylor: Having spent years in the Middle East, I know the issues very well. I understand the challenges Israel faces from both the Jewish and Arab perspectives. I have been to Israel numerous times over the years; have given an international leadership speech in Jerusalem; was present at the U.S. embassy opening; have met Israel’s leaders, Gulf State leaders as well as the vice president of the Palestinian Authority. While in Congress, I always supported the relationship and the qualitative military advantage the U.S. helps with. I also supported the Taylor Force Act, and since I was a Virginia state delegate, I have always opposed the BDS movement.

The most important thing constituents can do is to educate themselves on Israel, our most vital ally in the Middle East, and support their representatives who, in turn, support the U.S.-Israel alliance. Unless, of course, they want to become even further involved, then there are numerous organizations committed to strengthening that relationship for them to become a part of.

 

L&D: Do you think that Congressional support of Israel is reliable and currently with bipartisan support?
ST: It used to be. However, there has been an undermining of it, indeed a hostility towards it, from the left.

L&D: Recently, Israel reached historic agreements with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to establish full diplomatic relations. If elected, what will you do to speak out in support of this diplomatic breakthrough? And what can Congress do to encourage future efforts to bring peace and stability to the Middle East?
ST: A couple years ago, I was meeting with the Emir of Qatar, and I publicly asked him when he would recognize Israel. He stated:

“We are on that path.” While in Congress, I encouraged Ambassadors from Oman, Qatar, and the UAE to recognize Israel. I also encouraged Ambassadors from Honduras, Colombia, and Guatemala to move their embassies to Jerusalem. I will continue to do so if re-elected.

L&D: Which foreign relations issue(s) impacting the Middle East directly or indirectly is of grave concern? What would you like to do as a member of Congress to help resolve it?
ST: Iran is a malign actor and continues to contribute to the destabilization of the Middle East. The Trump administration has exerted maximum pressure on them in the form of sanctions. They are committed to ensuring Iran does not get a nuclear bomb, as am I. The normalization of some Sunni Arab states, with others to follow, will help isolate Iran and hopefully change their behavior. Water and energy are also major problems in the Middle East that I believe the United States, and Israel, can help with technology and financing.

L&D: With our country’s current uptick in anti-Semitic and racist incidents, what can Congress do in cooperation with the Jewish and Black communities to eradicate hate speech and incidents?
ST: I think leaders of all parties need to speak up and out against hate speech. However, many do so in a way that fans political flames and either contribute to or enable negative actions or reactions. We could all use leaders who desire to take the temperature down a notch.

L&D: What can we do to encourage ALL to exercise their right to vote during this national pandemic?
ST: This election is too important for the direction of our nation. There are more ways to vote than ever before, we must encourage any apathetic friends to vote.

L&D: What is your advice to Americans who are not old enough to vote, but want to be engaged?
ST: We have some amazing volunteer opportunities on our campaign.

As both candidates emphasized, everyone must use their voice and vote. Consult the Jewish Community Relations Council of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater’s VA VOTING RESOURCE GUIDE for answers to all Virginia voting questions at jewishva.org/VOTE2020.

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