Patch recently sent questions to each of the candidates running in the Democratic primary for the 8th congressional District. The primary election is June 10. There are currently seven candidates in the Democratic primary race. This is the sixth of the Q&As, with candidate Mark Levine.
1. Patch: What one thing would you hope to accomplish, more than anything, if elected?
Mark Levine: One problem I think we could address in my first term would be to put a system in place to dramatically reduce the rising cost of higher education. Instead of increasing Federal aid to colleges that raise their prices — based on the gap between what a student can pay and what a college costs — we should increase Federal aid to colleges that lower their prices and sign an agreement with Federal and State Governments to keep their rate of increase at or slightly above the rate of inflation. By suspending aid to “for-profit” institutions, we can reallocate the benefits to students attending both four-year liberal arts and two-year vocational and technical schools and negotiate those costs down as well. This will result in making college costs more affordable and wouldn’t cost a penny. With a Congressional Budget Score of zero cost, I think I can get Republican support.
2. Patch: What makes your platform unique from the other candidates?
Mark Levine: I have a history of going beyond what people say is possible. Other Democrats talk about protecting Social Security; I want to expand it. Other Democrats talk about preserving the Affordable Care Act. I agree that Obamacare is good, but it doesn’t go far enough. I want to expand Medicare to all Americans to achieve universal healthcare coverage. I want to do more than use an aggressive carbon-tax program to reduce the impact of global warming; I want to pierce the corporate veil to punish polluters personally to prevent the mountaintop-bombing coal companies in West Virginia from poisoning our water as well. I would go further than end the sequester; I would cite Section 4 of the 14th Amendment to put the validity of the national debt beyond question and to prevent any future Congress from ever threatening to default again.
3. Patch: What is the biggest struggle you've ever overcome?
Mark Levine: When my sister was murdered by her husband, I pursued justice. It took 10 years and put my life and the life of my parents in jeopardy, but we worked very hard until we finally saw her killer convicted and imprisoned.
4. Patch: What has been your biggest achievement?
Mark Levine: I have had many great achievements in my life. I drafted and got passed into law legislation at the state level (in Tennessee) to protect victims of domestic violence. I was one of the founders of the marriage equality movement, even when LGBT leaders were saying that marriage equality wasn’t possible. I co-authored and worked to pass into law the DC Marriage Equality bill and successfully defended it in court. As Chief Legislative Counsel for Congressman Barney Frank, I successfully worked with then-Senator Hillary Clinton to defeat President Bush’s “faith-based initiative” which would have allowed Federal religious discrimination.
5. Patch: Who is your hero (political or otherwise)?
Mark Levine: Elizabeth Warren. She is a brilliant, bold, strong and progressive leader who finds creative yet logical strategies to take on major problems. She uses her mind to achieve what's in her heart.
6. Patch: What, to you, is one of the most unique qualities about the community of the 8th congressional district?
Mark Levine: The 8th Congressional District of Virginia has very well informed citizens that are committed to public service. Whether through work in the civil service or the Armed Forces, whether as federal employees or contractors, and whether working in civic associations or other community organizations, residents in the 8th District frequently do their best to improve their communities and help others. I'm proud to live among some of the most caring, intelligent, and diligent people in the United States.
7. Patch: How would you describe yourself in just three words?
Mark Levine: Caring, Passionate, Creative
8. Patch: What is your definition of success?
Mark Levine: My definition of success is achieving something that people said couldn’t be done. I did this with marriage equality when leaders in the LGBT community said that it wouldn’t happen in our lifetime. I know from experience you can achieve your dreams, but you won't succeed if you don’t try.