Concern for Economy Sparks Herndon Engineer's Run for Congress
Republican Kenneth Vaughn, 44, hopes to challenge Rep. Gerald Connolly for 11th congressional District seat.
Republican Kenneth Vaughn, 44, a traffic engineer who lives in Herndon with his wife and twin sons and originally hails from Texas, is hoping to represent Virginia's 11th congressional District, the seat currently held by Democratic Congressman Gerald Connolly.
Vaughn will compete in the Republican primary election June 12 against Chris Perkins and Steven Yeh, the only others currently in the GOP primary race for the 11th congressional District. Vaughn has raised about $120,000, contributing most of it himself, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. There is no record of Yeh yet raising funds. Perkins has raised more than $150,000.
Republican Keith Fimian, a businessman from Oakton, came close to unseating Connolly, in his second attempt in 2010, but is now reportedly considering a run for lieutenant governor. Fimian lost to Connolly by less than 1,000 votes or .4 percent.
Vaughn answered some questions about his run for Congress from Patch this week:
Q: Why are you running for Congress?
A: "I never imagined I would run for office and never aspired to be a career politician. I enjoy being self-employed as an engineer, but I can no longer stand by and watch while irresponsible Washington politicians bankrupt our country. The national debt recently surpassed the size of our national economy, a condition that typically results in the economic stagnation we’re currently experiencing. At the current pace, our debt will surpass the level reached by Greece and other countries when their economies collapsed. We must get the debt under control before our economy collapses. I’m running because I believe we have a moral obligation to restore structural integrity to our economy so we can avoid an economic collapse."
Q: Was there one event that made you decide that now was the right time to run? Why now?
A: "The event that motivated me was the response to the 2008 financial crisis. While some government action may have been appropriate, the actions taken only served to bail out big business and Washington insiders at the expense of the long-term economy and average citizens. I thought the politicians would clean up their act once they saw the backlash to these actions; instead, we only got more and more partisan bickering.
"Despite some early reluctance to run, as a business owner, I grew increasingly alarmed as our country’s insolvency continued to snowball. And while I knew a run for Congress would divert time away from my business and require substantial personal investment, after a great deal of prayer, consideration, and consultation with family, friends, and Virginians, my wife and I determined it was what we needed to do."
Q: What are your top three priorities if elected?
A: "We need leaders in Congress who will lead on the budget issue. Before any programs or budget items are cut, Congress should cut its own pay to demonstrate its solidarity with Americans facing private-sector pay cuts. The first bill I’ll propose in Congress will be a 50 percent congressional pay cut. Until such legislation passes, I promise to dedicate 50 percent of my congressional pay to charity, and I’ll challenge every other congressional leader who claims to support a balanced budget to do the same thing. In fact, I challenge Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-VA) to begin doing this today.
"But congressional pay is just the start; we must restore fiscal responsibility to the entire budgetary process. Like every American family, we must begin to live within our means and formulate a plan that will eventually repay the money that we have borrowed from our children. We should start by agreeing on what the deficit targets should be for each year going forward. Once those targets are in place, we can then prioritize our spending from a zero-baseline budget. In other words, zero out all budgets and justify each expense.
"Conversations I’ve had with people throughout the District reveal that most people agree we should:
- Pay the interest on the national debt.
- Honor our word by using money collected for self-funding programs on those programs. In other words, dedicate Social Security tax revenues to the Social Security program. This also applies to Medicare, transportation (e.g., the gas tax), unemployment insurance, and the U.S. Postal Service.
- Fund our national defense at a level no lower than the lowest it’s been since World War II.
- Maintain other vital government services such as the federal court system and federal prisons (a total of no more than 0.5% of our national economy).
"In total, these programs add up to roughly 14 percent of the national economy. The most our country has ever raised under any tax system is 19 percent of the economy. That means Congress has a 5 percent cushion. Reasonable people can debate how the additional money is spent, and that’s what Congress should focus on instead of merely demonizing the other party.
"My third priority is to enact policies to revitalize our economy. Right now, roughly 10 percent of our economy is funded by money we’re stealing from our future. This is unsustainable. If we’re going to climb out of this hole, we have to revise the policies that are artificially constraining our economy. For example, let’s dramatically simplify our tax code and remove tax incentives that promote sending our jobs overseas. We can also remove unnecessary regulations, such as Obama's ban on the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline, that hinder business without providing any specific, proven benefit. Finally, we need to create a robust environment where small businesses can thrive. America excels when people are free to pursue their dreams."
Q: Have you held or run for any other elected office? If so what are the particulars and if not, why start at the level you chose?
A: "I haven’t held or pursued public office before. I’m not a career politician—I’m an engineer and business owner who’s concerned about the national debt and the financial viability of our country. I’m motivated to run because our country is in crisis and our current elected officials aren’t providing the leadership we need to avert disaster. Given that my concern is the federal budget, it makes the most sense for me to run for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, where all spending bills originate."
Q: What differentiates you from other Republicans in the field?
A: "I know the issues. As an entrepreneur, I have to be up to date on taxes, regulations, and other business issues. As an engineer, I’m accustomed to analyzing complex problems and coming up with practical solutions. These skills are critical to enacting public policy that affects the lives and livelihoods of millions of Americans. I’ve also extensively researched, read, and debated economic and political issues with friends and colleagues my whole adult life. Their wide-ranging political views have challenged me to examine my beliefs and principles from many angles and reconcile them with the test of time. It can be easy to discount the sound-bite rhetoric that comes from Washington, but when your friends challenge you, you’re forced to think about different points of view.
"My motivation for running is also different. My interest in the issues drove me to investigate our financial situation as deeply as I did. I then used the results of this research to formulate my opinions on what we should be doing to solve our debt problem. I only decided to run for Congress when it was clear that we lacked the leadership to address this issue."
Q: Are there any decisions Rep. Connolly has made you disagree with and if so, name your top three and why you disagree.
A: "Clearly, there are many. Perhaps most importantly, I disagree with his continual support of increasing the debt ceiling without defining any plan to ever repay this money. While some might argue that we should run a deficit during a recession, doing so without any plan to repay the money amounts to theft. We will never balance our budget unless we first agree that we don’t have the right to steal money from future generations. If we can’t agree on this basic moral principle, our country is destined for failure.
"My second area of disagreement is with Connolly’s support for Obamacare and the individual mandate. As a small business owner, I am very aware of the problems with our current health insurance and health care system, but Obamacare does not solve any of the real problems. Unfortunately, I don’t think I could do this topic justice in such a short piece, but I think we could start reform by introducing some simple changes, such as allowing the re-importation of prescription drugs and allowing health care consumers a greater say in how their health care dollars are spent. Ultimately, we should increase access and improve affordability, but we can do so without a trillion-dollar, mandate-driven, government-run, unconstitutional bill like Obamacare.
"A third decision I disagree with is Rep. Connolly’s vote against the REINS Act. This bill would have required every new regulation imposed by the Executive Branch that would cost over $100 million to be voted on in Congress (within a defined time frame) prior to being enacted. While our Constitution gives the Legislative Branch the authority to make laws, Congress has increasingly given the Executive Branch a great deal of leeway in interpreting these laws through regulations. The REINS Act would have ensured that the resulting regulations were still in keeping with the spirit of the original law and the will of the people. It would have also put each Representative on record as to whether or not he or she supported proposed regulations. This is exactly the type of accountability our founding fathers envisioned."
Q: Do you have a hero or someone you look up to in public life? Who is that and why?
A: "First and foremost, I look up to Jesus Christ. Even for people who don’t believe He is the Son of God and Savior, anyone objectively reading the Bible has to concede that he was a great man who lived His life as an example of service and self-sacrifice and followed His convictions to the death.
"As for current public figures, I have great respect for several people, including Paul Ryan for his courage in proposing serious spending cuts. While I don’t agree with all of his proposals, he deserves a lot of credit for putting a serious proposal on the table. I also admire Dave Ramsey for encouraging people to seriously look at their personal finances and to take practical steps to improve them. I also appreciate Bono for being so charitable with his wealth while working in an industry that is notorious for its extravagance. And of course, I respect, admire, and deeply appreciate our military for putting their lives on the line to protect us and uphold our Constitution."
Q: My favorite president is:
A: "Without a doubt, my favorite president would have to be George Washington. He was a great leader in many respects, but his simple act of stepping down after two terms was a true gift to this country that perhaps can never be matched.
"Within my lifetime, I would have to pick Ronald Reagan. While he was not without flaws (who among us is?), he deserves considerable credit for ending the Cold War, giving America a vision for the future, and revitalizing the economy."
Q: What career or life experience do you think would most influence your work in Congress and why?
A: "On a personal level, I think a congressman needs to understand the perspectives of a large cross-section of the population. I have had the opportunity to gain this perspective from a number of activities through my church, especially several charitable efforts. In particular, I led eight mission trips to the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina. These trips allowed us to work side-by-side with homeowners who were directly affected by the storm and to get to know them and their stories. Although I graduated from Tulane University and had thus lived in the area decades earlier, these trips took me to areas I had not spent time in before. I left each trip with a deeper appreciation of the full range of our society and a greater sensitivity to the needs of people dealing with major challenges. While there are certainly many other stories I could mention, those eight trips will stay with me for a long time.
"My career provides a completely different type of experience that will also serve me well in Congress. For the past 15 years, I’ve had the privilege of serving on numerous national and international committees that develop technical standards for my industry. This has given me valuable expertise in understanding the process required to achieve goals while working through a complex committee process and knowing that every document produced will be reviewed by hundreds of other people, each with their own perspectives and opinions. This experience will be directly relevant and beneficial as I serve on congressional committees."
Q: Where do you stand on social issues such as abortion, gay marriage and gun control?
A: "The only abortion-related issue likely to come up in the U.S. House is whether federal funding should be used for abortions. I respect the scientific evidence that proves that unique human life begins at conception; therefore, I will strongly oppose any use of federal funds for abortions. Of course, people who believe such programs should be funded are free to voluntarily contribute to charities that specialize in that field, but government funds should not be used for this purpose.
"I believe marriage is a religious institution, and that the government should stay out of it to the extent possible, at both the federal and state levels. Most of the legal aspects of marriage can be handled through other legal means (whether “civil unions” are allowed or not). In essence, this debate is a divisive issue that has little to no practical impact on our society, but our government should not try to impose its definition of a religious institution on its citizens.
"Regarding gun control, I will strongly support protecting our Second Amendment rights. Our founding fathers understood the importance of allowing citizens to arm themselves against the potential threat of an out-of-control government. While I support sensible gun-control measures such as denying guns to people who have criminal records, etc., I believe the Constitution is clear that every citizen has the right to personally keep and bear arms until this right is taken away through due process."
Q: Do you have debates planned with your Republican opponents? If so do you know when?
A: "My opponent and I have currently agreed to a debate on Feb. 8 sponsored by local Tea Party groups. I look forward to the possibility of additional debates hosted by other political or civic organizations, such as chambers of commerce or Republican women’s groups."
Q: What are you hearing in the way of support for your campaign?
A: "Last year, people were rightly focused on state and local campaigns and then went into “holiday mode” after the elections. However, with the new year, there is a lot of excitement about this 11th district race. This was one of the five closest races in the country in 2010, and we believe it will be another close race in 2012.
"Specifically, I am hearing a lot of positive support for my positions from people across the political spectrum. People on both sides of the aisle understand that our deficits are unsustainable. Tired of partisan bickering and fiscal excess, they are desperate to find reasonable and responsible leaders. Many have expressed support for my 50 percent congressional salary cut/donation to charity idea. It gives them a tangible point on which to hold me accountable—something sorely lacking in our current government."
A fundraiser for Vaughn is set for Tuesday, Feb. 7, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the home of Michael and Jill Leach, 11657 Rumford Court, Woodbridge, VA 22192.