Forbes talks experience, constituents and business

Published 12:28 pm Saturday, August 30, 2014

CHESAPEAKE—Fourth District Congressman Randy Forbes sat across the table at a chain restaurant and was unable to finish his salad because he was so passionate about what he was talking about. That’s representing his constituents, be it the military, businesses or just everyday people.

Forbes (R-Chesapeake) is in an election campaign and he is facing off against Elliot Fausz of Chester. Fausz sat down with The Tidewater News in late July, and about a month later we caught up with Forbes.

Forbes was not interested in bashing Fausz, but he did want voters to know that when they step into an election booth on Tuesday, Nov. 4, they are getting someone with experience.

“That’s probably what separates me the most from my opponent,” Forbes said. “He would have to start on day 1. I don’t start on day 1.”

Forbes said it has taken him more than a decade to get where he is today. He has slowly built up knowledge and relationships including those with the U.S. Navy, the Pentagon and in foreign policy.

“If I walked in on day 1 with Ft. Lee, you would scare them to death,” Forbes said. “That’s because they right now are worried about losing people there. They want someone who is in a position to actually stop that.

“Go talk to the Navy, and ask them if they want a day 1 guy, and they are going to say no. They are going to say that we need a guy who knows what the heck he is doing.”

Forbes was also concerned to hear Fausz attack him on his constituent services. He added that it was a cookie-cutter campaign issue that’s coming out of Washington, D.C. But for him, it does not line up with the facts, Forbes said.

“We realize that our number one job is not just passing some bill, it is with our constituents,” Forbes said. “People are tired of calling automated machines and all of that kind of stuff and not getting answers.”

Forbes said he does not return every call personally, but someone one in his office does.

“I wish I could say that I answer every call, but it’s not true,” he said. “But our office is always rated at the top of Congress in constituent services. Guys line up to come and watch how we do it because they want to emulate it.”

When he first got into office, he sought to emulate what he thought was the best office for constituent services, Sen. John Warner (R-Virginia). Today he feels like they are at that level.

Forbes has tele-town halls, where they get on the phone with people in the district and let them ask any question they want to ask.

The email list, Forbes said, is one of, if not the, largest in Congress.

“People around the world will read our emails of stuff we send out,” he said. “We ask their opinion, and we get that opinion from them. So when you come to me, and you ask me, ‘What are your constituents concerned about?’

“I can tell you exactly what they are concerned about, and I am not going by some poll that somebody took.”

The third thing they do is put together coalitions with people in different industries, including technology, education and agriculture.

“When we are home, I am spending my time with manufacturers and agriculture people to name a couple, and we are getting the pulse,” Forbes said.

Another concern was that his focus on the military impacts his ability to work with other business needs. Forbes made no apologies toward the importance he places on the military.

“Every day I wake up, the number one question on my mind is, ‘Have I done everything I can to protect the men and women that are fighting for us around the globe.’ And make sure that if they are fighting for us today that it is not a fair fight, and they win. I wake up with it. I go to bed with it.”

But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t also focus on manufacturing, technology and small business.

“I just came off of a tour where we met with businesses in Virginia. I listened to the companies. And they were all saying three things: You are taxing us to death. You are litigating us to death. And you are relegating us to death.

“If you take those things away, manufacturing could light up in Virginia.”

An example was an issue in Greensville County, where for years they have been working on a reservoir. The Army Corps of Engineers issued a permit recently, and they’ve got four major manufacturing sites coming to town because of it. However, it’s in jeopardy because two weeks ago the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries began considering putting on the endangered species list the long-eared bat, which spends part of its time in eastern Virginia.

“If you have any of these kinds of trees, and the pine tree is one of them, then you will not get an Army Corps of Engineers permit,” Forbes said. “Even if no evidence that a bat has ever flown over the area. This reservoir and its major source of income is going to get killed because it might have a bat that flies over property and it might be put on the endangered species list. That’s what we shouldn’t do.”

Forbes said why wouldn’t manufacturing just go overseas rather than try to fight these regulations?

“Nobody is talking about letting people pollute,” he said. “We have gotten to the point where we make these regulations where they have no nexus between what they are trying to accomplish and the actual thing they are requiring of businesses. And it costs them hundreds of millions of dollars.”

High-tech jobs are also important to Forbes. He and others have been working on a prototype for a school that would help feed employees to the modeling and simulation industry. Forbes said it would bridge video game development with the modeling industry, so students could see how they could change the world with skills they are already developing.

“We want to get something that infuses and excites them with math and science,” Forbes said. “I think Hampton Roads and Virginia could be a leader in the world in terms of what we are doing.

“We could have all of that kind of business come into Virginia if we are on the cutting edge of that.”

And the military is really important to the economy as well.

“It is so short-sighted to say we don’t need defense,” he said. “Defense is often the catalyst that brings change. It is what started modeling and simulation. That’s now the number 2 magnet for math and science students.”

Military is also an important aspect as far as the economy — Ft. Lee and the Navy are beneficial to the region. And Forbes has helped fight to keep it, adding that without him and help from his friends in Washington, Virginia would have lost an Aircraft carrier and, he said, “The effects would have been catastrophic.”

Speaking of friends, Forbes said he has a great working relationship with members of Congress, including Democrats.

“I have an incredible working relationship with Sen. [Tim] Kaine, but more importantly, our staffs do too,” he said. “If Bobby Scott were here, you’d never hear him say something negative about me. I’d never say something negative about him.”

And then there is Congressman Mike McIntyre (D-North Carolina), who serves with Forbes on the subcommittee on seapower and projection forces. McIntyre was up against a Republican in 2010, and it was a very close race.

“Mike had me come down to speak for him and I did,” Forbes said. “I caught a lot of flack for it up here, but I said, ‘I don’t care. He is a great guy, and I am going to go down there for him.’

“I would agree with anybody that says Washington can’t get along, but that doesn’t mean I can’t get along, which is important.”