U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith was in an election dogfight two years ago, but his re-election effort looks like a walk in the woods.
In fact, the Salem Republican is doing just that in the only TV campaign ad he has aired this year.
Amid a barrage of negative ads on both sides, Griffith narrowly took Southwest Virginia’s Fightin’ Ninth Congressional District seat from longtime Democratic incumbent Rick Boucher in 2010.
Today, Griffith has a more than three-to-one fund-raising advantage over Democratic challenger Anthony Flaccavento.
And while incumbents normally don’t debate challengers under these political conditions, Griffith will have done two debates plus a forum with Flaccavento by Election Day.
“I thought it was the right thing to do,” Griffith said of the joint appearances with Flaccavento. “Debates sometimes are hard when you’ve worked for two years and got a lot of different things done and things you have voted for. It’s hard to get everything into a debate, but it’s still a format that gives people a snapshot of what you’re doing and what your personality is.”
In his only campaign ad, Griffith pledges to protect the district. When asked how he has done that during his first term, Griffith responded: “I don’t think there is any question that I have been in there fighting. I would like to have some help in the Senate. I hope (Virginia Republican) George Allen gets elected. We need some more pro-business, pro-coal legislators in Washington, particularly in the Senate. ... I think if we can get some help in the Senate, we can get some bills passed.”
Griffith, who is on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, opposed the Environmental Protection Agency’s so-called “War on Coal,” but Flaccavento got the United Mine Workers’ (UMW) endorsement.
“I spoke with their legal counsel and said ‘We’re not going to agree on some issues’ ... but if there aren’t coal mines, there aren’t any coal miners,” Griffith said of the UMW’s decision.
Griffith also voted to repeal the federal health care reform law and told constituents he would work to curb the federal deficit.
“When I got there, (the deficit) was $1.5 trillion,” Griffith said. “This year, it’s $1.1 trillion. Is that great? No, it’s still terrible, but it’s a move in the right direction. ... We’re not going to do it all in one year, not when you’re spending a trillion dollars that you don’t have, but over a few years we can bring our spending under control. I will continue to fight for that.”
When asked about his second-term plan, Griffith said that’s dependent upon Republicans taking control of Congress.
“We’re trying to get to a business-friendly environment,” Griffith said. “When I was in the Virginia legislature (Griffith is a former House majority leader), we created a business-friendly environment. ... We need to make sure the United States is one of the top nations in the world in which to do business.”
While Griffith’s campaign hasn’t done negative TV ads this year, Flaccavento is hitting him on his vote for the “Path to Prosperity” budget proposal advocated by GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan.
A Flaccavento ad charged Griffith’s vote would have increased out-of-pocket Medicare expenses for seniors, turned Medicare into a voucher program, and decreased funding for veterans programs.
Griffith said “no” when asked if he’d like to have that vote back.
“We’re trying to make tough decisions in Washington, D.C.,” Griffith said. “If we’re going to get this country straight, we’re going to have to make tough decisions. That (Ryan budget proposal) was a budget blueprint. My opponent keeps saying ‘There are tax cuts to the wealthy in there.’ That’s not actually accurate. ... The bottom line is we have to find out a way to make things work in Washington. We sent our budget plan over to the Senate. ... I would have loved to have seen a Democrat budget come out of the Senate because if they had a better plan, I might have voted for it. Unfortunately, they haven’t passed a budget plan in over three years. They would rather criticize those of us who are attempting to make tough decisions. These are not fun decisions, but I didn’t go to Washington to sit back and make the fun votes. I went to Washington to solve problems. ... It’s easy to criticize when you don’t have to make choices.”
For more about the Griffith campaign go to www.morgangriffithforcongress.com.