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Houck, Webb say putpeople over party
Webb, Houck decry political polarization in Washington and Richmond.


Date published: 10/22/2011

BY DONNIE JOHNSTON

It was billed as a national-level endorsement for state Sen. Edd Houck's re-election bid, but at times it sounded more like a venting session for both Houck and U.S. Sen. Jim Webb.

The major gripe of both Democrats? The political polarization in America that is putting party above the interests of the people.

"We have to get past this," Webb said, referring to a Thursday night Republican filibuster that killed his criminal-justice reform bill.

Webb said that four years ago the bill had bipartisan support and the endorsement of 70 national groups.

Now, he said, the two major political parties have gotten so far apart that what should have been "a no-brainer" wound up as failed legislation.

Webb called the animosity that currently exists between the Republicans and the Democrats "a paralysis that now affects our system."

Houck, D-Spotsylvania, who faces Republican Bryce Reeves in the Nov. 8 election, made it clear that party politics are as alive and well in Richmond as they are in Washington. He recalled how he and fellow Democratic Sen. Chuck Colgan had stepped forward to endorse Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell's transportation program last year and were initially seen almost as being party traitors.

"But you know what? We did the right thing for Virginia," Houck told a Culpeper gathering that in-cluded almost as many Republicans as Democrats.

Houck said that he has sometimes taken a political beating for bucking his own party, but vowed to keep on voting his conscience.

"We have to put people above politics," he said.

Webb called Houck's common-sense approach crucial in achieving "a sense of balance" at a time when "we are letting our political system veer off into the extremes."

On a day when all military veterans in the crowd were asked to join Houck and Webb on stage, Virginia's senior senator was asked his reaction to President Obama's announcement yesterday that all American troops in Iraq would be coming home by the end of the year.

"That was part of a strategic agreement and I was one of those who asked the White House to honor that agreement," said Webb, who is not seeking re-election this year.

"I have always said that Iraq was a strategic blunder that took away from the way we should have fought the war against terrorism," the much-decorated Vietnam veteran and author continued. "Occupation is not the way, and now we are moving in the right direction."

Donnie Johnston:
Email: djohnston@freelancestar.com