U.S. Senate candidate George Allen (R) made it no secret why he, like many elected officials, makes a point to visit the Greenspring Retirement Village in Springfield.
“Folks here at Greenspring, they vote,” he said.
The retirement community has its own voting precinct and is famous for high voter turnout — about 87 percent of the about 1,900 registered voters there cast ballots in the 2008 presidential election.
It also skews Democratic, but Greenspring Republican Club President Craig Stanger said he thinks Allen has a good shot of winning the precinct this year.
“One of the factors is that [President Barack] Obama is so unpopular,” Stanger said.
Allen, a former Virginia governor and one-term U.S. senator, tried to solidify his support among Greenspring residents with a visit hosted by the Republican Club on Tuesday. He is locked in a neck-and-neck race with former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine (D) for the state’s open U.S. Senate seat.
Allen highlighted his personal connections to old family friends in the audience and tailored his campaign messaging to appeal directly to senior citizens.
“How many of you believe that your grandchildren will lead a better life than you?” he asked. Only a handful of audience members raised their hands. The lack of good job opportunities for young people is a major reason Allen is pursuing political office again, he said.
Of more direct impact to senior citizens, Allen said many seniors are concerned the federal health care legislation will harm Medicare or reduce the number of doctors who are willing to accept new Medicare patients.
He also stated the new law would allow “bureaucrats in Washington to make health care decisions.”
The Affordable Care Act creates a 15-member panel that would advise Congress on ways to limit growth in Medicare spending but, according to the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation, the board is prohibited from making recommendations that would ration care or alter benefits for Medicare recipients.
“I want to be the deciding vote to repeal this bad health care law,” Allen said.
Allen said high-deductible insurance plans paired with individual health savings accounts are the best way to lower health care costs, noting he uses such a plan for his own family. He also thinks that states, rather than the federal government, should be charged with reducing growth in Medicare and Medicaid spending.
Energy policy is another major component of Allen’s platform. He said he would resume trying to allow oil drilling off the coast of Virginia and supports continued use of coal.
“We have the energy resources [in the U.S.] … What is missing is the political will to unleash those resources,” he said. “We need to stop [the Environmental Protection Agency] from in effect banning coal.”
Responding to a question from an audience member, Allen said he thinks the planet is warming but did not clearly indicate whether he believes manmade causes are to blame. He instead took the opportunity to rail against so-called “cap and trade” programs, which would limit the amount of pollutants that power plants and factories can discharge.
Such policies equate to “economic unilateral disarmament,” he said, because other countries would not impose similar restrictions and could therefore produce goods at a lower cost.
Allen’s presentation and question-and-answer session seemed to be a hit with the Greenspring Republicans.
Stanger said the crowd that turned out to see Allen was among the biggest he has seen at Greenspring. The former senator is popular and well-known, both because of his political background and because of his father, an NFL football coach who led the Washington Redskins in the 1970s.
“He’s a very personable fellow,” Stanger said. “He’s just like your friend.”