Tuesday, May 24, 2011
As part of this site's ongoing effort to learn more about Democratic candidates for office in Virginia, today we publish our interview with one of the Democratic candidates in the 31st State Senate District (note: current Senator Mary Margaret Whipple has announced that she is retiring). The candidates in the 31st (Arlington, parts of Fairfax and Loudoun Counties) are Arlington County Board member Barbara Favola and Army Lt. Col. Jaime Areizaga-Soto. Yesterday, I had the chance to sit down with Favola for about 45 minutes. The ground rules were that I could record the interview on audio (note: I requested video, but Favola's campaign did not agree), which I've included here and on the "flip." I hope to do the same with Jaime Arezeiga-Soto in the near future. Thanks to Barbara Favola for her time, and also for her willingness to respond to Blue Virginia's questions. P.S. We will use these interviews as an important part of our consideration into whether we will endorse anyone in this district, and if so, who we will endorse. We will also be watching debates and the overall campaign to determine who we believe will best represent progressive values, and of course the 31st District, in Richmond. P.P.S. Favola's campaign manager, Adam Scott, was also present for the interview. In the first part, I asked Favola to tell us why she's running for State Senate and why she'd be a better choice for Democratic primary voters than her opponent. Favola talked about her 14 years of experience on the Arlington County Board and how that's given her "valuable insight on how Richmond should work with local governments." In addition, Favola said she was "concerned about the direction of the General Assembly and this administration in terms of...their vision for Virginia." Favola said she'd prefer a "more welcoming Virginia, a more compassionate Virginia, a Virginia that's willing to make key investments in its people and its manpower." Favola said she would have voted against anti-immigrant bills, would always vote for women's reproductive rights, would be a human rights advocate for things like the DREAM Act. Why would she be a better choice than her opponent, Jaime Areizaga-Soto? Please see the "flip" for more. Favola again cited her experience, as well as the "endorsement of many Northern Virginia leaders," her ability to "hit the ground running," and her "up close and personal perspective on the educational system" as a mother. She said she'd be "surprised if there are policy differences" with Areizaga-Soto, but she asserted that she had "more depth...more experience." She also challenged Areizaga-Soto's characterization of his role as a "senior advisor" to Sen. Whipple ("[Whipple] would not characterize his job that way and of course she has endorsed me"). My second question was whether Favola would support Sen. Phil Puckett, who is now Deputy Democratic Caucus Chair, to succeed Sen. Whipple as Caucus Chair. In general, I asked her whether she would ever support an anti-choice, anti-progressive like Puckett for a leadership position? Her response? "I would never compromise my vote on progressive issues, and I can say that unequivocally...[but] what exactly the role of the leader is may have to be discussed more completely." Favola also noted that Dick Saslaw is the current "head of the caucus" (note: actually, he's majority leader; Mary Margaret Whipple is Caucus Chair) and is "very progressive." Later in the interview, this comes up again, and Favola says she was actually not referring to Saslaw but to Whipple as "very progressive." Stay tuned... In Part 2, I asked Favola about the HOT lanes controversy, whether there was "bad blood" between Richmond and Arlington, and how effective someone from the Arlington County Board could be in Richmond? According to Favola, "people are going to get over it, time moves in, there will be new issues, there will be interest in working with me..." Favola added that the HOT lanes issue was used "as a political football," and that even "the Republicans in their calmer moments would agree that you have to do it right." Favola also stated that she's frequently told she's the "most reasonable member of the County Board," although she quickly added, "all of my colleagues are reasonable." She also cited her ability to work across party lines. On the 31st State Senate district being reconfigured, and whether Arlington is a "community of interest" along with places like Great Falls and Loudoun County, Favola said "in a perfect world, I would prefer a nonpartisan commission to have drawn the district," but in "our world, I do think the value of having a Democratic Senate is the top of my priority list." Favola added her belief that the districts meet the "legal test" of "communities of interest." Favola does not believe Arlington's influence has been "diluted," but that Arlington can now serve a role in "carrying the district" and in "sharing our goods." "I don't think I'm ever going to put aside the Arlington model." "There's more commonality than not, when I talk to my Loudoun people...the Greenway group...the Dulles group...many parts of the district really like the fact that Arlington has managed to grow without bringing all of this congestion...they view my experience as perhaps being a plus." Favola cited the environmentally sustainable "Blueberry Hill" community in Great Falls as more progressive than anything in Arlington. She advised that we have to be "careful how we categorize what people think of other parts of the region." "I think we enrich each other's experiences, I find the whole district to be very enriching...most people are willing to get to know me." In Part 3, I asked Favola about contributions from real estate developers with business before the Arlington County Board. Favola said she is "taking business donations, but I to my knowledge have not taken a donation from a developer who is doing business before the board over the next 6 months." Specifically, Favola stated, John Shooshan's projects were "approved before I took the money." Favola added that Arlington's standards go far beyond the Fairfax County board. Favola definitely doesn't believe she needs to recuse herself or step down from the board ("my constituents...elected me to a full term, and I will serve a full term...if I win the election in 2011 then I will resign"). We got into a little discussion about Favola's earlier characterization of Dick Saslaw as "very progressive." Favola said "I think I characterized Mary Margaret as very progressive...I didn't characterize Dick Saslaw." On the issue of predatory lending, Saslaw's bill on motor vehicle title loans to non-residents, Favola left the room to get a document listing her progressive record and opposition to predatory lending. With regard to money in politics and the influence of lobbyists in Richmond, Favola said "I come from a good government background...money is not the influencing factor with me." Favola added, "Anybody who knows me will tell you I'm a pretty forceful personality, very tough to influence when I make up my mind." "I always try to go for what I think is the ideal...you come up short...you have to make a decision if you take some baby steps...[legislation making] can get ugly." "I don't see how I can't [bring Arlington values to Richmond]...I was an activist for 15 years before I was on the County Board." Favola clearly sees herself as a "reformer" and "strong progressive," says "that's my background." In Part 4, Favola said that she sees herself more as a "progressive...a leader...an independent" than as a "party line" person. I gave Favola a few "yes or no" questions on whether she supports a progressive tax system (yes), an estate tax ("I probably take a middle ground there"), DREAM Act ("absolutely" -- opposition is "divisive and short sighted"), gay adoption ("I would be fine with having gay couples adopt;" opposition to this is coming from "narrowly defined view of family," "part" of it is "homophobia," part of it is "posturing" to prevent a primary from the "far-right" "Tea Party" wing), guns (Favola strongly favors commonsense gun laws, like closing the gun show loophole and not having guns on campus), raising the gas tax ("I'm in favor of it"), imposing a carbon tax ("buildings actually emit the most carbon, so I'm a big fan of these green buildings," but not sure about a carbon tax based on who it affects exactly -- "I'd have to think about it more"). Finally, in part 5 (damn YouTube for making me split a 45 minute video into 5 parts!!! LOL), Favola said she strongly supports a strong, mandatory, renewable energy standard. On the Dillon Rule, Favola said it's "pretty complicated" and a "mindset" that is "ineffective in many areas." Dillon allows people to go to the General Assembly -- "one stop shopping" that "they can more easily control" -- and "local governments really want relaxation of the Dillon Rule when it comes to [unfunded] mandates." [sidebar discussion at this point on the 1970s, leisure suits, and how old Favola thought I was - pretty funny] In general, Favola pledged that she would push to loosen up the Dillon Rule so that local jurisdictions can do more, also that local officials can be held accountable ("they see us in the supermarket, the church, the schools"). On reforming Richmond, Favola said she supports having longer General Assembly sessions, would look at other states to see what they do, "we need to structure the General Assembly in a way where that lawmaker will get to serve the constituents...bring best informed judgment to the table." Favola also would consider supporting paying legislators more in exchange for further restrictions on outside money, also campaign finance reform. Finally, Favola said she thought "these were reasonable questions," urged that people not "write me off" as "status quo" just because she has "experience and the endorsement of some regional leaders" and because "everybody is different" and she has a "really good progressive record."
Posted by Lowell at 1:26 PM
Monday, May 23, 2011
As part of this site's ongoing effort to learn more about Democratic candidates for office in Virginia, today we publish the second of two interviews with the Democratic candidates in the 49th House of Delegates District (note: current Delegate Adam Ebbin is vacating the seat to run for State Senate). Those candidates are Stephanie Clifford and Alfonso Lopez. We presented the same questions simultaneously to both candidates, and also requested that they return them at the same time (to be fair, so neither of them knew what the other had answered). Yesterday, we presented Stephanie Clifford's interview. Today, we present our interview with Alfonso Lopez. We hope you find the interviews informative, and would be very interested in your reaction. Thanks. P.S. We will also use these questionnaires as an important part of our consideration into whether we will endorse anyone in this district, and if so, who we will endorse. We will also be watching debates and the overall campaign to determine who we believe will best represent progressive values, and of course the 49th District, in Richmond. Thank you to both candidates for their thoughtful, thorough answers to our questions! 1. Tell us a bit about yourself, and specifically, what in your background and/or temperament makes you the best qualified of the two Democratic candidates to represent the 49th House of Delegates district in Richmond.
At the outset I want to thank Lowell and the Blue Virginia team for helping to provide a forum for this campaign. Blue Virginia plays a special role in the Commonwealth which is greatly appreciated by so many Virginia Democrats! To answer your question, I’m a lifelong Democrat and activist with nearly 20 years of Federal and Virginia legislative experience on issues of critical importance to the people of Arlington and Fairfax. I’ve been an Obama Administration political appointee, Kaine Administration Cabinet-level official, Hill staffer, and long-time environmental advocate. I’ve devoted my life to public service. With that in mind, I believe I have the passion and – more importantly – the practical experience to best make the case for our values and needs in Richmond.
I was raised in Fairfax County (from the age of four) and I’ve spent my adult life in Arlington. I’ve seen the changes our region has experienced first-hand and – as a result of my years working at the community, State, and Federal levels – I know the challenges that lie ahead. I’m a proud product of Fairfax County public schools and my Mom devoted thirty years of her life to the Arlington Public School System. I’m also the son of an immigrant and know the struggles, challenges, and opportunities that face this important part of our community. My Dad was raised in a tiny village in the Andes mountains of Venezuela. He came to this country at the age of 19 with $260 in his pocket and the dream of a better life. He worked as a bus boy and waiter, learned English and started attending school. He graduated from Northern Virginia Community College in 1975 (when I was five years old). Then he took one class a semester every year until he graduated from George Mason University - one month before I graduated from high school. My Mom was raised in a small town in central Pennsylvania. She got a scholarship to attend college at American University. Working as a teacher and guidance counselor in Arlington Public Schools she focused on helping immigrant and English-as-a-Second language children (and their families) continue their education after high school. As a result of her efforts over 1,000 children – who could have been forgotten – graduated from college. My parents embodied the values of hard work, perseverance, and the spirit of public service. My father told me nearly every day growing up that we owe everything to Virginia and the U.S. More importantly, we owe a debt to this country and must always try to give back in whatever way we can. After high school I graduated from Vassar College, studied for a short time at Cambridge University, and received my law degree from Tulane University Law School. While I was there I specialized in environmental law. Instead of going to a law firm after my first year of law school I worked at the Domestic Policy Council of the Clinton White House. My little desk was on the second floor of the West Wing. From that experience forward I was hooked on progressive politics and the nuances of public policy. I finished my law classes in five semesters and returned to the Clinton White House’s Council on Environmental Quality. There I did research and worked on environmental justice and toxins cleanup issues. From there I worked for several years as a Federal environmental health advocate fighting for improved safeguards for Clean Air, Safe Drinking Water, and Global Climate policy. I then worked for several years for a Democratic U.S. Senator on environment, energy, civil rights, labor, and education issues. In 2005 I was asked to become the Deputy Policy Director on Governor-Elect Kaine’s Transition Team. After the transition ended I was named the Director of the Virginia Liaison Office in Washington, D.C. In this position I directed and supervised all Congressional and Federal Relations for the Commonwealth. I also served as the Governor's representative to the National Governors Association, Democratic Governors Association and the Southern Governors Association. During my tenure, I was the highest ranking Latino in the Kaine Administration. When the Kaine Administration ended I became an Obama Administration political appointee serving as the Assistant Administrator for Congressional and Legislative Affairs of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). In this position I helped lead SBA efforts to enact legislative proposals in economic development, job creation, lending, contracting and innovation. I’m especially proud of my work helping lead the SBA effort to pass the Small Business Jobs Act which – at a critical time – successfully opened up the credit markets for small businesses and entrepreneurs and created $12 billion in tax relief for small business owners. I also served for a short time as the White House Liaison at the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA). During the late 1990’s I became increasingly involved with the Democratic Party of Virginia and the Arlington Democrats. I held several positions in the Arlington Young Democrats and served as that organization’s President in 2004. During my tenure the organization grew rapidly – and we organized the first of many traditions (including the Valentine’s Date Auction for charity). I was twice elected the Deputy Chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee and I’ve been elected to two four year terms on the Democratic Party of Virginia (DPVA) State Central Committee. I currently serve as a Steering Committee Member of the DPVA. I’m also the immediate Past President of the Democratic Latino Organization of Virginia (DLOV) which (for the first time) became an official DPVA Caucus and Steering Committee organization under my leadership. I am currently an elected At-Large Member of the Democratic National Committee. In that position I also serve as the Vice-Chair of the Southern Region of the Hispanic Caucus and as a Member of the Credentials Committee. I’m honored to have been named the 2004 Virginia Young Democrat of the Year and the 2004 and 2003 Arlington Young Democrat of the Year. In 2002 I was awarded the ACDC Fundraiser of the Year award. I’m also proud to have been chosen as a 2003 Fellow of the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership at the University of Virginia. I’ve also been very involved in the community – serving on several Arlington and regional Boards and commissions. I served on the Arlington Fiscal Affairs Advisory Commission from 2003 to 2006 – where I chaired the Health and Human Resources Committee and was a Member of the Public Safety Committee. I also served as the Board Vice-Chair of the Shirlington Employment and Education Center and the Board Co-Chair of the Arlington Veterans’ Memorial YMCA. I’ve also been a Member of the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership's, Northern Virginia Regional Board since 2005. My wife Sarah and I have made our home here and this is where we want to raise our little boy Aaron Rafael. I hope you will give me the chance to use my expertise to work on behalf of the 49th District – to help make life better for the community and the people that I love.2. What three issues are you most passionate about and why? Also, what specifically have you done to further those issues?
As evidenced by my years of work in these areas, I care passionately about the issues of Environment/Energy, Education, and Small Business growth and development. Environment/Energy – I’ve seen the harm that can be caused in the U.S. by the rampant, unchecked release of environmental toxins. The devastating effects on the natural environment and on public health of these pollutants must not be ignored. We see it with polluted runoff into the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers and the Chesapeake Bay – that despoils these natural wonders and economic opportunities for fishermen and oystermen. We see it every time in the pained faces of asthmatic children when our region fails to meet national ambient air quality standards. We see it in cancer clusters where individuals and corporations once dumped chemicals without proper regulation or oversight. There is a peace of mind that comes from knowing that our drinking water is safe – that our communities are free from toxic waste – and that our air is clean. Indeed, there are parts of this world where parents and families never have that peace of mind. I have been in the environment and energy public policy trenches for years – fighting for safer communities, coastal protection, energy efficiency, conservation, clean water, and remediation of toxic sites. I’ve worked on environmental justice issues in the Clinton White House, toxic remediation/cancer cluster issues in the U.S. Senate, offshore drilling in the Kaine Administration (representing Virginia before the Bush Department of Interior’s Minerals Management Service), and helped pass the Safe Drinking Water Act Reauthorization and defend the improved EPA standards for ozone and particulate air pollution as an environmental advocate in D.C. I also worked with Members of the Virginia and Maryland Congressional Delegations on strengthening Chesapeake Bay clean up provisions in the Farm Bill. Over the years I have fought for reduced greenhouse gases and dangerous emissions through energy efficiency programs, reductions in demand, and the promotion of clean, renewable resources like wind and solar. Governments must lead by example on energy efficient fleets, LEED building standards, and the use of innovative green technologies and practices to reduce our overall carbon footprint. I will continue to be a strong advocate for energy efficiency, conservation, and the innovative use of technology to create Green Jobs, and grow the green economy. I will also continue to work tirelessly to promote smart growth policies and encourage transit opportunities in the region. While working in the U.S. Senate, I drafted numerous pieces of legislation, including the Zero Tolerance for Repeat Polluters Act, the School Environment Protection Act, and the National Estuary Conservation Act (enacted into law). I also assisted in efforts to negotiate political solutions for State issues, including ocean dumping off the coast and out-of-state garbage transport. In 1998 I drafted the Children’s Environmental Health Report Card for the Physicians for Social Responsibility. Finally, I was very proud of my work managing all aspects of Governor Kaine’s Southern Governors Association Chairman’s Initiative on Climate Change and Energy Independence in the Southern States. This effort brought Republicans and Democrats to the table to address the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the Southern region and provided State governments with a series of easily implemented programs to improve energy efficiency and promote renewable energy sources. It also addressed climate policy from the unique perspective of economic and homeland security impacts. Education – The importance of education access for all was a driving force behind my upbringing. My father was an example of this every day – as was my mother’s dedication to Arlington County Schools, supporting ESOL programs, continuing the education of immigrant children beyond high school. I understand the needs of our teachers and schools and will do everything in my power to preserve and improve the quality of our region’s public schools. Every child deserves an outstanding education to prepare them for the challenges and opportunities of the 21st Century. I want to continue my Mom’s legacy. Our investment in the future’s leading minds begins with good teachers – protecting and promoting them is a key part of the strategy to prepare our children for the 21st century economy. With this in mind, I support honoring our teachers with a professional wage so they don’t have to choose between making ends meet and serving our community. I understand the value of Pre-K in ensuring that children are prepared to learn in elementary school and have the foundation for success in later years. I’ve seen how cuts in education harm critically important programs for children in less wealthy areas of Virginia forced to choose between them and basic instruction. I’ve seen how school infrastructure issues can have a direct impact on child’s ability to focus and learn in the classroom. I recognize that a dollar invested in education is a dollar invested in our economy. Our economic development strategy and attracting good jobs starts with a great education open to all. During my time in the Senate I worked on the comprehensive Elementary and Secondary Education Act Reauthorization. I’ve worked on legislation to assist localities renovate and construct new schools. I also worked to defend the U.S. Department of Education against Republican efforts to cut funding. My wife Sarah currently works at the U.S. Department of Education in the Office of Innovation and Improvement. Jobs and Small Business – I understand the sacrifices and capital risks associated with opening and operating a small business. The 49th District is blessed with small businesswomen and men that understand what it means to put their precious savings at risk to start a business, serve the local community, and earn a living for their families. Small businesses account for over half of all jobs in the United States and are critical to growing the economy and creating new jobs. They also serve critical demands in the 49th District – from our diverse shops and restaurants on Columbia Pike to the retailers and merchants in Bailey’s Crossroads. As President Obama’s Assistant Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), I led the Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs for the agency and had the primary responsibility for devising and implementing SBA legislative strategy. I worked to develop and enact SBA legislative proposals in the areas of economic development, job creation, capital/lending, contracting, and innovation. Some notable successes during my tenure included the Small Business Jobs Act, the Contracting Parity Fix, the SBA reauthorization extension and inclusion of the Jobs Act Fee Relief/Guarantee Enhancements in the Short Term CR at the end of the 111th Congress. From my service in the Obama White House helping to lead the effort to pass the Small Business Jobs Act and the Contracting Parity fix – I’ve fought to make sure that we have the economy and the infrastructure necessary for our children’s lives to be better than our own. It is imperative that small businesses be given the tools they need to thrive. I am very proud of my work on the Small Business Jobs Act – which was signed by the President in September of 2010. As a result of the reforms and initiatives in this legislation, efforts to open up the credit markets of medium and small size banks and encourage lending to small businesses and entrepreneurs again were very successful. Within several weeks of the bill being signed into law, targeted lending programs spiked to the highest levels in the history of the SBA. The result has been increased job growth for the past several months. In the Kaine Administration I served as a Member of the ten-person Virginia Stimulus/Recovery Act Leadership Team. I also regularly coordinated Regional Summits between the Governors of Virginia and Maryland and the Mayor of Washington, D.C. to address issues including economic development in our region.3. How would you describe yourself ideologically – “progressive,” “moderate,” “liberal,” or something else? How does your record of votes, endorsements, employment, and other activities reflect your political ideology?
I am a strong progressive. One of my proudest achievements in Virginia politics was helping to run the first campaign of Walter Tejada. Over the five-week campaign my team worked to raise $92,000 on his behalf and he won by a razor thin margin to become the first Latino County Board Member ever elected. I have a sterling voting record in Democratic elections. More importantly, I have worked on behalf of non-profits and government organizations most of my life – from the environmental community to the Kaine Administration to the Obama White House. I will join the Progressive Caucus. In 2006, I served on the Commonwealth Coalition's, Virginia State Advisory Board. In this position I worked as a part of a State-wide effort to fight Republican attempts in the General Assembly to pass a Constitutional Amendment banning gay marriage in Virginia.4. Who is your favorite and who is your least favorite Virginia politician and why?
Former Governor and Senator Harry F. Byrd Sr. – and his policies of “massive resistance” to block the desegregation of public schools mandated by the U.S. Supreme Court in its 1954 ruling in the case of Brown v. Board of Education – is my least favorite Virginia politician. He kept our Commonwealth back – as opposed to moving us forward. Ken Cuccinelli is a close second least favorite politician… I have several favorite Virginia politicians but I will only mention two. · James Madison – the Father of the Constitution. His wizardry in drafting, negotiating, and execution literally changed the world. He doesn’t get nearly enough credit. · I had the honor of meeting former Governor Linwood Holton on several occasions – including spending time with him on the day of the Inauguration of President Barack Obama. He won a narrow election for Governor of Virginia in 1969 by bringing together a coalition of African Americans and white working class voters in opposition to the Byrd Machine and in support of public school desegregation. He ended “massive resistance” in Virginia. He worked to protect the environment and clean up Virginia’s polluted waterways. He also created the unified Ports Authority in Hampton Roads which remains a major economic engine for Virginia and the East Coast. Later in life he also supported several Democratic candidates for office in Virginia. He has led an exemplary life – dedicated to civil rights. Governor Holton stood up for what was right at a difficult time and left Virginia a dramatically better place.5. This year, Virginia politicians have been busy dividing up the Commonwealth into new legislative districts, with the clear #1 goal being incumbent protection. With that in mind, do you support nonpartisan redistricting as opposed to the system we have now? If elected to the House of Delegates, what specifically will you do to make this happen?
Yes – I strongly support fair and open nonpartisan redistricting. Despite the best efforts of the State Senate, the House of Delegates has defeated efforts to move this idea forward for several years. I will introduce or support nonpartisan redistricting legislation every year I serve until it becomes the law of the Commonwealth. Suffice to say I would have voted against the gerrymandered map this year.6. On the subject of transportation, three questions. First, if you had been in the House of Delegates this past session, would you have voted for HB 1998, a bill strongly opposed by “smart growth” and environmental group as encouraging sprawl and highway construction over public transit? Second, how do you propose paying for the tens of billions of dollars in transportation maintenance and improvements Virginia is estimated to require in coming years? Finally, what are your thoughts on the proposed Columbia Pike Streetcar system?
a) No – I would have opposed HB 1998. That legislation was based on outmoded transportation models that prioritizes only the movement of cars and trucks – and ignores other comprehensive livability factors such as transit options, work/live proximity, cycling, retail services (like ZipCar and taxis), and pedestrians. The focus should be on moving the maximum number of people, not just vehicles. We need better “smart growth” solutions – with jobs and housing close together and significant transit options. Roads/cars/trucks should be one part of a smarter, comprehensive, and diverse package of transportation solutions. Investment should be done equitably across modes so that we don't have to rely solely on car trips to meet Virginia's needs. Through this approach, we will reduce congestion, increase air quality, and improve public health, while also leading to better economic outcomes (improved property values and increased tax base). b) First, let me say that taking money from schools, social services, and first responders to pay for a few off-ramps is wrong. The attempt by the Republicans in the General Assembly to take critical money from the General Fund to fund a few transportation projects betrays a serious flaw in their priorities. When I worked for Governor Kaine - VDOT provided models showing that our current approach to addressing Northern Virginia's transportation needs was untenable over the medium and long-term. Growing/developing at current rates - without the revenue to address the necessary infrastructure requirements - is a recipe for disaster. Indeed, the last major investment in transportation in Virginia occurred during the Baliles Administration. As the major economic engine for the rest of Virginia it is imperative that Northern Virginia be given the tools to address these needs. Consistent, sustainable, and dedicated revenue sources must be created for our transportation and transit system. Among the various options available to the Commonwealth, we should consider increasing the gas tax to bring it in line with neighboring States. We need to require a system that is fair to consumers, fair to Northern Virginia, and that recognizes that the time for short term budgetary gimmicks is long past. Rest assured that I will make smart growth based transportation infrastructure a top priority. c) Finally, as a Columbia Pike resident, I support the pursuit of the Columbia Pike Streetcar as one fundamental part of the long-term, community-led planning efforts to create a viable, accessible, and sustainable corridor for those who live, work, shop, and recreate in the area. The streetcar is part of a dynamic vision for the Columbia Pike community, supported by other transit service (like ART and Pike Ride) as well as a comprehensive land use and form-based code urban design strategy. This includes the current ongoing housing study, to help ensure that we can maintain our economic, social, and small business diversity while achieving these community goals. However, at the end of the day, we have to recognize that the Federal funding necessary to make this project a reality is still far from certain, especially considering the current climate in Congress.7. If you had been in the House of Delegates this past session, would you have voted “yea” or “nay” on Majority Leader Dick Saslaw’s bill, SB 1367 (motor vehicle title loans to nonresidents)? In general, if elected, would you always do what you believe is right or would you follow your leadership, even if you don’t agree with it?
I would have voted against SB 1367. I will be a champion in the fight against predatory lenders and predatory lending practices. People should not be locked into debt as a result of working with these companies. I will always do what I think is right and stand up for the interests of the people of the 49th District. That is who I want to represent and their needs should always come before the dictates of party leadership.8. What is your vision for Virginia’s energy future? For instance, if you are elected to the House of Delegates, will you push for legislation like Chap Petersen’s Clean Energy Future Act? Will you support any of the following: offshore oil drilling, natural gas “fracking,” uranium mining, new coal-fired power plants, mountaintop removal coal mining? If not, what will you do to fight against these things, and to fight for a healthy environment, energy efficiency, and renewable power?
We should be leading by example in Virginia. Virginia should be investing in wind, solar, and other developing/new energy technologies – and moving away from the dirty energy sources of yesterday. We need to be smart about green energy, energy conservation, and efficiency. I support ensuring that all Virginia buildings and renovations meet LEED certified standards. I support stronger Renewable Portfolio Standards and net metering requirements. We should be striving to emulate the new efforts of the U.S. General Services Administration by creating more incentives for zero environmental footprint facilities. We should also require that all new Virginia vehicles be hybrid or electric. Virginia should become a leader in clean energy technology and renewable energy development. We also must do more to create incentives for energy efficiency and clean energy company investment in Virginia. These policies will go a long way toward reducing our emission of greenhouse gases. Yes - I fully support Chap's proposal and would go even further with the Renewable Portfolio Standard levels in his legislation. Will I support: Offshore oil drilling - NO. (In fact, I presented the Virginia counter-proposal – severely limiting offshore efforts – to the Bush Department of Interior’s Mineral Management Service. “Fracking” – NO. Uranium mining – NO. New coal-fired power plants – NO. Mountaintop removal coal mining – NO. Never before in the history of our country have we had such an opportunity to serve our environment, deliver on the demand for 21st century energy generation and drive economic development and job creation with leadership and sound public policy. We need more leaders in Richmond to fight for reducing dangerous emissions and greenhouse gases through reductions in energy demand, elevating energy efficiency programs and rewarding the clean generation of renewable energy resources like wind and solar. Also, by investing in proven renewable energy sources like wind, solar, geothermal, and hydrokinetics, we can create jobs for a wide range of Virginians - engineers, machinists, installation techs, etc. I will be a leading voice for the environment in the General Assembly. Among other things – I would advocate for the following: · Increasing the renewable portfolio standard goal to 25% by 2025 and/or establishing a mandatory renewable energy standard. · Providing incentives for the use and implementation of advanced electrical metering infrastructure. · Calling for the implementation of Governor Kaine’s Commission on Climate Change recommendations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. · Establishing a tougher, mandatory energy efficiency standard under which investor-owned electric utilities would be required to reduce electricity use by at least 25% of 2006 consumption levels by 2025. · Mandating that all new State, Local, university, or school system buildings (larger than 5,000 square feet) be built to LEED silver or equivalent Green Globes standards. We should also push to retrofit all state buildings for energy efficiency. · Expanding eligibility for the current solar tax credit to a broader range of alternative energy companies and creating incentives to use more of Virginia’s resources such as offshore wind and solar.9. Yes or no answers. Do you support: a) a strongly progressive tax system, including a reasonable estate tax on the wealthy; b) a “Dream Act” for Virginia, as recently passed in Maryland; c) allowing gay couples to adopt; d) ultimately, repealing the Marshall-Newman Amendment; e) closing the “gun show loophole” and taking other commonsense gun measures; f) raising the gas tax and/or instituting a carbon tax?
a) Yes b) Yes – I have fought for this for years. c) Yes d) Yes – I was a Member of the Commonwealth Coalition fighting this in 2006. e) Yes f) Yes10. Given that the 49th House of Delegates district is a solid “blue” district, and thus a “safe seat,” it is crucial that whoever is elected has a plan to help elect Democrats – preferably progressives – across Virginia. That includes fundraising, organizing volunteers, and maximizing turnout in the 49th district for statewide and Congressional elections. Do you agree with this vision for the Delegate from the 49th district, and if so, what exactly is your plan to accomplish it?
As I stated in my announcement speech, when elected I pledge to do everything in my power to elect MORE Democrats. The only way we will be able to make our vision of what Virginia can become a reality is if we regain the majority in the House. We are sitting on top of one of the wealthiest areas in the nation and should tap into the resources at our disposal. I will raise money in Northern Virginia to give to Democratic candidates throughout the Commonwealth and the Caucus. If done properly, this will involve a nearly year round effort to raise funds and the implementation of several new techniques. With several successful fundraising efforts under my belt I believe I am the right person for this effort. I will also make a point of working with the caucus to assist in recruiting candidates and providing them with the tools to succeed on the campaign trail. In the coming years we cannot afford to take any votes for granted. With that in mind, I will work tirelessly to increase vote margins and turnout each year in the 49th District. We never know when there will be another Webb campaign that relies on the margin of victory provided by our area’s hard work and perseverance.11. Do you agree or disagree that Richmond is broken – for instance, the tremendous influence of money and lobbyists on legislation - and needs major reform? If elected to the House of Delegates, would your general attitude be more “go along, get along” or “shake things up?” Please be as specific as possible in your answer. For instance, would you support campaign finance reform that sharply curtails the power of corporations, lobbyists, and special interests?
There are significant problems in Richmond that must be addressed. Under the part-time system in the General Assembly State lobbyists hold extraordinary power and influence. With this in mind, I definitely support comprehensive campaign finance reform and stronger ethics rules. We need increased transparency and sunlight on the process – especially as it relates to the budgetary process. I also believe that all Committee and Subcommittee hearings and votes should (at the very least) be recorded and live-streamed on the Internet. I’ve never been a go-along, get-along kind of person. In every leadership position I’ve held I’ve worked to push new, innovative ideas – overhaul antiquated programs and processes – and speak the truth. My time in Richmond will be no different.
Posted by Lowell at 1:24 PM
Sunday, May 22, 2011
|As part of this site's ongoing effort to learn more about Democratic candidates for office in Virginia, today we publish the first of two interviews with the Democratic candidates in the 49th House of Delegates District (note: current Delegate Adam Ebbin is vacating the seat to run for State Senate). Those candidates are Stephanie Clifford and Alfonso Lopez. We presented the same questions simultaneously to both candidates, and also requested that they return them at the same time (to be fair, so neither of them knew what the other had answered). Today, we present Stephanie Clifford'sinterview. We hope you find it informative, and would be very interested in your reaction. Thanks.P.S. We will also use these questionnaires as an important part of our consideration into whether we will endorse anyone in this district, and if so, who we will endorse. We will also be watching debates and the overall campaign to determine who we believe will best represent progressive values, and of course the 49th District, in Richmond. Thank you to both candidates for their thoughtful, thorough answers to our questions!|
1. Tell us a bit about yourself, and specifically, what in your background and/or temperament makes you the best qualified of the two Democratic candidates to represent the 49th House of Delegates district in Richmond.
I'm running to take my passion for public service and support of my community to the next level by going right to the heart of our problems in Richmond. Change in our community is just the beginning; for all of our progress to become permanent, we need to make sure our voices continue to be heard in Richmond.My husband, Cliff, and I met in Arlington and have been here for nearly a decade. We're proud to call this area our home-in large part because of the people from our volunteering who love this community and work to make it stronger, everyday.
|lowkell :: Blue Virginia Interviews with 49th House of Delegates District Candidates: Stephanie Clifford|
|2. What three issues are you most passionate about and why? Also, what specifically have you done to further those issues?|
3. How would you describe yourself ideologically - "progressive," "moderate," "liberal," or something else? How does your record of votes, endorsements, employment, and other activities reflect your political ideology?
Progressive. I am proud to support policies and legislation that brings everyone into the process and move Virginia forward and look forward to demonstrating my values by supporting environmental protection, progressive tax reform, marriage and adoption equality, support for public education, density over sprawl, healthcare reform and looking out for our most-vulnerable citizens in our community and in the statehouse.I've always chosen jobs where I could be at the heart of and influence these issue debates. I've invested myself in these issues as an issue advocate and campaign worker. In fact, my choice to enter this election is because of the importance of these progressive values and my desire to step up and fight for them. This was not an easy move, or a career move, but it is the right one for me at this time for this seat because of these issues. And if chosen by the voters, I will fight for our shared community values for as long as it takes to accomplish the change we need.
4. Who is your favorite and who is your least favorite Virginia politician and why?
Of our current politicians - Congressman Jim Moran is my favorite. He always comes out for the community, seems to know every member of his district by name, provides great constituent services and appreciates his staff. He is strong on international and defense issues, but is also Congress's biggest supporter of animal welfare issues, a cause that is good for animals and the health of Virginians and the environment, but is not the most popularly supported.Least favorite - Ken Cuccinelli, he and other Republicans are attacking everything that brought me to the Democratic Party and inspired my run as we need another strong voice to speak up in Richmond against these attacks.
5. This year, Virginia politicians have been busy dividing up the Commonwealth into new legislative districts, with the clear #1 goal being incumbent protection. With that in mind, do you support nonpartisan redistricting as opposed to the system we have now? If elected to the House of Delegates, what specifically will you do to make this happen?
Yes, I do support nonpartisan redistricting and would start working on changes immediately to be ready for the next national census while the lessons of this year are still fresh. I would introduce or support legislation like the bills which passed the Senate establishing a nonpartisan redistricting committee and would include requirements that the process be done openly. While we want as many Democrats as possible to keep and gain new seats, the current system is not the way to do it.6. On the subject of transportation, three questions. First, if you had been in the House of Delegates this past session, would you have voted for HB 1998, a bill strongly opposed by "smart growth" and environmental group as encouraging sprawl and highway construction over public transit? Second, how do you propose paying for the tens of billions of dollars in transportation maintenance and improvements Virginia is estimated to require in coming years? Finally, what are your thoughts on the proposed Columbia Pike Streetcar system?
I would have opposed HB 1998. Simple fast movement of cars should not be the main goal of our transportation plans. Public transportation and smart growth should be our focus. We need broad transportation plans that focus on density over sprawl and infrastructure that brings jobs to where people already live to decrease the need travel overall and increase the quality of life for Virginians.In order to address this escalating issue, I will introduce legislation that establishes the following: dedicated sources of funding for our mass transit option; in addition to changing the funding formula from a per gallon charge to a percentage of the entire purchase to keep up with the rising maintenance costs; and finally investing in technology that will help us use alternative user fee options such as VMT. With your help we can keep Virginia roads free of tolls and open to everyone.7. If you had been in the House of Delegates this past session, would you have voted "yea" or "nay" on Majority Leader Dick Saslaw's bill, SB 1367 (motor vehicle title loans to nonresidents)? In general, if elected, would you always do what you believe is right or would you follow your leadership, even if you don't agree with it?
"Nay." Programs that take advantage of the most vulnerable in a moment of financial crisis don't need to be expanded-they must be more tightly regulated. We need to stop all forms of predatory lending and develop new financial services to help those in need who can't access traditional credit sources.Now is not the time to play politics with peoples' trust or well being. I will work for the people of the 49th District. With the short legislative session, you can't blink-destructive policies have left the legislature before and it has impacted our area negatively. I will work with every party to protect constituents in Arlington and Fairfax from ideologues in Richmond.
8. What is your vision for Virginia's energy future? For instance, if you are elected to the House of Delegates, will you push for legislation like Chap Petersen's Clean Energy Future Act? Will you support any of the following: offshore oil drilling, natural gas "fracking," uranium mining, new coal-fired power plants, mountaintop removal coal mining? If not, what will you do to fight against these things, and to fight for a healthy environment, energy efficiency, and renewable power?
I will push for legislation like the Clean Energy Future Act as a delegate, as I have as a citizen. A healthy environment for all of Virginia's citizens is one of the most basic things that we need to work toward, and I especially support legislation like this that ties in the economic benefits and additional jobs that a clean energy economy will bring to the commonwealth. Virginia can be a leader and can show that green business can be profitable and good for workers.I do not support any of these and will support and introduce any legislation necessary to keep the ban on uranium mining, stop the potential disaster of offshore drilling, protect our soil and water from fracking, stop any new coal-fired plants and mountaintop removal mining while working to promote clean and renewal energy sources - especially offshore wind - and increased energy efficiency standards and practices.
9. Yes or no answers. Do you support: a) a strongly progressive tax system, including a reasonable estate tax on the wealthy; b) a "Dream Act" for Virginia, as recently passed in Maryland; c) allowing gay couples to adopt; d) ultimately, repealing the Marshall-Newman Amendment; e) closing the "gun show loophole" and taking other commonsense gun measures; f) raising the gas tax and/or instituting a carbon tax?
10. Given that the 49th House of Delegates district is a solid "blue" district, and thus a "safe seat," it is crucial that whoever is elected has a plan to help elect Democrats - preferably progressives - across Virginia. That includes fundraising, organizing volunteers, and maximizing turnout in the 49th district for statewide and Congressional elections. Do you agree with this vision for the Delegate from the 49th district, and if so, what exactly is your plan to accomplish it?
I am running to represent residents of the 49th District and will build upon the values of this area, which I have seen firsthand while volunteering. I will do everything in my power to represent those progressive values while in Richmond.But, I know that business doesn't stop when I leave the capital. Grassroots support is really what moves Virginia forward and as Delegate, I would work for issues important to our area and use them to help others. But, as we have seen during the last legislative session, it even if the 49th District is blue, our values are still threatened in Richmond. We need a progressive team to defend those in the legislature.
11. Do you agree or disagree that Richmond is broken - for instance, the tremendous influence of money and lobbyists on legislation - and needs major reform? If elected to the House of Delegates, would your general attitude be more "go along, get along" or "shake things up?" Please be as specific as possible in your answer. For instance, would you support campaign finance reform that sharply curtails the power of corporations, lobbyists, and special interests?
Richmond is broken and needs major reform to make the legislative process fair and accessible to everyone. My work in federal government relations has given me unique insights into how business and government work together, for good and bad, and the checks that are necessary in the system. The wants of businesses are not necessarily incompatible with the needs of citizens - often they just want to provide jobs and be competitive - but sometimes they are. I know the process and how to promote the interests of people and good businesses. I have worked as the catalyst to find the common ground in what is good for both.I strongly support organizations like VPAP and Richmond Sunlight who do great work in opening up the system, but more does need to be done by the General Assembly itself. I am very happy that next year all votes - subcommittee to floor - will be available on the General Assembly's website and would support other easy changes to increase transparency such as an online archive of session videos.
Posted by Lowell at 1:25 PM
Thursday, May 19, 2011
|Remember the horrible coal mine disaster at Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch mine in April 2010, the one that killed 29 coal miners? Well, there's now been an independent investigation, and theCharleston Gazette reports the results:|
*"The disaster at Upper Big Branch was man-made and could have been prevented."
*"Any of these failures [ventilation system, coal dust buildup, breakdown in fireboss system, etc.] would have been problematic. Together, they created a perfect storm within the Upper Big Branch Mine, an accident waiting to happen"
*"It is only in the context of a culture bent on production at the expense of safety that these obvious deviations from decades of known safety practices makes sense."Now, a couple more interesting factoids Virginians might care about. First, as Elaine in Roanoke pointed out last April, "Blankenship and Massey don't just hand out money in West Virginia, though. After all,they also have extensive interests in Virginia. Indeed, the corporation has its headquarters in Richmond."
Second, among the recipients of Massey's largesse, Kathy noted that "$40,000 [went] to the campaign of Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell. Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling got $11,000 and Ken Cuccinelli got $10,000."
Third, Kathy added, "Since 1997, Virginia Republicans have received $441,463 from Massey. (Democrats got all of $8,250.)"
Finally, as NLS wrote at the time, not only has Ken Cuccinelli NOT been "cracking down on [Richmond-based] Massey Energy and making sure Virginia miners are safe," he " is actually working with Massey Energy on his lawsuit against the EPA." The question is, as NLS wrote:
Will he open up an investigation and ensure that the Massey mining site in Tazewell that has had so many violations of health and safety will comply with the law and ensure its workers safety? Or is he going to ignore safety warnings even after yesterday's tragedy and hope by 2013 that Massey continues to reward him with large political contributions for his efforts to help in their legal actions against the EPA?A year later, and one investigation that demonstrates beyond a doubt that Massey is a criminal enterprise, responsible for the deaths of the coal miners killed at Upper Big Branch, we have an answer to these questions: NO, Cuccinelli will NOT investigate Massey, and YES, he will ignore safety warnings and hope that Massey "continues to reward him with large political contributions for his efforts to help in their legal actions against the EPA." Any further questions?
Posted by Lowell at 1:23 PM
Friday, May 6, 2011
|Over the past few weeks, particularly in the context of the 31st State Senate district, I've heard the argument made that primaries are divisive, costly, and overall bad things for Democrats to engage in. Just this morning, for instance, I saw that argument crystallized by the (strongly pro-Republican, anti-progressive) Arlington Sun Gazette. Here's the core argument, succinctly if laughably articulated by someone on the other "team":|
...a messy, expensive Democratic primary battle means Republican Caren Merrick has catapulted into front-runner status in the general election, as she can glide through the next few months picking up cash and promoting her image as a moderate soccer mom/entrepreneur who wants to represent all the district's constituents.Meanwhile, Areizaga-Soto and Favola will have to spend the time between now and August pandering to the district's Democratic base and, after August, the nominee will have to pick up the pieces and try to promote party unity.Got it? Primaries cost money, are divisive, and force candidates to the left (in Democratic primaries) and to the right (in Republican primaries). The lesson? Apparently, don't ever have primaries, except perhaps in super-safe districts (and maybe not even there?).To put it mildly, I disagree vehemently with this entire line of "argument." Here's my case for why contested primaries are actually very good things.
First, I'm going to borrow from one of the country's smartest political bloggers, Chris Bowers, and specifically his 2009 Open Left article, Contested Primaries Help, Rather Than Hurt, Democrats in General Elections. Here's Chris:
|lowkell :: Sorry, Sen. Saslaw: Contested Primaries Are Actually Very GOOD Things!|
In making this proclamation [to avoid contested Democratic primaries, Pennsylvania Democratic Party] Chairman Rooney is relying on alongstanding bit of Democratic conventional wisdom. Namely, that closely contested Democratic primaries hurt Democratic chances in general elections. The problem with this theory is that there is no evidence to support it. In fact, a quick survey of the eight most closely contested Democratic Senate primaries in 2006 and 2008 shows that the winners of those primaries actually did pretty darn well in the general election (note: only campaigns where the general election was decided by 10% or less were examined)...Bowers finds that Democrats who had been in tough primaries actually went 5-2-1 in general elections for U.S. Senate in 2006 and 2008. Not a bad winning percentage. Among other races he cites, Bowers includes one that many of us are extremely familiar with -- the 2006 primary between Jim Webb and Harris Miller. Recall that when the Miller vs. Webb primary began, Webb had nothing - no staff, no money, no political experience, nada. Also, for those of us who worked closely with him during that period, we know that - to be diplomatic - he had a ways to go towards becoming a strong candidate, certainly one strong enough to take on the imposing (at the time) incumbent Senator George Allen in the general election.And guess what, that's exactly what the primary enabled Webb to do -- improve big time! Thus, from February through June 2006, Webb - along with his campaign and grassroots/netroots supporters - honed his message, improved his candidate skills, built his "ragtag army" (which eventually reached 12,000 or so), and basically proved the adage, "whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger." As an added bonus, Democrats had the opportunity for a much-needed and important debate over the future of our party, whether the focus should be on "Jacksonian Democracy," for instance, and whether we should nominate a lobbyist for outsourcing American jobs (who called himself an "Old Testament kinda guy" and said he'd gladly flip the switch on the electric chair) or an economic populist and social libertarian war hero and former Republican. That was an important debate to have, and for those of us who were part of it, we know how nasty it got, with accusations of misogyny, racism, and anti-Semitism thrown around, among others. Not only that, but Jim Webb ended up the primary campaign absolutely broke, even after loaning himself $100,000 to keep the staff paid and the lights on at headquarters.
So, all this divisiveness and nastiness was a general election disaster right? According to conventional Democratic "wisdom," including by the likes of Dick Saslaw (who, by the way, strongly endorsed Harris Miller in that primary - 'nuff said), it certainly should have been. Yet, somehow, it wasn't. In fact, as Chris Bowers points out, Webb came out of that primary with a boost in the polls, one that would grow all through the summer and into the fall. Webb also came out of that primary with a message that had been honed into three major themes, with a "ragtag army" that ultimately grew into an enormous movement, and with a professional campaign team that slowly but surely started to improve its game. Again, that's exactly what primaries enable a candidate to do.
As for the bitter, divisive, expensive 2006 primary causing a disastrous, permanent schism in the Democratic Party, that didn't happen either. Instead, the vast majority of Democrats united behind Jim Webb, just as they (nearly) always do after primaries, and just as Republicans (nearly) always do after theirprimaries. Why is that? In large part, it's because there's nothing like having a "common enemy" to bring people together. Also, the fact is that the vast majority of Democrats (and Republicans) are loyal, and in the end will vote/donate/campaign for their party's nominee. That's just the way it is, I have very little idea why anyone would think otherwise (and no, examples like Jimmy Carter are not good ones, as a million other things went wrong in 1980 that had nothing to do with the primary against Ted Kennedy).
A few more examples of what Chris Bowers and I are arguing? How about the bitter, divisive, nasty, vicious 2008 presidential primary between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, which at the time was seen by many Democrats as likely disastrous for the general election. Yeah, ask President McCain howthat theory worked out. Heh. Also, I'd point to the 2010 Republican primaries in Virginia, which were rough and tumble themselves, yet which didn't seem to do the "red team" any harm -- just ask Representatives Rigell and Hurt about that.
As for the bitter, divisive, expensive 2009 Virginia Democratic gubernatorial primary, it's true that we ended up losing the general election to Bob McDonnell, but that had essentially nothing to do with the fact that we had a primary. In fact, Creigh Deeds came out of that primary with the party 99.9% unified, with a boost in the polls that had Creigh pulling into a tie with McDonnell or even a narrow lead. So, no, don't blame the primary for what eventually unfolded in that disaster of a campaign, and disaster of a year, for Democrats. That's just completely flawed reasoning, of the "Post hoc ergo propter hoc" variety. Complete logic FAIL, in other words.
In fact, as Chris Bowers points out, "There simply is no evidence that contested primaries hurt Democratic Senate candidates." None. If anything, Bowers adds, "the evidence is that these primaries help Democratic Senate candidates." Which is why the fact that "so many Democratic Party leaders seek to avoid contested primaries is difficult to comprehend."
In the case of the 31st State Senate district race, it's even more "difficult to comprehend," given the argument made by Dick Saslaw that the new 31st district is quite safe for the Democrats. If that's true, then what possible harm could there be in holding a primary, just as is happening in the also-safe 30th Senate district just down the road? And if what Saslaw argues is not true, then why are Saslaw and his apologists telling everyone would a great redistricting plan this is? Sorry, but Saslaw et al can't have it both ways, as much as they might try to do so. So why do they make this argument? To paraphrase a smart Democratic friend, the argument that primaries are harmful always seems to come from the camps of candidates whose chances of winning nominations would be hurt by a primary." Funny how it works out that way, huh? ;)
Finally, I'd just add that, even if all of the above evidence weren't true - which it is, big time! - I'd still make a strong case for primaries. Why? Well, I know this is quaint and all, but there's this little thing you all might have heard of known as "democracy?" You know, that thing are grandparents fought World War II to defend? Yeah, I told you it was quaint.
In all seriousness, though, how can anyone calling themselves a "Democrat" not be a committed "democrat" as well? As Jaime Areizaga-Soto put it Wednesday night at the Arlington County Democratic Committee meeting - to huge cheers, I might add - "the voters of the 31st district will now decide who will be their Senator, instead of the other way around." You can replace "31st" with whatever other district you'd like, and the same rule holds. Barring some overwhelming reason to the contrary (and I can't really think of any), Democracy should always be allowed to flourish, even (gasp!) be encouraged by the "powers that be," in the United States of America. That is, unless they have other agendas (personal power? control? favors to wealthy donors?) they care more about? Hmmmm.
Thursday, May 5, 2011
In this video from last night's Arlington County Democratic Committee meeting, Jaime Areizaga-Soto announces his candidacy for the new 31st State Senate district (Arlington, parts of Fairfax and Loudoun counties) of Virginia. I thought Jaime did a great job -- articulate and passionate -- and he certainly received an enthusiastic response (standing ovation, chanting, cheering) from the fired-up crowd. All in all, it was an extremely impressive debut for Areizaga-Soto, who some had been saying might not be a strong candidate for this seat. From what I observed last night, both in terms of the speech he gave and also the tremendous energy for Jaime in the room, we can definitively put that theory to rest! (lots more on the "flip," including the clearly displeased reaction to Areizaga-Soto's speech by Senator Whipple) As for the content of his speech, Areizaga-Soto emphasized a few key points: fighting for "progressive priorities" against the Republicans' "divisive, harmful and extreme agenda" in Richmond; fighting against "Arizona-style anti-immigrant" legislation; protecting a woman's right to choose; "keeping our environment clean and our children safe;" stopping Bob McDonnell's "borrow and spend policies;" working to bring "new people and new energy to politics;" running a campaign that's focused on "grassroots outreach," as well as - quoting Abraham Lincoln - government "of the people, by the people, and for the people." Perhaps the most provocative line of the night by Areizaga-Soto shouldn't be controversial at all: that "the voters of the 31st district will now decide who will be their Senator, instead of the other way around." Clearly, that's a reference to the heavy-handed efforts (although certainly not unheard of in politics, smoke-filled rooms and political machines springing to mind) by Sen. Dick Saslaw and Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple to hand pick Whipple's successor and to avoid a primary at all costs. In the end, Whipple's and Saslaw's efforts were not successful, as Jaime Areizaga-Soto stood up to their pressure and decided to put his name before the people. In addition, Whipple and Saslaw appear to have triggered a strong backlash by many people, as evidenced by the reaction to that line in Areizaga-Soto's speech last night. In addition I've talked to dozens of Arlington Democrats the past few weeks, and almost none of them are pleased by what's been going on here, although most are nervous about speaking out on the record, for fear of retribution to their budgets, offices, careers, etc. In coming weeks and months, I certainly hope that these people muster up the courage to speak out for Democracy in the 31st State Senate district! Meanwhile, sitting one row behind me was none other than Mary Margaret Whipple herself, along with two of her Senate colleagues, Patsy Ticer and Janet Howell. At several points in Areizaga-Soto's speech, I glanced over to see their reaction, as Areizaga-Soto vowed to let 31st State Senate district voters choose their own representation in Richmond, "instead of the other way around," and as he pointedly noted that even this Democratic-controlled State Senate dealt "progressives defeats on various things ranging from protecting a woman's right to choose to keeping our environment clean and our children safe." Let's just say, Sen. Whipple (and, to a lesser extent, Sen. Howell) was NOT pleased. What I saw, instead, was - as NLS accurately describes:
... Janet and MMW shot glares, sighs, eye rolls and snide remarks back and forth during Jaime's five minute speech. But the best part was when Jaime said we needed a Senator who would stop some of the awful legislation the Democratic Senate has been passing. (I'm paraphrasing here, wait for the video for his exact language). At that point in the speech, both Whipple and Howell turned to one another with a look of shock on their faces and laughed as if the charge was completely unfounded.That's exactly what happened, as anyone in that room can attest (I spoke to several people afterwards, all of whom saw the same thing). What's amazing is that Senators Whipple and Howell weren't a bit more...uh, "poker faced," perhaps?...in a public setting such as an ACDC meeting, about their displeasure at Areizaga-Soto's candidacy, and also at what he had to say. What really amazes me is the blatant, not-even-hidden arrogance, an apparent expectation that districts and their representatives are to be selected by incumbents and/or retiring politicians, and not "by the people, of the people, and for the people," as Areizaga-Soto pointedly declared last night. What makes this attitude even more amazing is that these peoples' track record on that front isn't exactly stellar -- Harris Miller in 2006 and Creigh Deeds in 2009 to name just two candidates who Sen. Whipple and Sen. Saslaw endorsed and pushed hard to elect (Whipple really pulled out all the stops for Deeds in the 2009 gubernatorial primary, from everything I've heard, including calling up the Washington Post and urging them to endorse Deeds). Given that track record, and given the fact that we still live in a Democracy last I checked, why should the voters of the 31st State Senate district just blindly follow what the "powers that be" want them to do, and decide for themselves who they want representing them in Richmond for possibly the next 10 or 20 years? I can't think of any good reason whatsoever, but I certainly can think of a lot of reasons why that shouldn't be the case. Apparently, based on the reaction to Jaime Areizaga-Soto's speech last night, so can many other Arlingtonians! :)
Posted by Lowell at 1:20 PM
by Kenton Ngo
|If the Democratic collapse of 2009 in Northern Virginia could be explained in one simplistic sentence, Democrats failed to bring two key components of the Obama coalition to the polls: minority voters who have a lower propensity to vote in off-years, and middle-class suburban voters who were persuaded to vote for a suburban Republican over a rural Democrat. In few places was this more apparent than in Prince William County, a county split between these two elements. The 29th Senate District, the only State Senate district in the new Democratic plan comprised of a majority of Prince William voters, is held precariously by 84-year-old veteran SenatorChuck Colgan. Colgan has surprised many by hanging on to his seat this long, but it is doubtful he will continue to serve through the next redistricting cycle.After splitting a dizzying 14 precincts to create this district, can Senator Colgan hold on if he decides to run again, and can Democrats hold the seat after him? I calculated the partisan performance of each precinct, weighing split precincts based on the percentage of the population within the 29th District, and concluded that in the last five elections, the new 29th Senate District was 51.5% Democratic--with a whiplash-inducing dropoff between Obama's 2008 victory and Creigh Deeds' 2009 loss of 16.5%. However, Democrats will have to find a way to incite Hispanic and black voters to come out before standing a chance in an off-year. 2004-2009 precinct map below the fold (click all maps to embiggen).|
|Kenton Ngo :: SD-29: The Disappearing Obama Coalition|
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
WTF? Is this guy seriously our state's Attorney General and a hero of conservatives across America? This "joke" - "Virginans" a clever play on words about "virgins," it appears - by Ken Kookinelli for real? I mean, this is about as juvenile, in a Beavis and Butthead way, as you can get. "Heh, I said "Virginans" - heh heh heh." How pathetic, what an embarrassment this guy has been and continues to be, with his war on science, his effort to cover up the breast on Virginia's state seal, etc. Where on earth did Republicans find this freak, and how on earth did he ever get elected to anything, let alone AG?!?P.S. Cooch is now in serious competition - with Condoleezza Rice, among others - for THE single stupidest comment made by any public figure since Osama bin Laden was killed. Not surprising, in fact I was waiting for Cooch to open his mouth on this and expecting something completely nuts, stupid, or both. And check it out, he didn't disappoint!
Posted by Lowell at 1:17 PM
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
|(UPDATE: See the statement by Jaime Areizaga-Soto in the comments section. - promoted by lowkell)|
A couple minutes ago, Ben Tribbett announced that he's not running for State Senate in the 31st District, as he had been strongly considering doing. In addition to his announcement (see the full text on the "flip"), Ben graciously added "We have two great candidates." I hope he's right.Anyway, with that news, the two remaining Democratic candidates are Arlington County Board member Barbara Favola (note to Barbara, it is NOT a "Board of Supervisors" as you keep erroneously telling people) and Jaime Areizaga-Soto.
Right now, I'm leaning towards endorsing Areizaga-Soto, but I'll wait until I have a chance to talk to him, hear him speak (e.g., tomorrow night at the Arlington County Democratic Committee meeting), and find out what his main campaign themes and vision for the office will be.
By the way, I'm very concerned that Democrats could lose the 31st district this November. Here is the website for the likely Republican nominee, Caren Merrick. Take a look at it, also keep in mind that she's (reportedly) loaded with money, and see what you think.
Personally, what I'm seeing is: 1) a woman (that's important, because the seat is currently held by Mary Margaret Whipple, probably the most powerful woman in the General Assembly); 2) a seeming "moderate" who doesn't even mention social issues at all on her website, but who likes the word "bipartisan"; 3) a strong personal narrative (e.g, "the first woman in her family to earn a college degree;" started a company in her basement); and 4) an image (at least, that she's projecting) as a soccer mom who teaches Sunday School and helps out with her sons' sports and Scouting activities. Combine all that with plenty of money, a district that's not nearly as "blue" as it was prior to its gerrymandering (it now lumps Arlington in with Great Falls and part of eastern Loudoun!) by Dick Saslaw and Company, and a potentially extremely weak Democratic nominee in Barbara Favola, and what does it spell? In my book, "potential trouble." I hope I'm wrong, but I fear I'm right. :(
|lowkell :: Ben Tribbett Not Running, Two Democrats to Contest the 31st Senate Nomination|
Friends,Thanks for signing up to hear the news on my potential campaign for State Senate this year. Your pledges of financial or volunteer support and words of encouragement have meant a lot to me.
Posted by Lowell at 1:18 PM
by The Green Miles
|David Roberts writes in Popular Science about the Atlantic Wind Connection (AWC), a proposed $5 billion undersea power grid. The plan by Maryland-based Trans-Elect would provide the infrastructure for wind farms stretching hundreds of miles down the Mid-Atlantic coast, from northern New Jersey to southern Virginia. David walks through the technical aspects in easy to understand way and talks about how the AWC would ease strain on our existing power grid, concluding its biggest advantage would be its scale:|
It would tie together wind farms distributed over hundreds of miles of coastline, and because the wind will usually be blowing somewhere, its breadth would compensate for the unpredictability of wind at any individual site. Together, the steadier flow of power, combined with the money that wind-farm developers will save by feeding electricity into an existing network, could make wind power cheaper than electricity generated by natural gas or, in some cases, even coal.Obviously, there is a long way to go. Multiple regulatory authorities will have to sign off before the AWC becomes reality. But the large-scale, holistic approach to offshore wind power that it represents is already echoed by at least two undersea power-transmission proposals being considered in Europe. And if the AWC succeeds in delivering predictable, low-cost, low-carbon power to the mid-Atlantic, expect the number of imitative projects to grow.That $5 billion price tag may sound like a lot at first, but let's put it in context. The AWC would support wind power equivalent to 10 coal-fired power plants, which cost $1-2 billion each, if not more. (Cost overruns have just pushed the price tag of a new coal-fired plant in Wisconsin up 9% to $2.4 billion.)
Posted by Lowell at 1:15 PM
Monday, May 2, 2011
by The Green Miles
|Cheering crowds are gathering outside the White House tonight in the wake of some historic news - Osama bin Baden has been killed by U.S. special forces:|
Osama bin Laden, the longtime al-Qaeda leader and chief architect of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, was killed Sunday by U.S. forces, President Obama announced late Sunday night.Acting on an intelligence lead that first surfaced last August, Obama said he authorized an operation to kill bin Laden, who was hiding in a compound deep inside Pakistan. The president, in a rare Sunday night address to the nation, said U.S. forces killed bin Laden during a firefight and captured his body. [...]It's rare you can go to bed knowing that the world is a little more safe and that justice is a little more done. Thank you, U.S. Special Forces and President Obama.UPDATE: CNN analyst & bin Laden expert Peter Bergen: "Killing bin Laden is the end of the War on Terror. We can just sort of announce that right now."
UPDATE #2: Read President Obama's full statement at WhiteHouse.gov. Here's the video:
Posted by Lowell at 1:16 PM