Archive for the ‘Virginia politics’ Category

Virginia Senate race

Wednesday, September 20th, 2006

I didn’t get to hear Jim Webb speak this evening, because just when Barack Obama was starting to introduce him, N insisted that he needed to use the potty.  Not a message I was able to ignore, I’m afraid.  We raced off to the bookstore that has public toilets and got back just in time to hear his last line, which was that "if you know me, you know there will be beer there!"  I assume that this was in reference to his victory party in November.

It was nice to hear Obama speak, although he didn’t say anything especially memorable.  His main line was that he didn’t ordinarily quote Newt Gingrich, but that Gingrich had said that if he were running as a Democrat this year, his campaign line would be just two words: "Had enough?"

I did get to see my recording of Meet the Press debate from Sunday, and think Webb did a good job, especially in the first half of the debate, which focused on Iraq.  Even if he didn’t have the huge advantage of his personal story, his argument — that this Administration doesn’t understand that you have to use diplomacy as well as force — would be a strong one.  Allen ducked hard on the question of whether he’s going to support Bush or Warner on the interrogation of prisoners, but he’s going to have to vote one way or the other before the election. 

I do think Webb’s answers on the role of women in the military were pretty weak.  I would have liked him to have said flat out that, with the benefit of hindsight, he wishes he hadn’t written that article about women in the Academy.  And I just don’t get the argument that says that it’s ok for women to be shot at and blown up (as they are when "attached" to combat units as military intelligence, translators, etc.) but not ok for them to be part of the combat units and shoot back.  But Allen calling him on it is a classic case of Pot, meet Kettle.

Webb is incredibly lucky that Allen screwed up with that macaca line.  Not because I  think that many voters are ultimately going to decide based on that moment.  But the Webb campaign was suffocating from lack of money — according to the Post, at the end of June, Allen had $6.6 million in the bank, and Webb less than half a million.  That’s a brutal disadvantage, since this is an expensive tv market.  Webb clearly hates to ask for money, and is bad at it.  Bu the macaca quote got the race back onto people’s lists of competitive races.  And that in turn brings in the national donors.  (Webb’s now #3 in the ranking of candidates who have raised money through the Netroots campaign on ActBlue.)

The fine print

Sunday, September 17th, 2006

I spent a couple of hours yesterday knocking on doors for the Commonwealth Coalition, which is the main group that is organizing against Virginia’s anti-gay marriage (or anything that might vaguely resemble gay marriage constitutional amendment).

Mostly we were IDing voters on our side to target get-out-the-vote efforts, but we were also trying to raise the issue for people who might be undecided or not have heard about the measure.  Our strategy was mostly just to hand people the full text of the amendment and ask them to read it:


Question: Shall Article I (the Bill of Rights) of the Constitution of Virginia be amended to state:

"That only a union between one man and one woman may be a marriage valid in or recognized by this Commonwealth and its political subdivisions.

This Commonwealth and its political subdivisions shall not create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance, or effects of marriage. Nor shall this Commonwealth or its political subdivisions create or recognize another union, partnership, or other legal status to which is assigned the rights, benefits, obligations, qualities, or effects of marriage."?

That second paragraph is so overreaching that you could just see the gears turning in people’s heads as they read it.

Here’s an ad that makes the same point.


I tivoed the Webb-Allen debate this morning but haven’t watched it yet.

Virginia Senate Primary

Wednesday, May 17th, 2006

I realized yesterday that I’m going to be out of town for the Senate primary next month, so I need to vote absentee.  It’s not a big deal — you can just stop by the elections office and do it on the spot.

At this point, I’m leaning toward voting for Jim Webb.  I don’t agree with him on every issue, but he’s a powerful voice against the Administration’s Iraq policy, and I like his populist economic message.  While he’s not perfect on gay rights (he supports don’t ask don’t tell), he opposes the hideous constitutional amendment that’s going to be on the ballot in the fall.

And I think he’s got a better chance of beating George Allen than Harris Miller does.  Miller’s policy stances are fine, but as far as I can tell he’s got the charisma of a dishrag.  He’s got a bunch of endorsements from state elected officials who he helped as chair of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee, but it’s hard to imagine anyone getting really excited about him.  Anonymous is a Woman has a nice post explaining why it’s a bad year for a "consummate insider" like Miller to be running for the Democratic nomination; she argues that his insider status is counter to the story that the national party is trying to tell.

I know that there are a bunch of bloggers who are hot for Webb.  If anyone who reads here wants to make the case for Miller, I’m willing to listen.

School board election

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2006

I spent the evening at a forum for candidates for the local school board.  For some odd reason, Alexandria elects its City Council and School Board on a cycle completely separate from the state and national elections — every 3 years, in May.  (The official explanation is that the local races would be overshadowed by national ones and wouldn’t get as much attention.  The unofficial explanation is that it keeps more control in the hands of the local party committees, by depressing turnout.)

The Alexandria School Board has 9 members, divided into 3 geographic regions.  (This is a compromise between having board members representing specific neighborhoods, and having city-wide elections, which would make it harder for minorities to be represented.)  None of the three current members from my district are running for reelection, so all three seats are open.  There are five candidates running:

It was interesting to see what everyone had to say.  There wasn’t a whole lot of controversy — everyone supports fiscal responsibility, improved communications, reducing the achievement gap, challenging all students, retaining good teachers, etc.  Everyone agreed that the laptop inititive had been poorly implemented.  No one supported intelligent design.

Overall, I was most impressed by Branch.  I particularly liked what he had to say about individuation in the classroom.  I’m torn between Rivera, Gorsuch and Horn for my other two votes.  Rivera’s bio is impressive, but she did such a good job of staying on message with her three priorities that I didn’t get as much of a sense of her overall.  Horn’s a teachers, which is a plus for me.  His literature talks a lot about improving school lunches, but he didn’t mention it at all.  Gorsuch seems like a classic PTA lady, but showed an impressive understanding of details.  Newsham didn’t seem to have any specific goals that he wanted to accomplish, but just talked about general management experience.

If there’s anyone reading this who wants to sell me on one of the candidates, I’m definitely up for listening.  More generally, what do you look for in a school board candidate in the absense of burning controversies?

Politics, Virginia style

Thursday, January 26th, 2006

Which of the following are true?

a)  A Virginia Delegate accidently fired a handgun in his office  — where he hit a bullet-proof vest that happened to be hanging on the wall.

b) The Virginia Legislature passed bills to amend the state’s 230 year-old Bill of Rights to ban gay marriage.

c) Virginia Democratic activists are trying to recruit Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of the Navy to run for the Democratic nomination for Senate.

Answer:  All of the above.

I don’t know what to say about Jack Reid.

I’m just nauseated about the gay marriage bills.  They’re pure political posturing, since Virginia already has an "affirmation of marriage" law on the books. And the language is so sweeping, it’s quite possible that it could be used to throw out private contracts and designation of medical powers of attorneys on the grounds that they attempt to "approximate the effects of marriage."  I’m already a member of Equality Virginia, and they’ll be getting more of my money before November.

The Draft James Webb movement is interesting.  Webb is an opponent of the war in Iraq, and last week he published a very strong op-ed in the NY Times, slamming the "extremist Republican operatives" that have been consistently slandering the military records of anyone (McCain, Cleland, Kerry, Murtha) who opposes George W. Bush.  And he’d have the potential of reaching voters who ordinarily don’t vote Democratic.

I don’t know enough about either Webb (especially his views on domestic policy) or the only declared candidate so far — Harris Miller — to be signing up for either one, but I’ll definitely be tracking the race as it progresses.  I will say that I consider one of the points that Lowell at Raising Kaine lists as one of Webb’s pluses — that he lobbied for the addition of the three soldiers to the Vietnam memorial — a clear negative.  Webb was one of those who thought that Maya Lin’s design — which has become almost universally acclaimed — was "a mass grave" and a "gash of shame" and wanted something more traditionally heroic.  The addition of the statue didn’t destroy the Wall as Lin feared it would, but doesn’t add anything.   We’re not swimming in good candidates enough for me to write one off for his lousy aesthetic judgment, but it’s not a plus.

While I’m on the subject of Virginia politics, is anyone running against Jim Moran?  If the unions can’t come up with someone to even run against him, as one of the "CAFTA 15" (the 15 Ds who voted for CAFTA), then the labor movement is really dead.

Here we go again

Sunday, January 8th, 2006

As some of you may recall, last year a Virginia delegate introduced a really stupid bill that would have required women to report all miscarriages to the police within 12 hours.  Largely due to a bunch of really ticked off infertility and parenting bloggers, the sponsor was flooded with outraged emails and calls, and soon withdrew the bill.

Do you think we can do it again?

The new legislative season is about to begin in Virginia, so it’s time for more idiocies.  As Julie reports at a little pregnant, Delegate Bob Marshall has introduced a bill that would ban doctors and nurses (anyone "licensed by a health regulatory board") from performing or assisting an unmarried woman in any form of assisted reproduction "that completely or partially replaces sexual intercourse as the means of conception."

I feel compelled to point out that Marshall is the author of Virginia’s stringent anti-gay marriage law, which prohibits "other arrangement between persons of the same sex purporting to bestow the privileges or obligations of marriage."  So, lesbians are out of luck, unless they can find a man willing to enter into a sham marriage with them, in which case everything is fine and dandy according to Mr. Marshall.

But it’s not just lesbians who are affected, or single women who want to have babies without finding someone to hook up with for a night.  As Maura pointed out at Julie’s site, Marshall has links to the American Life League, which believes that all reproductive assistance is an affront to human dignity.  Fine, he’s entitled to believe that.  Even to do his best to convince others that it’s true.  But he’s not entitled to make it the law of the land.

Via Landismom, I read Trey’s post last week about gay and lesbian families moving away from hostile states, like Virginia.  I certainly can’t blame anyone for making that choice.  But I do believe that those of us who aren’t directly threatened by bills like this (as a married, fertile woman, I’m not) have an obligation to fight against them as hard as we would if we were personally affected.

I’m confident that my delegate will be as opposed to this bill as I am, but I’ll drop him a note anyway.  If you live in Virginia, please contact your delegate.  And all of us can give Mr. Marshall a piece of our mind.

Election results

Tuesday, November 8th, 2005

I’m too distracted watching election results to write a book review, so I’m going to skip it for tonight.  Maybe tomorrow.

So far (it’s 9:11 as I write this), things are looking pretty good for Tim Kaine.  With 74.4% of the precincts reporting, he’s ahead by 2.5% of the vote, or about 50,000 votes.   The data I’m looking at (from Virginia Interactive, which is having some trouble loading, but seems to have significantly more recent results than the Post) suggest that the Republicans are leading on the other two races.  We shall see.

I’m also interested in seeing how the set of Ohio initiatives proposed by Reform Ohio Now does.  The Ohio state website has live results, but doesn’t seem to say anywhere what percentage of precincts are reporting, so I don’t know how significant the returns so far are.  It looks like they’re all going down by large margins.  That’s a shame — I think the partisan gerrymandering of districts is the single factor that has been most destructive of American democracy in recent years.

The Texas anti-same-sex marriage proposal passed easily.  I’m shocked.

I’m not planning on staying up late enough to watch the California results come in. 

Holy Dirty Tricks, Batman!

Sunday, November 6th, 2005

This Tuesday is the Virginia general election.  I haven’t been writing much about it, because, as I’ve mentioned before, I find it hard to summon a lot of enthusiasm for Tim Kaine except by comparison to the alternative.

This evening, I got a robodialed phone call that began something like "I’m Tim Kaine and I want you to know where I stand on the issues…"  It’s too bad I didn’t let the answering machine get it, because I really wish I could play it back and get it word for word.  It went on to say that Kaine is a social conservative, religious, served as a missionary, opposes gay marriage, and supports restrictions on partial-birth abortion.

I hung up the phone going "huh?"  Why would the Kaine campaign be calling me with this message?  I am on some Republican mailing lists because I voted in the Republican presidential primary in 2000.  (Virginia does not have party registration, and the only thing that you need to swear to is that you are not participating in the candidate selection process of another party.)  But two days before the election is not the time to be trying to identify possible crossover voters.

The end of the message caught my attention, as it stated that this message was paid for by "Honest Leadership for Virginia PAC," not Kaine for Governor.  A quick google search revealed that this PAC "supports the election of conservative Republican candidates in the state of Virginia, including 2005 gubernatorial candidate Jerry Kilgore."  Moreover, it is fully funded by the Republican Governors Association.  And other Democrats have been receiving these calls as well.  So, this isn’t from the Kaine campaign at all — it’s a deliberate attempt by Kilgore’s allies to discourage liberal Democrats like me from showing up to vote on Tuesday.

I’m not an elections lawyer.  I don’t know if it’s illegal to run ads like this.  But it’s sure as heck sleezy.  And I’m a lot more motivated to vote for Tim Kaine on Tuesday than I was an hour ago.  So, for those of you in Virginia, or who have friends in Virginia, pass the word.  Don’t be duped by Kilgore’s dirty tricks.  Read the Post editorial endorsing Kaine.  And please come out and vote, even if it requires a clothespin.


The Post blog has the text of the call.  I poked around the Kaine website, and I’m pretty sure that this radio ad from June is what the RGA outfit spliced to make the recording.

I got another robo-call tonight from the same outfit, this one claiming to be from a pro-choice advocacy group and pointing out that NARAL VA has declined to endorse Kaine, and suggesting independent candidate Russ Potts as an alternative.   The man outside the metro station tonight handing out literature for the local Republican candidate for delegate also seemed to be talking up Potts from what I overheard as I went by.  Nice try.


Tuesday, June 14th, 2005

Politics:  Hey! Both the candidates I was supporting won: David Englin for the Democratic nomination for the 45th district seat in the House of Delegates and Leslie Byrne for the Democratic nomination for Lt. Governor.  The 45th is a solidly Democratic district, so Englin should be a shoe-in for Delegate.  Byrne will have a harder time. 

Byrne’s pretty liberal for Virginia, and some naysayers over at Virginia2005 have been whining that she’ll drag Kaine down.  I think that’s wrong — Virginians are quite comfortable ticket-splitting.  She’ll definitely help mobilize the liberal base (like me!) who otherwise would have said "eh" about the ticket.  And while we’re in the voting booth, we’ll choke down our misgivings about Kaine’s position on choice, and vote for him because he’s a lot better than Kilgore.

Running: My track group did our time trial tonight.  I ran a 3:33 for 800 meters, which I think is quite respectable — especially since it was about 90 degrees.

Baseball:  The Nationals got creamed last night, 11-1, bringing to end their 10 game winning streak.  Listened to a few innings of the game on the radio, but it was only 2-0 when I went to bed.  Oh well, an important rule of baseball is that you’re never as good as you look when you’re winning or as bad as you look when you’re losing.  Hmmm, not a bad lesson for politics either.

Politicians and school board ladies

Friday, May 27th, 2005

After sitting on the fence for a while, I’ve decided that I’m going to vote for David Englin for the Democratic nomination for delegate.  I like his policies and I like the energy that he’s bringing to the campaign, including reaching out beyond the "usual suspects" to try to engage more people in the process.  (His campaign has also done a good job of staying on top of the internet discussion of the race; I wouldn’t be surprised if someone shows up at my doorstep with a campaign sign tomorrow afternoon.)

In thinking things over, I realized that some of my indecision in this race was driven by a  prejudice against people who are confident enough, ambitious enough to run for office at a relatively young age.  This is a common prejudice; Americans are very skeptical of career politicians. Going back to George Washington, there’s a long history of sucessful politicians who campaigned as just regular folks, reluctantly setting aside their "real" careers in order to serve.  So I found Libby Garvey’s story of her journey from PTA mom to school board member to candidate for delegate compelling.  But I was ultimately convinced by Shayna Englin’s argument that safe seats are where you build leaders for tomorrow.

A snide anonymous comment at Virginia2005 referring to Garvey as a "school district lady lol" made me think about the degree to which these different paths to political involvement are gendered.  Debbie Wasserman Schultz aside, it is still almost unheard of for young women to run for political office.  And yes, the PTA and the school board are the classic first steps in that direction for people who never imagined themselves as politicians.  It was shrewd marketing for Sen. Patty Murray to describe herself as "just a mom in tennis shoes," but it worked because it was true.