Breakfast with Boucher

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    For local Dems, each time US Rep Boucher returns to the New River Valley, it has always seemed like a friend returning home.  And so, this Monday, sixty Montgomery County (VA) Democrats turned out early to share breakfast and conversation with Congressman Boucher–and each other.  After breakfast, Boucher addressed the group.  A question-and-answer session followed.  

    From the health care bill vote, to foreign affairs to energy and infrastructure, Boucher reflected on the past legislative year and what he expects to work on this coming year. (Already he is working on an internet privacy bill, as was reported this week on NPR.) Here, we can be a tough bunch.  We all have our own ideas on so many issues, but time and again, we realize how lucky we are to have a Democrat with an understanding of our diverse populations throughout the sprawling 9th.

    Back in 2004 I wrote the following:

    Unless you watched the Clinton impeachment hearings, where Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA) worked tirelessly to avert a GOP coup d’etat, you might not have heard of him. You might not know that Rick is a staunch defender of the Constitution (e.g., he voted against the civil-liberties- eroding Patriot Act), of women’s reproductive health, and of affirmative action. You might not know he’s been an outspoken critic of the Bush administration’s mishandling of US foreign policy, particularly the Middle East Peace process and the Iraq quagmire. And, you might not know of his strong advocacy for education, and health care or his good stewardship of our nation’s fiscal and environmental resources. But the Republicans know about Rick and they’ve targeted him for defeat.

    In 2002, even quicker than you can say “carpet-bagger,” Jay Katzen moved into our area (from four hours away) to establish “residency,” and then, when he lost, moved back to NOVA just as quickly. This time, the GOP bets on a NASCAR-connected opponent, Kevin Triplett, who hasn’t lived in Virginia for years, but moved back as fast as a speeding bullet (I mean race car).

    Just this Monday, Dick Cheney jetted into Roanoke to raise money for Triplett. Vice-Buck Passer Cheney stayed at the fundraiser a whopping 20 minutes, but was there long enough to blame the economy here in the 9th on Rick Boucher! It should be noted that Cheney never actually even set foot in the 9th Congressional District. But we have a message for Bush, Cheney and the rest of the GOP: Not so fast!

    They don’t know the 9th. They stereotype us here when they assume we all think alike; care only about NASCAR: and look, talk and act a certain way. Most of all, they don’t know who Rick is.

    Ask anyone who knows Rick and he’ll tell you he’s the hardest working member of Congress. To spend time getting to know his constituents, Rick spends nearly all his spare time (when not in session or committee) visiting his far-flung constituents, understanding them, and advocating for them. As I’ll describe in another in this series, it takes about five hours (each way) to drive from the northernmost to the southwestern-most tip of his district. And yet Rick Boucher provides the most effective representation of anyone in Congress.

    I can tell you what a challenge traversing this district really is. The 9th District is the largest land-wise, and therefore the most dispersed population-wise in the state. I chaired the Montgomery County, VA, volunteer campaign for Howard Dean. I could never have covered the entire 9th. I don’t know how Rick does it. But Rick handles the challenge along with his official duties in Washington. National Journal (3/23/02) reported that Rick is back visiting constituents nearly every weekend.

    Across this sprawling region, Rick’s efforts to bring jobs and investment have flown in the face of a Bush-Cheney administration which extols the mass export of jobs. Early on, Boucher understood that remote regions could be linked to the electronic “superhighway,” and therefore to jobs with call centers, order fulfillment, and more. Today, Rick is an expert in internet technology. And he’s possibly the most knowledgeable in Congress on the subject of energy.

    Another example of Rick’s bringing creative solutions to problems was also recounted in National Journal. When the town of Grundy experienced many disastrous floods in its downtown district, Rick helped the town find a way to move to higher ground.

    When a group of local Democrats thanked him for his vote against the Patriot Act, he told us that when he was a junior Congressman, the House leader’s advice was to figure out what he’d be willing to sacrifice his job for. First and foremost, Rick knew, he’d defend the Constitution above all else. So, in a heavily Republican state, Rick held his ground.

    I usually agree with Rick Boucher, but not always. When I don’t, I can depend on Rick to have solid reasons for his position and an enlightening and articulate conversation about his views. That’s why he has the respect of voters in the 9th.

    Since I began voting, I have lived in four states (California; Washington; New York; and Virginia, where I’ve lived for the past 23 years). I have never seen a Congressman so accessible to his constituents. Where else is it possible for voters to meet, greet and TALK WITH their Congressman not once, but numerous times, each year? Rick sits down and listens. Other politicians talk about bringing town hall democracy to citizens, but Rick’s been doing this for nearly 22 years.

    A friend of mine grew up in Christiansburg, VA, but moved to New York years ago. Now back home in the 9th, she told me she was amazed that, when it comes to having an enlightened, articulate, knowledgeable, and approachable Congressman, she is better off here in Southwest Virginia than in New York. Across Virginia, you benefit from having Rick advocate for the Constitution and progressive values.

    End of quote, written in 2004.

    Whatever issues we disagree on, we we all agreed on one thing Monday: US Rep. Rick Boucher is an outstanding congressman.  He also would be the far, far better choice for the 9th in 2010 and beyond than Morgan Griffith, impostor 9th District “resident,” carpetbagger and Virginia obstructionist-in-chief.  Morgan Griffith would be a disaster for the 9th–or anywhere else.  We could expect to agree with Griffith about zero percent of the time.  But a Griffith win is hardly expected.  The GOP has imported one candidate after another, and they have all been felled by voters who know Rick and return him with huge majorities every time.  

    Still, nothing can (or will) be taken for granted.  Everyone left feeling energized and ready to roll out the 2010 effort to re-elect Rick Boucher to Congress.  I’ll have much more to add (including some reflections of the issues) about this race in coming days. Stay tuned…

    Here are some additional photos from the event.

    Fran Tieleman and Marcia Morris greet local Democrats at breakfast with Congressman Boucher

    Henry Tieleman, founder of Democracy Prevails PAC, organizer of the event, welcomes Congressman Boucher and local Dems.

    Steve Cochran, MCDC Chair, tells Congressman Boucher how important he is to the 9th District.

    Diana Richardson, Vice Chair addresses crowd; urges early support and effort on behalf of our congressman

    Frank Brown and Congressman Boucher

    Congressman Boucher and Pat Hyer.