Home Virginia Politics A Checklist for Progressives in “Blue” Districts

A Checklist for Progressives in “Blue” Districts


Recently, two Democratic State Senators from the “bluest” part of Virginia – Arlington and Alexandria, mostly, as well as Falls Church and parts of eastern Fairfax County – announced their retirements after many years of service. Those two Democratic icons are Mary Margaret Whipple (D-31st) and Patricia “Patsy” Ticer (D-30th), and their retirements, after nearly 16 years in office, open up the potential floodgates for anyone and everyone to throw their hats in the ring to succeed them. Basically, if you live in Arlington, Alexandria, or Falls Church and you’ve ever though about being in the Virginia State Senate, now’s your chance!

Already, several candidates have announced or are expected to announce shortly for the two seats. In the 30th Senate District, the three candidates are Arlington County School Board member Libby Garvey, Alexandria City Council member Rob Krupicka, and Del. Adam Ebbin (D-49th). In the 31st State Senate District, possibilities include Arlington County Board members Jay Fisette and Barbara Favola, former Lieutenant Governor candidate Mike Signer, Del. Bob Brink (D-48th), Del. Patrick Hope (D-47th), blogger Ben Tribbett, and god knows who else.

Then there’s the domino effect, as delegates running for State Senate lead to races for their seats. So far, likely candidates for Adam Ebbin’s seat appear to be Alfonso Lopez, Assistant Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration; Jaime Areizaga-Soto, Senior Attorney Advisor to the Office of the General Counsel at the United States Agency for International Development; and Stephanie Dix Clifford of the Podesta Group. There also are numerous potential candidates to replace either Del. Patrick Hope or Del. Bob Brink, if they choose to run for Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple’s seat. In other words, things could be rather hectic in the deep “blue” parts of NOVA in coming months.

With all these possible races coming up, I thought that a checklist of general criteria for progressives, in considering who they might support, would be helpful. Here’s what I came up with.

1. Just as Republicans expect strong conservatives to be elected from solid “red” districts, Democrats should settle for nothing less than strong progressives from these solid “blue” districts. That’s a no-brainer, frankly, given that Democrats are 99% certain to hold these seats.

2. Criterion #1 means not only that the candidate(s) are rock-solid on everything progressives care about (note: past voting records, as well as other indications of where they stand on issues, are totally relevant), but they are passionate advocates for everything from environmental protection to clean energy to gay rights to women’s reproductive freedom to civil liberties to progressive taxation to workers’ rights to civil rights (e.g., restoring ex-felons’ rights to vote) to…you name it.  Frankly, there’s no reason to compromise on any of these things in deep-blue districts like Arlington and Alexandria, so why should we. Again, though, we don’t just want candidates who agree with these positions, we want candidates who intend to fight hard for these positions. No “bumps on a log” or wallflowers or people using this as a stepping stone or career capstone. No thanks.

3. Needless to say, we should demand people who have the utmost integrity. We should also demand people who are running for the “right” reasons – a belief in progressive values, a desire to make a difference, the passion and energy and commitment to do so.

4. We should support candidates who are in touch with, are responsive to, and understand the “grassroots” – online, offline, and hybrid “netroots” Democratic activists. In 2005, for instance, one of the things that caused me to endorse David Englin for House of Delegates was his strong, impressive, grassroots/netroots campaign. I’m looking for the same thing in all of these races, and I believe the rest of us should as well.

4a. Looking at it the other way around – and this one may fall into the “all else being equal category – we should tend to be less supportive of candidates who have mainly been part of an insular clique or “club,” who have mainly been “top down” insider types, etc. Personally, I’m looking at who a candidate have endorsed in the past (e.g., Webb or Miller in 2006?), whether I’ve ever seen them actively volunteering for progressive causes and/or on the blogs, what their attitude is towards progressive activists (warmth? hostility? frostiness?) in determining my level of support (or opposition) to that candidates.

5. Finally, I believe we should be looking for people who want to shake things up a bit (or more than a bit) in Richmond, who might have a bit of a rebellious streak in them, and who won’t just meekly go along with whatever “leadership” – or powerful interest groups, lobbyists, corporations, etc. – tells them to do.

UPDATE: 6. Progressives should support the best candidate, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc. In the end, I believe that diversity’s important in its own right, but I’m also a Martin Luther King person in the sense that I strongly believe people should be judged on the “content of their character,” not on their color/religion/orientation/gender/etc.

Anyway, that’s my short checklist for criteria I think we should be looking at in considering candidates for “bluer-than-blue” districts like those being vacated by Senators Ticer and Whipple. What would you add? Subtract? Change? Thanks.

  • Cool_Arrow

    Lowell – Nice list and as a 30th District voter I pretty much agree with most of what you said apart from their past endorsements which I don’t care much about. Rob/Adam endorsing Harris Miller over Webb isn’t going to instantly make me vote for Libby as an example. Assuming that they are all very progressive which I don’t see as being a major issue ala a primary of Glenn Nye vs. Tom Perriello where the more progressive candidate is also the much more electable candidate. I have a few others that I give more weight to:

    1. Can this person be a team player by raising money/campaign for team blue and help members in less than favorable districts? Will this person help grow the party? Meaning helping whoever goes into districts like George Barker’s or Chuck Colgan’s in the future?

    2. I know that it is years away but can I see this person electable to a higher office such as Congress when Moran retires or some other statewide office?  

  • dakhardwick

    Lowell, very good list.  One addition observation, which you alluded to.  

    These are, like you said, some of the “bluest” districts in Virginia.  With that in mind, at least for the 30th, it’s not only deep blue but also traditionally higher turnout than other districts.  That higher turnout is critical in statewide elections.  The eventual nominee in both the 30th and the 31st will need to not only cultivate existing voters but also new voters in order to keep turnout high and offset R votes downstate.  30th District voter said it right – the candidates in these seats need to be able to help members in less favorable districts (as well as statewide candidates).

    Ultimately, this goes back to your “grassroots/netroots” comment, which I totally agree with.  It’s critical to have that piece well-defined and in place to get voters to be polls. We cannot backslide in turnout in these districts.  

  • kindler

    I have to admit I have Mike Signer in mind in making this comment. He is a public intellectual of the variety that is rare in American politics in general and essentially non-existent among Virginia pols.

    I also think Jay Fisette would be very good.  He is one of the few public servants who understands things like smart growth (that’s common on the Arlington Board, but I can’t think of many politicians who’ve graduated from there to statewide office).

  • rexsimmons

    Your list is great for the 30th district, but I would add another criterion for any district.  It is an ability to form alliances, even unconventional ones, to get things accomplished that benefit the district, Northern Virginia, and the Commonwealth.  So many things done in the General Assembly are not things that involve ideological arguments.  Instead there are things based on goodwill forged by understanding issues in other districts and finding ways for achieving mutual benefits.

  • Thanks for this. Here are some thoughts on your checklist and my views.

    1. Absolutely. If you are running in a district where you can be as progressive as you like and still be electable, why not? I plan to be.

    2. I don’t understand why anyone runs who doesn’t intend to do this. Or I guess I do understand, but disagree. It’s a waste of every one’s time and efforts. I am an advocate for all these issues and am running to have the opportunity to fight even harder for them.

    3. Possibly the most important.

    4. Definitely, it’s a wasted opportunity to engage with your voters and disservice to those activists not to.

    4a. I’m not a member of any clique, or anything insular. You’ll find me in all sorts of places working with different groups. I don’t think I have any endorsements on record, but you can ask me who I supported in any race. I am an active volunteer. I love progressive activists. They are a large part of my inspiration for running.

    5. I’m all for this, to keep things moving forward. Cliff will tell you (jokingly, hopefully) that I don’t listen to anyone anyway. And I’m not big on convention. I will listen to everyone, but there are no interests for me above those of the my neighbors in the 49th.

    6. I’m all for the best candidate, but it is nice when that does naturally lead to diversity.