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! 🙂