Back in April of this year I made an early endorsement of Barbara Favola’s candidacy for the Democratic nomination. I later was forced to reconsider that decision, and now I think it might be of some value to look at the factors that induced me to endorse her and then later withdraw that endorsement.
I made my decision to endorse Favola based on a number of factors. I gave great weight to the endorsement of retiring state senator Mary Margaret Whipple. The precise geography of the 31st has shifted due to redistricting, but much of the 31st remains the same as the district that Whipple represented before she announced her decision not to run for re-election. I have a great deal of respect for Senator Whipple and that certainly influenced my decision.
I was also impressed by Favola’s early organization of her campaign. Organizational skill is something that is often lacking in Democratic campaigns, particularly those below the statewide level. The Democratic Party of Virginia has not done enough to foster a political culture that creates a group of party members with campaign skills. Statewide candidates frequently hire consultants from out of state, ignoring local committees. To me, Favola’s early organization, her professional website, and her list of endorsements all pointed to a campaign that was ready to hit the ground running.
Finally, I considered the endorsement by State Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw. Now I am not as vociferous a critic of Saslaw as some on this site are, but neither am I a blind follower of his. Saslaw has made mistakes, but he is the choice of the Democrats in the State Senate-it’s not something I get to vote on directly. What I would hope for in any potential candidate for the state senate would be someone more to the progressive end of the political spectrum who is nevertheless able to walk into Leader Saslaw’s office and persuade him.
A “bomb thrower” who has nothing but criticism for the leader is not what the Democratic caucus in the state senate needs right now. I hoped Favola could be someone who would work with the leader, but would also help to persuade him to espouse a more progressive line. Barbara Favola is emphatically NOT the person to play that role and I was mistaken when I thought that she was.
Those were my reasons for initially supporting Barbara Favola; why then did I feel the need to withdraw my support?
It was a combination of factors rooted in her response to attacks by the campaign of Areizoga-Soto. While I personally do not like negative campaigning in primaries between Democrats, a certain amount of negative criticism is healthy. Candidates must be confronted with their records and show they can defend them. Candidates also need to show that they have the necessary poise to take some punishment and continue to function in a stressful environment. Virginia Republicans are not known for their kid glove tactics, and anything Favola might face from Areizoga-Soto would be tame compared to what would eventually be dished out by the Republican candidate. Finally, a candidate must be able to do all these things without unduly damaging the Democratic Party in the process. Barbara Favola has failed all of these tests convincingly.
Barbara Favola has a record from her service on the Arlington County Board, and she should have been prepared to defend it. But when she was questioned about the many donations she has accepted from developers with business before the Board, she did not defend her record, she went on a highly destructive counter-attack against her opponent. Far from showing poise, Favola’s response to pressure was to grow increasingly shrill and petty, even refusing to shake hands during a debate. Favola’s bad behavior merely escalated from that point.
Favola commissioned a push poll which planted false information among the electorate, deliberately creating the false impression that Areizoga-Soto is a Republican-he is not, he is a Democrat. From that point she descended to a low point of employing campaign tactics that are plainly racist. When you try to judge the behavior of someone running for elective office one of the best ways to do it is to apply their own standards to their behavior. Do they measure up to the rules they would have others live by? Consider the following information about Barbara Favola.
After the campaign of Frank O’Leary for Treasurer, in which charges of racism were made, the Arlington County Democratic Committee created an Electoral Practices Commission to make recommendations about what the rules for fair campaigning ought to be. Barbara Favola was one of two chairs appointed to that commission.
Among the guidelines proposed by the commission:
* That candidates would agree “not to participate in the defamation” of opponents, or join in any attacks “that I do not believe to be truthful, provable and relevant to my campaign.”
* That candidates would agree not to put out any campaign material that “falsifies, misrepresents or distorts facts relating to my record or that of any opposing candidate.”
* That candidates agree not to “engage in appeals to prejudices based on race, creed, religion, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, physical or developmental disabilities or marital status.”
Favola’s campaign has violated every single one of these guidelines proposed by her own commission. It speaks volumes about her leadership style, her character, and what we as Democrats could expect from her if she were elected to the state senate of Virginia. Her behavior is absolutely toxic for the Democratic Party of Virginia. Win or lose, her performance has introduced an unnecessary and unproductive level of vitriol into the Arlington Committee’s atmosphere.
For these reasons-and most especially for her use of the noxious tactic of push polling-I felt compelled to withdraw my support for Barbara Favola’s candidacy for state senate. If you have endorsed Favola yourself, then I would ask you to reconsider your decision. If you are a Democratic primary voter in the 31st District, I strongly urge you not to vote for Barbara Favola or otherwise reward her bad behavior.
I will close by offering a bit of advice to Jaime Areizoga-Soto-close positive. Areizoga-Soto’s campaign has been very effective at discovering and exploiting Favola’s many flaws as a candidate and as a person. Make certain that you take the time and effort to drive home a positive case for Areizoga-Soto’s candidacy. Use the final week of the primary campaign to make the best possible case you can for Mr. Areizoga-Soto. Don’t ask the voters of the 31st District to settle for Areizoga-Soto; make certain that they are excited about voting for Jaime and eager to move on to the general election contest.