A ConservaDem in NoVa: What’s Wrong with this Picture?


    This morning, I attended a Town Hall Meeting with my state representatives, including Dick Saslaw, the Senator that redistricting stuck me with.  Saslaw is a smart and knowledgeable guy, but as he made clear today, he is definitely NOT a progressive.

    When asked what Democrats will do to advance renewable energy and energy efficiency in the Commonwealth, Saslaw went off on a tangent, reeling off a series of Republican/Fossil Fuel Lobby points, including:

    – States with strong renewables policies aren’t doing any better on the issue than Virginia. (Patently false: here’s a list of states that have made great progress on solar energy due to their policies, and a report on how they did it.)

    – Virginia is the “Saudi Arabia of Coal”.  (Yet being America’s “Saudi Arabia of Oil” has not stopped Texas from becoming the nation’s leader on wind power. Which means that Rick Perry is more progressive and forward-thinking on this issue than Virginia — and Dick Saslaw.)

    – There are many barriers to establishing renewable energy in the Commonwealth, including cost, economics and NIMBYism. (Yes, we know that. There were even more barriers to sending a man to the moon, and the process of overcoming those barriers launched the Computer Revolution. Countries like China and Germany, and states like  California, Colorado and New Jersey are showing the courage to overcome these barriers to gain a leg up on the clean energy industries of the future. When did the state that was the cradle of the American Revolution lose the nerve to tackle the great challenges of our time?)

    – Energy efficiency and conservation are best left to the marketplace to solve. (Wrong again.  California instituted an energy code back in the 70s that has allowed state per capita electricity use levels to remain basically flat while the rest of the nation’s per capita use increased by 50%. Virginia, meanwhile, remains grounded in the bottom tier of states, ranked 34th on efficiency policies.)

    Through all of this, Senator Saslaw convinced me of one thing — that it’s time for him to go.  And it’s not just energy policy — Saslaw has been a conservative voice on issues ranging from former convicts’ voting rights to money in politics.  I also put a premium on politicians who are nice, down to earth people, and Saslaw in that sense presents a stark contrast with my Delegate, Kaye Kory, who is always a pleasure to deal with.  At today’s forum, Saslaw hogged the microphone and grouchily refused to let his fellow Democrat officials, including Gerry Connolly, interrupt his lectures.

    Progressives have made much progress in recent years through the strategic approach of tolerating centrist Democrats in conservative districts but not in progressive districts where there is frankly no reason to do so.  Senator Saslaw is simply a bad match for the 35th district, which includes parts of Falls Church, Fairfax County and Alexandria, not known as right wing, good ol’ boy areas.  

    Here is a map of the district. If you are a progressive in this district interested in serving your state, please start considering a primary challenge to Senator Saslaw.  He will make a great lobbyist for Dominion someday, but in the meantime, I want a Senator who represents my values.  

    • …on policy matters and also on politics (e.g., suppressing democracy by “clearing the field” for his friends). He is long, long past his “sell-by” date. The question is, why do Senate Democrats not depose his sorry butt? Right now, sorry to say, but they’re enablers of Dick’s horrible leadership.

    • Peter Rousselot

      Dick Saslaw: bad match for the district; bad minority leader for Senate Democrats; captive to the fossil fuel lobby; apologising for predatory lenders; intervening in Democratic primaries where he has no business doing so; failing to recruit Democratic challengers where he has business doing so; committing a parliamentary bungle allowing the abortion clinic regulation monstrosity to become law. Did I say bad?

    • FreeDem

      Who would be a better minority leader than Saslaw?

      Is that person plausible?

      Who would be a better State Senator than Saslaw?

      Is that person plausible?

      Saslaw seems to fit the temperament and perspective of the Virginia Democratic Party as I’ve come to know it. You can’t go about talking about getting rid of Saslaw in order to change the Virginia Democratic Party, you need to talk about how you want to change the Virginia Democratic Party so people you’d prefer to see in people take leadership.  

    • Elaine in Roanoke

      Somebody better inform Saslaw that Virginia has a declining amount of coal and is hardly the “Saudi Arabia of Coal.” That’s why coal companies are blowing up mountains in Appalachia and polluting streams in valleys. The easy coal was mined long ago. Coal is a declining industry in Virginia and hardly worth the environmental damage it is causing.

      The coal extraction in the U.S. has moved out West. What we have is Atlantic wind, which we hopefully will exploit.

    • pvogel

      Nothing wrong with Dick Saslaw.       No politician can make 100% of people love him( even in the democratic party) But he does allright.      And the Republican alternative is too horrible  for me to describe.

    • The Richmonder

      The only way we will ever make the DPVA better is to join the committees and work our way up to the central committee.  Until we are in the room, nothing will change.

    • artemdi

      Thanks for your succinct summary’s of Saslaw’s behavior and words at the February 4th Town Hall meeting with Kaye Kory and Dave Marsden. The picture you chose is priceless!

      There seems to be a growing concensus that it’s time to replace this sour, surly curmudgeon with someone more in tune with the politics and values of the newly configured 35th district.  And his LA needs to retire along with him.

      When a politician and his legislative assistant both (rudely) tell their constituents that they don’t need to listen to them, as I’ve heard over and over again from a number of sources, then it’s time for them to move on.

      To keep democracy alive in times such as these, ESPECIALLY in times such as these, we need public debates on the issues that matter.  If the state Democratic party isn’t all it can be, then we need to use every ounce of our courage and intelligence to make it better.

      I believe there will be a call to concerned citizens and groups later this year to identify a candidate who would be an appropriate replacement. If anyone reading Blue Virginia would like to participate, please add a comment to this posting.