Home 2014 Races Grading the 48th House of Delegates Candidates’ Blue Virginia Questionnaires

Grading the 48th House of Delegates Candidates’ Blue Virginia Questionnaires


I wanted to do this ranking for a few main reasons. First, to give people a one-stop shop for links to all 7 of the 48th House of Delegates candidates’ Blue Virginia Qs and As. Second, to provide a summary of the responses by each candidate. And third, to grade them, from a progressive and environmentalist perspective. So, first, here are the links to the interviews, in the order they were turned in.

1. Andrew Schneider; 2. Atima Omara; 3. Dave Boling; 4. Paul Holland; 5. Rip Sullivan; 6. Yasmine Taeb; 7. Jacqueline Wilson

Now, here’s a summary of each candidates’ responses, plus a grade. The candidates will now be ranked from best to worst (on an “A+” to “F” scale), based on their answers.

Paul Holland gets an “A” for his answers, which are excellent across the board. Nice job — Holland is definitely one of the top choices for Democrats going to the caucus Sunday to consider voting for, either #1 or #2!

Rip Sullivan also gets an “A” for his answers, which are also excellent across the board, and which also put in in the top 2 candidates I believe Democrats should seriously consider Sunday! I particularly like his pledge ” to NEVER accept any campaign contributions from Dominion Power” and his thoughts on how to help elect Democrats around the state and build a Democratic and progressive House majority. I’m also impressed that he called out Governor McAuliffe for his wrong-headed support for offshore drilling and Tim Kaine for his “biggest mistake” – signing the estate tax repeal into law. I do disagree with Sullivan that criticizing Bill Howell’s outrageous behavior amounts to getting “caught up in negativity,” or that we’re ever going to get anything done with the likes of these Tea Party crazies. But that’s a minor quibble, more stylistic than anything I think. Other than that, though, Sullivan’s answers are superb.

Yasmine Taeb gets an “A-“ for her answers, which are very strong across the board, with one or two relatively minor exceptions (e.g., on the gas tax, there are most certainly ways to make it less regressive, such as by making the rest of the tax code more progressive, or by subsidizing public transit and/or high-fuel-economy vehicles). Other than that, my only issue with Taeb is that her experience has overwhelmingly been at the national level, albeit on important issues of women’s equality, voting rights, human rights, etc. I guess I’m just wondering why Taeb, given her interests, would want to trek down I-95 to Richmond, into the swamp of Virginia state politics (where Democrats currently have basically zero power in the House of Delegates)…

Atima Omara gets an “A-” for her answers, which are solid across the board. My main concerns about Omara have nothing to do with her answers to the questionnaire, but with people have been telling me over the past few days (I didn’t know anything about Omara before this race and had absolutely no preconceived notions), such as that she’s “not a hard worker” and that she has “no substance.” Is any of that true? Got me, but I keep hearing it from Arlington Democrats who know her well, so I’m not sure what to believe at this point. Also, she ran into a buzzsaw of criticism yesterday after her campaign claimed an endorsement from NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, which that organization quickly made clear they did NOT make. So, while she gets an “A-” for her answers to my questionnaire, there are many questions in my mind about her candidacy.

Andrew Schneider gets a “B” for his answers, which are a mixed bag of (mostly) good, (some) mediocre and (a couple) not-ideal. For instance, I LOVE his clear passion for “expanding the economic pie for all Virginians,” for “reforming our mental health care system and working to ensure that those who need care can get it,” for campaign finance and ethics reform, and for being a “fierce proponent of closing the loophole and other stronger and safer gun laws.” I’m not sure I fully understand where he’s coming from regarding my progressive taxation question. And I’m not thrilled with his answers on the streetcar or about being “open to Republicans serving their community at a local level.” Still, Schneider’s an interesting candidate who would probably do a decent job in Richmond overall.

Dave Boling gets a “D” (and I’m probably being generous) for his answers, for several reasons. First, his background is mostly working for a Congressman from Arkansas, then running for Congress from Arkansas (in 2010). How any of that shows interest in the Virginia House of Delegates is beyond me. Second, his answers on the energy question are truly abysmal. Sorry, but comments like this (“natural gas revolution in the U.S. offers great potential for reducing the cost of energy and boosting U.S. exports. And it offers the prospect that America will become less dependent on the Middle East for energy.”) are just non-starters in my book – simply NOT the way we need to be going! As for exporting natural gas? That would mean more fracking (including in places like the GW National Forest), more methane (a potent greenhouse gas) emissions, and more destruction of our environment. No thanks.

Second, Boling’s opposition to “raising the gas tax and/or instituting a carbon tax (revenue-neutral or otherwise”) is another non-starter. I asked him when I saw him in person to clarify his answer, and he actually dug the hole even greater,  with a comment about how he was for “cap and trade” not a revenue-neutral carbon tax or a gas tax increase. That’s just ridiculous, frankly, especially given recent studies indicating enormous benefits from a revenue-neutral carbon tax, and also the desperate need to fund our crumbling infrastructure through an increase in the dedicated gas tax. Heck, even the corporatist Washington Post editorial board agrees with that one!

Finally, Boling sidesteps his real views on the Columbia Pike streetcar project, which is that he strongly opposes it, even having attended a fundraiser with former U.S. Rep. Tom Davis (R) against the streetcar. I really don’t appreciate the lack of candor and the politician-speak on this one. Just tell us you oppose the project and let the chips fall where they may. Ugh. Bottom line: under absolutely NO circumstances should any environmentalist or transit-oriented development advocate vote for Dave Boling in Sunday’s caucus.

Jacqueline Wilson gets an F for her answers, for several reasons. First, I’m not seeing any particular involvement in Arlington or Virginia politics, grassroots campaigns, etc. I asked a leading Arlington Democrat about Wilson yesterday, and his answer was, verbatim, “Never heard of her before in my life.”

Second, she makes it clear that while she’s socially progressive, on economic and fiscal issues she’s more a “public-private partnerships” type of person. Meh.

Third, her non-answer on the specific bills that “you don’t know what is in a bill until you have read it-all of it” simply tells me she hasn’t been following Virginia politics closely over the past few years, as these are all high-profile bills that have received a great deal of coverage and discussion. I think it’s totally fair to ask our prospective delegate how they would have voted on these bills, and I don’t think it’s cool at all to blow off the question.

As for her answers on mountaintop removal, etc. that they depend on “a cost/benefit analysis,” we’ll just have to agree to disagree, as I believe the costs have already been shown, time and time again, to FAR outweigh any “benefits” of fossil fuels.

I also have no idea how “put[ting] my ideas into the arena and let[ting] them compete” constitutes a plan to help elect Democrats – preferably progressives – across Virginia. And I’m not sure I’m following her answer on ethics reform, that it “is fine, but I will prefer to set my own standards for not accepting gifts.”

Finally, I appreciate honesty, but as a “bleeds Democratic blue” kinda guy, I’m not feeling it on her admission that she’s voted for Republicans, even “campaigned for and voted for Ronald Reagan when I was in college.” Gack.

  • A few highlights were provided to me by the Sullivan campaign of a poll they did last night. The poll was of 4,000 likely Democratic voters in the 48th House of Delegates district (including a bit over 2,000 in Arlington, a bit under 2,000 in Fairfax). Also note that they only polled Paul Holland, Rip Sullivan, Atima Omara, David Boling and “other.”

    *74% of Arlington likely voters are undecided

    *No candidate – even “other” – polled at over 10% in Arlington

    *In Fairfax, about 1/2 are undecided, with clearly more consolidation (that’s what they told me, I’m guessing the “consolidation” would be to Rip Sullivan, since he’s from Fairfax).

    What this all means, IMHO, is that a lot of people are going to show up Sunday undecided, at least on their 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc. choices. So…campaigns had better work their butts off the next 2 days, be outside the caucuses in force to talk to voters, and really work on being voters’ 1st or at least 2nd or 3rd choices by the time they actually vote in 48 hours or so.

  • on Facebook that I’ve supposedly “mischaracterized” his position. That, of course, is complete nonsense, totally not true. Again, the guy is a member of the leading anti-streetcar group in Arlington, even attended a freakin’ fundraiser with Republican Tom Davis against the streetcar.

    As for his Sun Gazette letter on the streetcar, which he cites as some sort of positive thing, in fact it’s a major negative. In it, Boling tries to pretend he holds some sort of “middle ground” on the streetcar, but instead he merely repeats the talking points of the Vihstadt/AST crowd: a) do NOT build the streetcar “for now” (translation: kill it!); b) move ahead with a “pilot” program of “rapid buses,” which for the gazillionth time are NOT POSSIBLE ON COLUMBIA PIKE; and c) then, after all that is done, and the streetcar almost certainly killed, the board (whoever’s on it at that point) should “reassess the situation.” I mean, is that the biggest pile of disingenuous, trying-to-have-it-both-ways, politician-speak-at-its-worst I’ve ever read? Gack!!!

  • LPdem

    Having known David for many years, I can attest to the fact that he is very active in, and committed to, the Arlington community. He has volunteered all over Arlington knocking on doors for Democrats like Tim Kaine, Barack Obama, and Terry McAuliffe.  He and his wife are active members of many community groups, including the Taylor PTA, Arlington Committee of 100, and the Cherrydale Civic Association.  After chatting with him, I truly believe that he is not running for office based on the fact that he has been a candidate before in Arkansas – he’s running because he and his family have made Arlington their home and he wants to serve the people of the 48th.  

  • ferallike

    But then again, I don’t believe I’ve ever disagreed with you going back to 2005 and your posts on Daily Kos and when you were running the Raising Kaine website.

    In spite of being fairly knowledgeable of Northern VA politics, I had no idea Bob Brink had resigned to work for the McAuliffe Admin. (I’ve been heavily involved in a volunteer project with the Capital Area Food Bank.) I didn’t know until I got a call from a phone bank volunteer last evening who asked me who I was supporting for the “forty-eighth.” I occasionally forget that since the 2010 Republican led redistricting/gerrymandering that I’m no longer a constituent of Delegate Jim Scott from VA-53. I was confused by his question and asked, “What forty-eighth? Are you referring to the Virginia State Legislature?” The poor phone bank volunteer was obviously flummoxed and told me to visit Rip Sullivan’s website for answers to my questions. He then gave me Sullivan’s email address instead of his website address.

    I then went on to investigate the nature of this call and the Google brought me right here to Blue Virginia where I got a very complete story of what was going on and how GOP/ALEC Speaker Howell has forced this insane 7- day campaign to caucus for our next delegate from VA-48.  So it doesn’t surprise me 74% of the residents of the 48th in Arlington and half of the residents in McLean have no idea what is going on.

    After reading the candidates’ answers to your questionnaire and reading the candidates’ positions on the issues on the Arlington Democrats website, I’ve decided to order my vote almost identically to your grading in this post. The only thing I would change in the order of grading you presented is that I intend to put Sullivan as my first choice  and Paul Holland as my second for the caucus vote on Sunday as will my husband. From what information I can glean, he has a very diverse background with his appointments to various boards here in NoVa and to us seems the most qualified. Most all of the candidates seem quite accomplished and qualified but Sullivan seems the best out of all. I completely agree with your analysis concerning how the candidates answered your questionnaire.  

    However, with regard to Jacqueline Wilson, I suspect you were possibly exercising grace and restraint concerning your analysis of her answers. I was entirely disgusted by Jacqueline Wilson’s answers for the very reasons you stated and then some. As a “West Virginian once removed” on my mother’s side, the issue of permanently ending Mountain-top removal is very important to me as it is destroying the very beautiful state of West Virginia. Wilson’s answer of using a “cost benefit analysis” to determine whether to justify or cease Mountain-top removal is an absurd statement for anyone representing themselves as a Progressive.  Her answer revealing she was a former Reagan supporter also clearly tells me she is a DINO. Reagan’s treatment of the FAA strike, disparagement of Federal Employees and Unions, blowing up the Federal Debt & Deficit, his false claim of the multitudes of “Cadillac Driving Welfare Queens”, etc. should have caused a former Reagan-Democrat to admit in the context of answering this question as a Dem Candidate, “How blind and naive I was in College to have supported Reagan!”  

    Wilson’s statement, “It is important to remember that the Republican party of today is a very different creature than it was in 1980” shows she does not recognize the long term damage Reagan did to this country and how that damage still affects us now. Reagan begat the mainstream Conservative hatred of the poor and planted the seeds for the current TP/GOP ideology of blaming the poor for their plight as intentionally wanting to live on the Government dole so they can be be lazy and a drain on society. He started the war on Unions and Civil Servants, which drives the Conservative ideology to support Privatization. If one intends to represent the great number of constituents in the 48th who are Federal Employees, one needs to recognize Reagan’s maltreatment of them and how he influenced the Conservative’s current goal to eliminate their jobs as Civil Servants so as to privatize those jobs.  If she can’t see this, then she’s no Democrat. In my humble opinion, giving her an F is too generous. She deserves a Z-.  

    As for the time and energy you’ve spent getting the information out about this Delegate caucus and conducting the questionnaires to help constituents of the 48th decide who to vote for, lowkell, my husband and I are enormously grateful to you. I spent this holiday morning going to my neighbors on my cul-de-sac asking if they are aware of this caucus on Sunday. Not a single one of the 27 Dems on my block of 13 homes knew anything about this! I directed them to Blue Virginia to read the answers to your Candidate questionnaire and to the Arlington Democrats website since this is all we have to make an informed decision on who will represent us as our State Delegate.

    I can’t thank you enough, lowkell! You’ve done the 48th a huge service by stepping up and helping to lessen the impact from Speaker Howell’s attack on the democratic process.

  • truthteller

    Lowell, frankly, having known Atima for years and never having questions about her passion, drive, work ethic, substance or determination, nobody I know has ANY questions about Atima’s work ethic, substance or contributions to Arlington Democrats. She’s been a major force in fundraising for ACDC JJ dinner, a vocal speaker on womens rights and a strong advocate for young  people, getting elected President of Young Democrats of America and a champion for people with disabilities, having a brother with a disability.

    Who are these people in ACDC who are spreading all this innuendo about her? If you wont tell us who is behind these whispers we ought to at least know if they are sitting elected leaders, men or women, younger or older – or have agendas/ endorsements in this race. It is unfortunate when you let whispering campaigns influence  and cloud your own judgment about her.

    Also Atima tells me that the endorsement confusion was because there was confusion as to whether a 100% score on the questionnaire constituted an endorsement. When concerns were raised they corrected it promptly.

  • I am supporting Yasmine Taeb for Delegate and encourage you to learn more about this remarkable woman. Yasmine is a former Capitol Hill staffer and a dedicated Democrat who, as an immigrant, has lived the American dream. She earned citizenship, and was awarded scholarships to help put herself through college and law school and has devoted her life to public service. Yasmine has thoughtfully served the community as a Commissioner on the Arlington County Commission on the Status of Women and on the Human Rights Commission. She has worked to support DREAMers, against racial profiling and to protect victims of human trafficking. Yasmine is committed to expanding Medicaid coverage and human rights in Virginia. She is also a strong supporter of voting rights, public transit and commonsense gun safety legislation. We need more informed and dedicated Democrats like Yasmine Taeb in the General Assembly. You can find out more about her at http://www.yasminetaeb.com.

  • SethM

    I have worked with Yasmine on a variety of projects and I am thrilled that she is running to be my Delegate.

    Yasmine has a tremendous grasp of progressive issues and she has devoted her life to public service.  Lowell points out that much of her experience is at the Federal level, but it is in working on issues like immigration and women’s rights which are also important local issues.  She has also been extremely active in local and regional VA politics working for candidates, lobbying for her issues and bringing many new young activists into the political process.

    Yasmine is active in her Muslim community and has been active in encouraging American Muslims to take a stronger role in local and national politics.  I have attended interfaith events with her and admire her efforts to unify diverse groups behind our common beliefs.

    Yasmine is living the American Dream and I can’t think of a better person to represent our diverse and strongly progressive district.  

    Please join me in supporting Yasmine Taeb for Delegate.

  • amber waves

    1-integrity. I know her personally and she early in her career said no to a lucrative situation that was flawed. It took guts for her to say no in that situation.

    2-She is Persian and Muslim. These large communities are in play between democrats and republicans, progressives and conservatives. electing her will encourage a more general movement in these communities towards progressive politics. The influence of her election should not be under-estimated.


    She is seriously inexperienced and will need alot of time to become an effective legislator.  Luckily arlington has a strong delegation to mentor her….and no influence in the House, and she could be a valuable long term investment.

    She should be in the top 3 of ya’lls ranked balloting.

  • Simon

    I found Jacqueline Wilson’s honesty refreshing and views palatable except for not answering the question about stances on prior bills. She is being harshly criticized for admitting to supporting Republican candidates in the past and for being open to working across the aisle.  County board member Libby Garvey took a stand that many of my Dem friends took as well and endorsed John Vihstadt yet was lambasted for it. Are all these people traitors to their party??  I am passionate about the Democratic Party and identify myself as a liberal, yet am saddened to see such partisan judgments within our own party.  Wilson is thoughtful and honest, though a bit naïve in politics.  She does not have my vote but she does have my support for being a valuable contributor to our party.  She certainly does not deserve an “F”.

  • petrolcide

    She is clueless on several important issues and sounds like a Republican on others. Nobody should legitimize her candidacy by even writing her actual name in the last spot.