Deciding who to support in the 45th House of Delegates district Democratic primary has been a tough one for me, as there are several strong candidates to choose from. In particular, I had a difficult time deciding not to endorse Julie Jakopic, whose performance at debates has been extremely impressive. I also really like Clarence Tong personally, also believe he’s a strong progressive and environmentalist (although I am troubled by his openness to new natural gas pipelines, which has been a common critique of the enviro group he works for – EDF – as well). As for Mark Levine, he’s super progressive and highly articulate, but I still can’t quite figure out the core rationale for his candidacy for this specific job. And no, Levine is not the only candidate who’s written legislation, nor do I believe that the problem in the Virginia General Assembly is a dearth of lawyers! 😉 Finally, while I like Larry Altenburg personally and agree with him on a great deal, I strongly disagree with him on tax policy and also on the need for the delegate from the deep-“blue” 45th to work hard at electing more Democrats to the House of Delegates (Altenburg does not believe this is the role of the delegate, while I think it’s crucial).
That last point segues nicely into my reasoning for endorsing Craig Fifer for this job. First and foremost, of course, I want a strong progressive and environmentalist in this job, and Fifer certainly is that. Note that Fifer received the highest grade on my 45th House of Delegates district candidate questionnaires, with an “A-” that I’d upgrade to a solid “A” after watching the debates. That put Fifer ahead of Levine (A-/B+), Tong and Jakopic (B+ each), and Altenburg (C+/C). Where I strongly disagree with Jakopic, by the way, is in her view that she “would not characterize Richmond as ‘broken.'” I’d argue it’s completely broken, thanks to no limits on campaign contributions or the activities of lobbyists (e.g., writing legislation) and corporations (e.g., giving huge amounts of money to legislators before whom they have BUSINESS!). On this question, I really liked Fifer’s answer, which was to lengthen the General Assembly session to six months, “raise the salary to an amount that’s not particularly attractive, but would give members a choice about whether to hold a second job,” and get “serious about change” when it comes to reforming Virginia’s “false sense of transparency, since many forms of influence occur in other ways.” I also really liked Fifer’s response in a debate that the main problem in Virginia politics is that “not enough…is a crime,” so that effectively “what we call corruption in Richmond is legal influence peddling.” Bingo!
We can debate the candidates’ resumes, but in the end I’d argue that Fifer has the best, broadest, most relevant experience (on arguably the broadest range of issues) for this specific job. Among other areas, Fifer has worked hands-on in public safety, public works, administration of government, in addition to human services and schools. I’m also impressed that Fifer has been working for many years here in Virginia to strengthen the Democratic Party (e.g., as a CD chair, a YD president, a state vice chair, etc.) and to elect Democrats. In sum, Fifer has a wide range of relavent experience on a wide swath of subjects. That includes, as he has pointed out, writing successful laws in Virginia since the 1990s, on a variety of subjects.
Finally, the most important reason for my decision to endorse Craig Fifer is that, in talking to him and to others who are supporting him, as well as in looking at his record, I am confident that he will use the position of delegate from the 45th district to help: a) raise money for Virginia Democrats; b) elect Democrats all across the state. To me, that’s the “ballgame” in many ways, because as progressive and pro-environment as any of these candidates might be, it’s ultimately not of much help if Democrats only control 32 out of 100 seats in the House of Delegates, despite the fact that every single statewide elected official in Virginia right now is a Democrat. That needs to change, and I believe Craig Fifer – working with people like Del. Alfonso Lopez and others in House Democratic leadership – can help change that (also, see the video above, in which Fifer talks abot his work electing Democrats). Hence, my endorsement of Craig Fifer in next Tuesday’s 45h House of Delegates district Democratic primary.