From the Raising Kaine archives…
Published On: 8/20/2006 6:49:34 AM
Yesterday evening, I attended the Fiesta Politica in Arlington, hosted by County Board member Walter Tejada and attended by 100+ people, including special guest, Governor Tim Kaine. In addition to Gov. Kaine, others at the event included Congressman Jim Moran, State Senator Mary Margaret Whipple, Del. Al Eisenberg, Del. Bob Brink, Arlington County Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman, School Board members Mary Hynes and Libby Garvey, Arlington County Democratic Committee chair Peter Rousellot, and the omnipresent Jim Hurysz, running for his usual 3% as a Congressional candidate and entertaining the other 97% along the way!
Prior to the Fiestat and Tim Kaine’s speech, I attended a 2-hour workshop on Latino political participation, sponsored by the Democratic Latino Organization of Virginia (DLOV). The panel was ably led by Alfonso Lopez, who Tim Kaine later called “the coolest guy in Arlington.” Ha. The three other panel members were Federico de Jesus (director of Hispanic communications at the Senate Democratic Communications Center), Bryan Spoon (Rep. Moran’s campaign manager), and Del. Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond/Henrico County). The panel discussed issues of concern to Latinos, particularly state and federal legislation aimed at reforming immigration laws.
The strong consensus of the panel was that the Republican Party of Virginia, including people like Del. John Reid (R-72) and Del. Jeff Frederick (R-52), were attempting to “make Virginia the most hostile state in the union for so-called ‘illegal immigrants’.”
Overall, the attitude of Republicans in the Virginia House of Delegates was described as “you can clean our hotels and do our yardwork but you can’t further your education to get a white collar job” in Virginia. In addition, the panel asked the question, “why don’t Republicans in Virginia ‘get it’ on Latino issues,” with Arlington County school board candidate Sally Baird stressing the need to “connect the issue to people it doesn’t directly touch” and to “put a human face” on it. [By the way, someone made the point that Jeff Frederick was the “only Latino member of the General Assembly, but he doesn’t act like one.”]
In contrast, the Virginia Democratic Party and some members of the Virginia Republican Party – particularly a number of State Senators – were seen as being relatively enlightened on Latino issues. The story was related of how State Sen. Emmett Hanger, Jr. (R-Augusta County) amended his own harsh anti-immigrant bill due in part to his son+óGé¼Gäós fiancee being an immigrant from the Philippines. In the end, Hanger’s bill provided “an exception for students who, as the children of illegal immigrants, have resided in Virginia for three years, graduated from high school, paid income tax or make too little money to qualify, and possess an affidavit showing their intent to file for United States citizenship.”
Hanger’s amendment was seen as a positive sign of what can happen when even the harshest “conservative” Republicans start to understand Latino issues in human terms. Still, the general consensus of the panel was that, sadly, “racism is alive and well and prospering in Virginia,” as George Allen’s hateful “macaca” comments demonstrated last week.
On the Federal level, there was discussion of the ultra-harsh Republican House immigration bill, which was denounced as “racist” and also as “trying to use the racist card to win votes” this November. The solution to bills like this was seen as a Democratic takeover in the House of Representatives this November. The bottom line view was the “Democrats stand with Latinos,” and “Republicans don’t.” Period.
After the panel, the “fiesta” part began, with dancing, music, food, drink, and more politics. Walter Tejada spoke of the need for “fair, comprehensive immigration reform,” as well as “the positive contributions of day labor centers.” He introduced Gov. Tim Kaine as “a friend in the governor’s office.”
Governor Kaine, speaking mainly in English but switching into Spanish occasionally, joked that “Walter Tejada puts the party in Democratic Party.” Kaine also noted that, while politics is serious business, it can also be “fun.” Kaine stressed the need for “optimistic, energetic leadership” in order to “make things better.”
Kaine then turned his focus to George Allen, and specifically his racist “macaca” comments of last week. Kaine received a huge round of applause and cheers – he had to stop his speech for about 30 seconds or so – when he referenced the diverse Arlington crowd and declared, forcefully, “THIS is the real Virginia.”
After the cheering stopped, Kaine emphasized that it was Virginians who wrote equality and freedom of religion into the US Constitution. Specifically referring to the “incident with Senator Allen,” Kaine sarcastically noted that “if Pocahontas had not shown hospitality to new Americans, we wouldn’t even BE here!” Kaine declared the need for Virginia t be “open, welcoming, inclusive” – in stark contrast to George Allen’s vision of Virginia – and added, “THAT is the real Virginia that I’m proud about!”
On other issues, Kaine listed his accomplishments during his first 7 months in office. In particular, Kaine noted “the biggest investment in history in the Chesapeake Bay,” an increase in teachers’ salaries, funding for higher eduation, and aid to small businesses in order that they can buy health care for their employees. Overall, Kaine said that he will continue his approach to “bringing people together, not dividing them” – again, a not-so-subtle jab at Allen.
On transportation, Kaine was feisty, declaring that “we’re going to really battle” and that, although he’s “a lover not a fighter,” he doesn’t “shy away from a fight.” Based on these comments, I think it’s fair to say that we should have an interesting, entertaining special session on transportation this September!
Kaine concluded by stressing the diversity of his Administration, once again taking a swip at George Allen by stressing that “we are building a team that is about the ‘real’ Virginia” – diverse. Kaine also declared that “we are on a roll as a Democratic Party,” that people are “responding to our message of inclusion, and rejecting [the Republicans’] message of division.” In addition, people are realizing that the Democrats are the people who “get things done,” while the Republicans tell you “what you can’t do.” Kaine felt confident that Democrats would make gains both this November, as well as next November in the General Assembly election. I sure hope he’s right!