It’s always great to chat with Rep. Donald McEachin (D-VA-04), who I’ve known and liked since 2006, when he endorsed Jim Webb for U.S. Senate in the Democratic primary that year. At that point, McEachin was in the Virginia House of Delegates, but soon – thanks in part to help from many Webb supporters – he moved up to the State Senate after defeating the Democratic incumbent (who had bizarrely endorsed George Allen over Webb in the general election!), eventually being elected Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus Chair, and then this past November winning election to the U.S. House of Representatives.
I had a chance Friday morning to sit down with him in his office on Capitol Hill for around 45 minutes. We covered a lot of ground in a short period of time, so I’m going to break up this interview into several parts. Today’s segment covers Rep. McEachin’s thoughts on moving from 17 years’ service in the Virginia General Assembly to the U.S. House of Representatives. Enjoy!
First, I asked Rep. McEachin if there was anything he missed about his time in the Virginia General Assembly, where he served for around 17 years. McEachin’s response was that “it’s a more intimate group because it’s a smaller group of people…40 Senators, 100 Delegates, you get an opportunity [in the Virginia General Assembly] if you’re in a particular chamber to know everybody. Here, I’m still meeting Democrats.” I joked that there aren’t that many Democrats in the U.S. House at this point, so there’s a chance to get to know them all, and McEachin responded that “we absolutely need more.” McEachin mused whether, unlike in the Virginia General Assembly (where everybody knows everyone else), he’d ever get to know all the U.S. Representatives, even in the Democratic caucus. On an encouraging note, McEachin related that “[Representative] Don Beyer says it’s doable, at least in your caucus.” I noted that Beyer’s only been there a few years, so that’s encouraging. McEachin responded that that’s true, but Beyer’s also “a very smart guy.”
Back to reminiscing about the Virginia General Assembly, McEachin commented: “the 18 guys and gals I served with in the Democratic Caucus, it’s like being in a foxhole together. Of course you miss them and you wish them the best, period, no question.” Having said that, McEachin added, “make no mistake about it, this [being a U.S. Congressman] is a great job.” McEachin continued: “The fun part is that you see a lot of the same issues, especially when it comes to the environment…but it’s a bigger scale, it’s a global scale. And then you have a whole other layer of issues dealing with things that are impactful to other states as well as global issues…”
One difference between Congress and the Virginia legislature, McEachin pointed out, perhaps a bit tongue-in-cheek, is that there’s “no Dillon rule” at the federal level. More seriously, McEachin explained:
As I think about it, the month we’ve been here, pretty much all the issues we deal with at the state level are dealt with here in some form or fashion. I mean, for instance education, we won’t do the deep dive we do at the state level, but there’s still issues dealing with testing…dealing with funding. So again, a lot of the domestic issues a legislator from Virginia would have seen before, just a different emphasis.
So, I asked if being a Virginia legislator was good preparation for the U.S. Congress, and McEachin said “right.” [I then joked about how Del. “Sideshow Bob” Marshall should be ready to serve in Congress, which actually isn’t a total joke, as Marshall almost defeated Jim Gilmore in May 2008 for the Virginia GOP nomination for U.S. Senate that year] Finally, on this topic, McEachin agreed that a lot of what Congress does impacts Virginia in various ways – economically, the “Muslim ban,” etc.
Next installment: Donald Trump, and whether Dems should cooperate with him, oppose him on everything, work to convince Republicans to join us in opposition (at least on specific issues), etc…