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Video of VA-10 Forum Moderated by Billionaire, Possible 2020 Presidential Candidate Tom Steyer; Statement by Alison Friedman Campaign Hits Jennifer Wexton

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Two VA-10 items of interest from yesterday: 1) see below for the NextGen America VA-10 Democratic candidates forum, moderated by billionaire and possible 2020 presidential candidate Tom Steyer; 2) see below that for a press release from the Alison Friedman for Congress campaign, criticizing Jennifer Wexton (who was in Richmond for the Virginia General Assembly’s special session yesterday on the budget and Medicaid expansion) for not attending.

A few comments on the forum. First, I thought the production values were generally strong (except for a glitchy livestream and low volume at times); a slickly produced, lively forum with a lightning round of one-word answers (although some of them were pretty silly, like “Tysons or Fair Oaks Mall?” “Your Starbucks order?”), a raise-your-hands-if-you-agree round (overwhelming agreement among candidates there, although Alison Friedman seemed very uncertain re: the question on tax breaks for large corporations and millionaires), and a unique version of “closing statements” (check out Lindsey Davis Stover reciting the presidents, in order, from George Washington to “the cheeto”) – nice job overall on that. Second, though, I thought it was very strange that Steyer, who is all about climate change and clean energy, didn’t ask any questions about that #1 issue facing humanity during “moderator Q&A.” Weird. There were, however, important questions on health care, racism, student loan debt, immigration/DACA, #MeToo, gun violence, etc.  Third, Steyer DID have time to ask the candidates frivolous things like which Republican Senator they would like to be stuck in an elevator with (who cares?). So overall, decent forum, although I would have preferred it if they had dropped some of the sillier stuff and maybe asked about, I dunno, climate change, the situation in Jerusalem and Gaza, etc.

As for the statement (see below) from the Alison Friedman for Congress campaign hitting Jennifer Wexton, I’d argue that it’s totally fair for any of the candidates to question contributions from other candidates. In this case, the criticism is that Wexton received $1,850 in contributions from “Top Dominion lobbyist Bill Murray” in 2017. Personally, I’d rather that nobody received a penny from Dominion Energy, but sad to say, almost every Democrat in Virginia does – either directly or indirectly. So not sure I’d particularly single out Wexton on this one, but again, I think it’s fair for the Friedman campaign to bring up campaign contributions. As for WHEN Wexton received the contributions, as far as I can determine (including checking with Activate Virginia’s founder Josh Stanfield), those occurred BEFORE she took the Activate Virginia pledge (on February 5, 2018, from what I’m told) not to accept money from Dominion, so that criticism seems pretty weak to me. I’d add that I am not totally clear what is considered corporate money: does it have to be from a “PAC” to be a problem? from an individual who works for a particular corporation? other?

Finally, as for why Wexton wasn’t at Sunday night’s “Our Revolution NOVA” forum or last night’s NextGen forum, Wexton’s campaign says it was because she had to be in Richmond for special session, and that they didn’t know how long it would last (one day? two days?). At the beginning of the Our Revolution NOVA forum, the moderator said that Wexton’s campaign manager told her that “she would not be able to attend tonight because she needs to travel to Richmond because the Senate is meeting tomorrow morning on Medicaid expansion.” The Friedman campaign obviously sees it differently, arguing that Wexton doesn’t want to take questions (or a pledge; a question that was asked at last night’s forum) on things like taking corporate contributions, including from Dominion. Curious what you all think about this one.

Wexton Skips Forums

Hides From Questions About Her Corporate Donations

MCLEAN, VA – State Senator Jennifer Wexton is pulling a page from Congresswoman Barbara Comstock’s playbook, dodging voters by skipping out on planned appearances where she might face tough questions about her ties to corporate donors.

Despite campaigning against corporate PAC money and pledging to refuse contributions from Dominion Energy, campaign finance reports show that Senator Wexton has continued to accept corporate checks into her legislative account during her Congressional campaign, and has accepted federal contributions from a top Dominion lobbyist.

Sunday night, Senator Wexton skipped a forum hosted by Our Revolution on a wide variety of issues, including corporate influence. And now voters learn via tweet from Washington Post reporter Jenna Portnoy that Senator Wexton will not attend a forum Monday evening hosted by NextGen, a group focused on climate change.

“With four weeks left until Election Day, voters are beginning to make their decisions on who will fight for them and their families and Senator Wexton apparently has decided that speaking directly with voters is not worth her time,” Wellesley Daniels, a spokesperson for the campaign, said.

BACKGROUND:
Wexton signed pledge to refuse money from Dominion Energy.[Activate Virginia, 2017]

Dominion Energy has donated $3,500 to Wexton’s State Senate account since 2014. [VPAP]

Top Dominion lobbyist Bill Murray contributed thousands of dollars to Wexton. Murray donated to Wexton’s Congressional campaign on three separate occasions, totalling $1,850, since April of 2017. He gave at least $1,000 to her State Senate account. [FECVPAP]

Comstock Has Received $137,232 From The NRA. [New York Times, 10/4/17]

Washington Post reporter Jenna Portnoy tweets that Wexton will not attend NextGen forum. [Twitter, 5/10/18]