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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]

  • A_Siegel

    1. Worth noting that actual discussion doesn’t start until 11 minutes into the video.
    2. Astounding — in a very negative way — that there wasn’t any serious discussion of climate, clean energy, Virginia pipelines, … Does Tom Steyer and Next Gen America think that these are issues that young voters have no concerns about? In Steyer’s opening, re “fun and productive”, he doesn’t mention one. The Virginia head (Carter Black), in her comments, mentions a survey — and climate/energy/pipelines aren’t among the ‘example’ issues that she mentions.
    — NOTE that the candidates did mention this, much more directly. For example, Alison Friedman’s opening words in her self-introduction were directly on climate change.
    3. The Friedman campaign’s attack on Wexton is off-putting:
    – Wexton was in Richmond for the special session — which had minor little issues on the table/in debate/being fought for like the budget and healthcare for 100,000s of fellow Virginians.
    – While, certainly, Wexton might have had an ability to make these events — it would have locked her into very long days (back/forth to Richmond) and potentially constrained ability to engage directly in her responsibilities as an elected Senator.
    – Really hard to see how Wexton has hidden. There have been dozens of forums and debates over the past year in VA10. From what I can tell, Wexton has been at over 20 of these.
    Considering the above, it is pretty outrageous to equate Wexton’s non-participation in two forums (that had real/quite high potential conflicts with Senate responsibilities/meetings) with Barbara Comstock’s systematic refusal to have open, serious meetings/discussions with VA10 voters that do not necessarily already agree with/support her.
    4. As to donations, there is a split here.
    – It appears that Wexton’s Dominion contributions were all prior to her February signing of the pledge. (I’ve tried searching the databases a bit and don’t see any glaring examples of violations — honestly, this can be hard to track as many don’t list employers, many are donating from law firms (thus, who are their clients), etc … but nothing jumps out.) Thus, to attack her as appearing to violate a February 2018 pledge with contributions from 2017 and earlier seems unreasonable.
    – To challenge whether having, over time, taken Dominion contributions led Wexton to take positions counter the interests of citizens, rate payers, and the paths to a cleaner Virginia economy is a different discussion. I — along with other voters — am open to hearing a case made that this is what happened. To date, I have not seen that case made.

    • A_Siegel

      Dan Helmer is also challenging Wexton re contributions — calling on her to commit to take no corporate PAC money. See press release below.

      =========
      Dan Helmer calls on State Senator Wexton to take the No Corporate
      PAC Money Pledge

      For immediate release

      May 11, 2018

      Sterling, VA – Today, Dan Helmer, a Congressional candidate in Virginia’s
      10th District, called on one of his Democratic primary opponents, State
      Senator Wexton, to refuse all corporate PAC money in the future.

      In a video released on social media, Helmer said, “Back in January, I made
      a public pledge never to take corporate PAC money, because our
      campaign is about putting people above politics. Other candidates, who
      also understand that beating Barbara Comstock in November requires the
      ability to paint a stark contrast with her record of serving special interests,
      have joined me in this pledge – but State Senator Wexton unfortunately
      has not. Today, I’m calling on State Senator Wexton to make a pledge to
      never again – in this campaign or any other – take corporate PAC money.”
      Through the course of her political career, State Senator Wexton has taken
      tens of thousands of dollars from corporate PACs, including from Dominion
      and other fossil fuel companies, and Altria (the maker of Marlboro
      cigarettes). She has taken a pledge this campaign cycle not to take
      Dominion money, but has still received Congressional campaign
      contributions from a Dominion lobbyist.

      Dan Helmer is combat veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and is
      now running to represent Virginia’s 10th Congressional district. Dan has
      dedicated his life to serving our great country, one that welcomed his
      family as immigrants and Holocaust survivors, because he believes the
      American Dream belongs to all of us and will stand up for progressive
      values to ensure all Americans have the ability to achieve it.

      ====

      Helmer video: https://business.facebook.com/HelmerVA10/videos/1957253884345705/

      • notjohnsmosby

        So after a year of taking PAC money, once his fundraising starts to dry up, he decides PAC money is bad and is now challenging Wexton? Losers complain about PAC money because they don’t get any of it.

        I’ll be happy when Wexton crushes this thing in four weeks and we don’t have to deal with the other five anymore.

        • Charming as always by notjohnsmosby. In fact, we have six impressive candidates in VA-10, any one of which would be infinitely better than Barbara Comstock. May the best Democrat win!

  • Harry

    So Friedman attacks Wexton for attending the Special Session of the GA where so much is on the line. There is something seriously wrong with Friedman, this is a good reason why everyone should steer clear of her.

  • True Blue

    Likening Wexton’s missing a forum for work in Richmond to Comstock’s dodging voters is a stretch. Are candidates now reduced to short-shrifting some issues in favor of those that make headlines? Medicaid expansion has been on the forefront all of last year (and longer), resulting in house seats flipped to blue. When we have 20-20 or 19-21 splits in the senate, elected officials cannot afford to miss special sessions.

    Remember 2013, when one state senator attended Obama’s inauguration and the GOP pulled a dirty trick by forcing an unexpected vote on re-districting?
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/va-politics/va-republicans-move-on-redistricting-draws-criticism/2013/01/22/f7645ee8-64b9-11e2-9e1b-07db1d2ccd5b_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.65bdf62ff932

    Wexton is doing her job, thankfully, and we all know who is NOT responsive to constituents – Comstock. I enjoy seeing Comstock squirm when facing citizens outside of ribbon-cutting photo-ops; the queen of oppo research hires “trackers” but can’t handle the heat when she’s asked important questions on the streets!