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A Checklist for Progressives in “Blue” Districts


Recently, two Democratic State Senators from the “bluest” part of Virginia – Arlington and Alexandria, mostly, as well as Falls Church and parts of eastern Fairfax County – announced their retirements after many years of service. Those two Democratic icons are Mary Margaret Whipple (D-31st) and Patricia “Patsy” Ticer (D-30th), and their retirements, after nearly 16 years in office, open up the potential floodgates for anyone and everyone to throw their hats in the ring to succeed them. Basically, if you live in Arlington, Alexandria, or Falls Church and you’ve ever though about being in the Virginia State Senate, now’s your chance!

Already, several candidates have announced or are expected to announce shortly for the two seats. In the 30th Senate District, the three candidates are Arlington County School Board member Libby Garvey, Alexandria City Council member Rob Krupicka, and Del. Adam Ebbin (D-49th). In the 31st State Senate District, possibilities include Arlington County Board members Jay Fisette and Barbara Favola, former Lieutenant Governor candidate Mike Signer, Del. Bob Brink (D-48th), Del. Patrick Hope (D-47th), blogger Ben Tribbett, and god knows who else.

Then there’s the domino effect, as delegates running for State Senate lead to races for their seats. So far, likely candidates for Adam Ebbin’s seat appear to be Alfonso Lopez, Assistant Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration; Jaime Areizaga-Soto, Senior Attorney Advisor to the Office of the General Counsel at the United States Agency for International Development; and Stephanie Dix Clifford of the Podesta Group. There also are numerous potential candidates to replace either Del. Patrick Hope or Del. Bob Brink, if they choose to run for Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple’s seat. In other words, things could be rather hectic in the deep “blue” parts of NOVA in coming months.

With all these possible races coming up, I thought that a checklist of general criteria for progressives, in considering who they might support, would be helpful. Here’s what I came up with.

1. Just as Republicans expect strong conservatives to be elected from solid “red” districts, Democrats should settle for nothing less than strong progressives from these solid “blue” districts. That’s a no-brainer, frankly, given that Democrats are 99% certain to hold these seats.

2. Criterion #1 means not only that the candidate(s) are rock-solid on everything progressives care about (note: past voting records, as well as other indications of where they stand on issues, are totally relevant), but they are passionate advocates for everything from environmental protection to clean energy to gay rights to women’s reproductive freedom to civil liberties to progressive taxation to workers’ rights to civil rights (e.g., restoring ex-felons’ rights to vote) to…you name it.  Frankly, there’s no reason to compromise on any of these things in deep-blue districts like Arlington and Alexandria, so why should we. Again, though, we don’t just want candidates who agree with these positions, we want candidates who intend to fight hard for these positions. No “bumps on a log” or wallflowers or people using this as a stepping stone or career capstone. No thanks.

3. Needless to say, we should demand people who have the utmost integrity. We should also demand people who are running for the “right” reasons – a belief in progressive values, a desire to make a difference, the passion and energy and commitment to do so.

4. We should support candidates who are in touch with, are responsive to, and understand the “grassroots” – online, offline, and hybrid “netroots” Democratic activists. In 2005, for instance, one of the things that caused me to endorse David Englin for House of Delegates was his strong, impressive, grassroots/netroots campaign. I’m looking for the same thing in all of these races, and I believe the rest of us should as well.

4a. Looking at it the other way around – and this one may fall into the “all else being equal category – we should tend to be less supportive of candidates who have mainly been part of an insular clique or “club,” who have mainly been “top down” insider types, etc. Personally, I’m looking at who a candidate have endorsed in the past (e.g., Webb or Miller in 2006?), whether I’ve ever seen them actively volunteering for progressive causes and/or on the blogs, what their attitude is towards progressive activists (warmth? hostility? frostiness?) in determining my level of support (or opposition) to that candidates.

5. Finally, I believe we should be looking for people who want to shake things up a bit (or more than a bit) in Richmond, who might have a bit of a rebellious streak in them, and who won’t just meekly go along with whatever “leadership” – or powerful interest groups, lobbyists, corporations, etc. – tells them to do.

UPDATE: 6. Progressives should support the best candidate, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc. In the end, I believe that diversity’s important in its own right, but I’m also a Martin Luther King person in the sense that I strongly believe people should be judged on the “content of their character,” not on their color/religion/orientation/gender/etc.

Anyway, that’s my short checklist for criteria I think we should be looking at in considering candidates for “bluer-than-blue” districts like those being vacated by Senators Ticer and Whipple. What would you add? Subtract? Change? Thanks.


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