This morning, I attended a Town Hall Meeting with my state representatives, including Dick Saslaw, the Senator that redistricting stuck me with. Saslaw is a smart and knowledgeable guy, but as he made clear today, he is definitely NOT a progressive.
When asked what Democrats will do to advance renewable energy and energy efficiency in the Commonwealth, Saslaw went off on a tangent, reeling off a series of Republican/Fossil Fuel Lobby points, including:
– States with strong renewables policies aren’t doing any better on the issue than Virginia. (Patently false: here’s a list of states that have made great progress on solar energy due to their policies, and a report on how they did it.)
– Virginia is the “Saudi Arabia of Coal”. (Yet being America’s “Saudi Arabia of Oil” has not stopped Texas from becoming the nation’s leader on wind power. Which means that Rick Perry is more progressive and forward-thinking on this issue than Virginia — and Dick Saslaw.)
– There are many barriers to establishing renewable energy in the Commonwealth, including cost, economics and NIMBYism. (Yes, we know that. There were even more barriers to sending a man to the moon, and the process of overcoming those barriers launched the Computer Revolution. Countries like China and Germany, and states like California, Colorado and New Jersey are showing the courage to overcome these barriers to gain a leg up on the clean energy industries of the future. When did the state that was the cradle of the American Revolution lose the nerve to tackle the great challenges of our time?)
– Energy efficiency and conservation are best left to the marketplace to solve. (Wrong again. California instituted an energy code back in the 70s that has allowed state per capita electricity use levels to remain basically flat while the rest of the nation’s per capita use increased by 50%. Virginia, meanwhile, remains grounded in the bottom tier of states, ranked 34th on efficiency policies.)
Through all of this, Senator Saslaw convinced me of one thing — that it’s time for him to go. And it’s not just energy policy — Saslaw has been a conservative voice on issues ranging from former convicts’ voting rights to money in politics. I also put a premium on politicians who are nice, down to earth people, and Saslaw in that sense presents a stark contrast with my Delegate, Kaye Kory, who is always a pleasure to deal with. At today’s forum, Saslaw hogged the microphone and grouchily refused to let his fellow Democrat officials, including Gerry Connolly, interrupt his lectures.
Progressives have made much progress in recent years through the strategic approach of tolerating centrist Democrats in conservative districts but not in progressive districts where there is frankly no reason to do so. Senator Saslaw is simply a bad match for the 35th district, which includes parts of Falls Church, Fairfax County and Alexandria, not known as right wing, good ol’ boy areas.
Here is a map of the district. If you are a progressive in this district interested in serving your state, please start considering a primary challenge to Senator Saslaw. He will make a great lobbyist for Dominion someday, but in the meantime, I want a Senator who represents my values.