This past Saturday, I listed my 8 criteria for choosing the Democratic nominee in the 8th CD race. How do these criteria apply to specific candidates? I started with former Virginia Lt. Governor Don Beyer, continued with Del. Mark Sickles, Del. Charniele Herring, Bruce Shuttleworth and Lavern Chatman. I now turn to Del. Alfonso Lopez.
1. The next Representative from the 8th CD should be a strong, rock-solid progressive.
Alfonso Lopez has a long track record, including service as Deputy Policy Director for Governor-Elect Tim Kaine’s Transition Team; director of Gov. Kaine’s Virginia Liaison Office in Washington, DC; director of Congressional and Federal Affairs for the Commonwealth of Virginia; a member of the Democratic National Committee since 2009; and a member of the Virginia House of Delegates (representing parts of Alexandria and Arlington) since 2012. Here are a few of Alfonso Lopez’s Project Vote Smart ratings:
*100% from NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia
*83% from the Virginia Chamber of Commerce
*100% from Equality Virginia
*100% from the Virginia League of Conservation Voters
*0% from the NRA
*5% from the right-wingnut Family Foundation of Virginia
Also worth noting: in 2013, Del. Lopez was endorsed for reelection by the Virginia LCV and Sierra Club; Equality Virginia and LGBT Democrats of Virginia; the Democratic Latino Organization of Virginia; NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, Planned Parenthood and the Virginia National Organization for Women; the Virginia AFL-CIO; the Virginia Education Association; the Virginia Association of Realtors; the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce and the Northern Virginia Technology Council.
In terms of his voting record, Lopez has (like Del. Charniele Herring and many other Democrats) tended to vote for “tough-on-crime” (translation: more focused on punishment than on rehabilitation and use of discretion) types of bills. Other than that, Lopez’s voting record has been strongly progressive as far as I can determine. Among other subjects, Lopez has been passionate about immigration issues, voting rights, protecting the environment, curbing gun violence, promoting “green buildings” and clean energy, etc. All great stuff we could certainly use in Congress.
2. I want to see a tenacious, indefatigable FIGHTER for progressive values.
My main question with Alfonso Lopez is whether, as Congressman, we’d get more of the progressive and environmental champion we’ve seen the past couple years as a delegate, or more of the guy who tirelessly defended (and promoted) Kaine administration initiatives – including several (e.g., the non-tunnel Metrorail option in Tysons Corner, Kaine’s inexcusable repeal of the estate tax, “abuser fees”) which progressives like me strongly disagreed with – when he was working for Gov. Kaine. If we get the former, then Lopez could make a superb Congressman. If we get the latter, then…I’m not as sure. Having said that, my feeling is that we’d get more of the former than the latter if Lopez were elected to Congress, if for no other reason that that his “boss” at that point would be the (generally progressive, pro-environment) voters of the 8th CD, and his goal would be to make them happy so that he got reelected.
3. We need a Representative who will fight for the 8th CD.
I have a great deal of confidence that a Congressman Alfonso Lopez would fight for federal workers and generally for the interests of the 8th CD.
4. We’re going to be losing some big-time seniority and need to build it back up.
Alfonso Lopez is young (43) and would have plenty of time to build up seniority in Congress. From talking to him, I also think he’d absolutely love being in Congress and would want to stay there for many, many years.
5. We want, need, and deserve a Representative who has the highest ethical standards and who makes us proud every day.
To my knowledge, Alfonso Lopez maintains high ethical standards and has nothing in his background that would embarrass the 8th CD (as the current Congressman has done repeatedly, despite his many strengths).
6. A superb, impressive track record of accomplishment over the years.
I listed highlights from Alfonso Lopez’s impressive resume in item #1, above. Clearly, he’s got a strong track record of accomplishment.
7. Obviously, we want someone who will do a great job on “constituent services.”
Given the tremendous passion and energy Alfonso Lopez brings to the job of delegate, I have no doubt he’d provide excellent constituent services as the 8th CD’s U.S. Representative.
8. I want to see a “heavyweight” in this job — someone who is a serious policy wonk, someone who really loves diving into the weeds of legislation, someone who can go toe-to-toe with Republicans and Tea Partiers (and conservative and/or corporate Democrats for that matter) in the battle of ideas.
I see Alfonso Lopez as more of a “work across the aisle”/”look for common ground” type of person, one who likes to work out compromises and get results, then as someone who lives for going at it with Teapublicans. As for being a policy wonk, Lopez’s experience indicates that he loves diving into the weeds of this stuff — not necessarily from a “policy wonk” perspective, but from a “figure out how to make legislative ‘sausage'” point of view. Which, after all, is what’s supposed to be happening under that big white dome on Capitol Hill.
Overall: Alfonso Lopez has a lot going for him, including a strong progressive record as a member of the House of Delegates. No question, he is a very serious candidate for this job. The only real doubts I’ve got are based on the (at times intense) differences we had during the Kaine administration over policy. The bottom line? I’m giving Lopez an A- grade; not perfect (who is?), but very strong.