I’ve been trying to keep my eye on all the Virginia Congressional District Democratic nomination contests, and there’s a ton going on – lots of excellent Democratic candidates, a great deal of energy and enthusiasm to replace Republicans, etc. All of that’s encouraging to see in these otherwise dark times for our country.
I’m particularly impressed to see this Democratic enthusiasm and energy spreading even into relatively “red” districts. For instance, VA-01 is a tough district by almost any metric, with Ralph Northam losing to Ed Gillespie there by around 10 points (54.2%-44.6%). Which means that for Democrats to knock of incumbent Rep. Rob Wittman (R) and his nearly $1 million war chest this November, we’re going to need at least two things: 1) a very strong Democratic “wave” election; and 2) an appealing Democratic candidate running a strong/effective campaign. Even so, it will be tough; the Crosstab blog gives Democrats a 23% chance in VA-01.
Still, 23% is a lot higher than zero, which means that Democrats definitely have a shot here, especially if Trump stays unpopular and if Democrats stay motivated into the fall. The other part is having a strong Democratic nominee to face Rep. Wittman, and after watching the candidates in forums/debates, looking at their financial reports, websites, social media fees, etc. – and following the withdrawal from the race of Prince William County School Board Chair Ryan Sawyers, who had been endorsed by Tom Perriello – I’ve decided on my pick for the VA-01 Democratic nomination: Edwin Santana.
Let me emphasize that my support for Edwin Santana is not about the other Democratic candidates (John Suddarth and Vangie Williams) being bad, but about my really liking Santana (the candidate, not the musician, although I like him too – lol). With that, here are the top 10 things I like about Edwin Santana and his campaign.
- He’s a “Millennial,” which I find appealing, especially after watching the youthful leadership from the young people in Florida the past few weeks. In general, my attitude is that all else being equal, let’s get more diversity into the U.S. Congress, and having more young people should most certainly be a part of that diversity.
- He’s a U.S. Marine who served as a Ground Supply Officer, which to me is a plus as well; more members of the military in Congress, especially when we have the ultimate “chickenhawk”/draft dodger as president, can only be a good thing, especially when we’re facing a dangerous situation on the Korean peninsula, as well as challenges to our national security around the world.
- He’s Latino, which is a demographic we also need a lot more of in Congress. Currently, Latinos make up 8.4% of Congress, “an all-time high but still falls far short of the general population, where about 57 million Hispanic people make up 17 percent of the country as the nation’s largest minority group.” That needs to change, big time, and electing Edwin Santana would be a step in that direction.
- He’s a strong progressive. Check out the issues section of his website (or watch him in any of the numerous VA-01 forums/debates that have been held so far) and I think you’ve be very impressed with his detailed, progressive positions on preventing gun violence (I love all of this, including “[r]equire training and certification for any citizen to own or operate a firearm”); healthcare (“Allow every American to buy in to Medicare as a public option to compete with private health insurers and lower insurance premiums for all of us,” Single Payer is the Only Answer); immigration (he supports comprehensive immigration reform, including “a pathway to citizenship for immigrants who have been making positive contributions to our communities”); LGBTQ rights (he rejects “any kind of discrimination or mistreatment of the LGBTQ community in our schools, businesses and communities”); reproductive freedom (“In Congress I will fight to ensure that women have the right to choose without governmental interference”); the economy (“Raise the minimum wage to at least $15 an hour and index it to inflation so everyone who works can afford to feed their families,” “Create good-paying jobs by investing in infrastructure, new energy and technology”); and education (“Help people go to college by making community colleges or the first two years at public universities free and by reducing student debt by allowing students to refinance their college loans for better interest rates”). Great stuff!
- He’s a strong environmentalist who pledges to “take strong action to combat global climate change and protect our environment,” “[f]ight for vital investment in wind and solar power to lessen our dependence on fossil fuels that damage our environment” and “[s]upport legislation to bring back President Obama’s regulations to combat pollution from coal and transition coal jobs to the production of clean energy.”
- He’s a strong opponent of racism who gets what’s at stake. After the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, for instance, Santana said that “Donald Trump used the burgeoning racist, white supremacist movement as a vehicle to carry him to the presidency” and that “[t]he confederate flag, statues of confederate generals, and people marching at night with torches, reminiscent of klan rally, represent hatred, racism, and most importantly white supremacy,” all of which he rejects “outright.”
- He is not timid about ripping Donald Trump for the horrible president (and person) he is — something that is absolutely crucial for Democratic candidates to be doing this campaign (note: if you’re not willing to do that, let alone if you use generic/b.s. phrases like “Washington is broken,” “Congress is broken” or “both sides are at fault,” I’m not interested in supporting you). For instance, after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico and Trump’s response was pathetic at best, Santana stated, “As much as I try to give President Trump the benefit of the doubt when it comes to our sub-standard response in Puerto Rico, it is difficult to ignore the transparency of his actions, or lack thereof…We are provided with almost weekly reminders that we elected a feckless, ignorant, bigoted, and wholly unfit man into the most important office in this country.”
- Having watched him in numerous Democratic forums and Facebook townhalls, plus speaking with him at length in person, I am impressed with the way Santana carries himself and expresses his views – firmly and clearly, but also respectfully, in a way that is not strident, arrogant, condescending or offputting in any way. That’s exactly the type of person we need in Congress.
- Again, having watched him for months now, I like the way his mind works – logical, rational, but also passionate and COMpassionate. Again, that’s exactly the type of person we need in Congress.
- Socioeconomically, Santana has a strong blue collar background, growing up “very poor” in a remote, rural town in Maine, joining the Marines and serving his country, and now working as an operational logistics analyst supporting various federal/military projects. Again, this is the type of diversity we need in Congress, where for the most part, it’s a bunch of wealthy, relatively old lawyers and business people.
In sum: we have three good people running for the Democratic nomination in VA-01, but for my part, I’m going to be enthusiastically supporting Edwin Santana.
P.S. I could easily have thrown in #11, which would be that I’m highly impressed with Santana’s campaign manager, Ayodele Okeowo, more than the vast majority of campaign managers I come across (and no, that’s not a backhanded compliment in any way). His latest Facebook post illustrates what I’m talking about: “Happy Black History Month and Happy Birthday to Marian Anderson, one of the best American contraltos (women with lower singing voices) of all time. She was the first Black singer to perform at the White House and the first African American to sing with New York’s Metropolitan Opera.”