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Video: Del. Toscano on Rising Stars in the House of Delegates, Political Aftermath of the Northam/Fairfax/Herring Situations, ERA, Climate Change, Confederate Statues, etc.

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Del. Toscano (D-Cville), who of course was the Virginia House Dems’ leader for many years before he stepped down in December 2018, was on I Love Cville for over an hour (12:30-1:40 pm) a bit earlier today. Toscano had a bunch of interesting things to say on a wide range of topics, including responses to a couple questions from yours truly. See below the video for highlights…

  • Toscano said the most consequential vote he took in his entire career – seven terms and seven years as Democratic leader – was to expand Medicaid to 400,000 Virginians: “When you talk about making a difference, and you push that button and it says green and 400,000 people’s lives are changed, THAT’s where you’re really making an impact.”
  • Toscano raved about how the House Democratic Caucus is so diverse, with a large percentage of women, African Americans, Latinos…”we have embraced the diversity.”
  • Asked whether he’d ever run for governor, Del. Toscano said: “The governor of Virginia is one of the best jobs in the world, you can have an impact on people’s lives like nobody’s business, BUT it also takes two years of your life to get there…I think it would be very difficult for me; I’d love to be in that position, but to run statewide and raise the money…probably $40 million to run for governor these days.” In other words, nope, not going to do it. Plus, as he mentioned earlier in the interview, he’s writing a book.
  • Del. Toscano said “there’s too much money in politics and I think people are becoming jaded by that fact,” and for that reason there needs to be a limit on how much a donor can give.
  • I put in a question on who Del. Toscano sees as rising stars in the House Democratic caucus and who’s going to fill the huge vacuum left by his departure. Toscano’s response: “The good news is we have a lot of really good people. The person who succeeded me, Eileen Filler-Corn, is a wonderful leader and she’s doing a great job. But you’ve got a lot of younger people; Marcus Simon is our parliamentarian, he’s learning the rules like nobody’s business, and you really have to know the rules on the House floor…You’ve got Marcus, you’ve got Jennifer Carroll Foy, who led the fight on ERA...You’ve got them all over the place, they’re young, they’re learning the ropes, and when they learn those ropes they’re not going to be stopped.”
  • Toscano talked about how disappointing it was that the ERA wasn’t ratified this year, said “we pulled every single trick out of our bag of tricks to get it passed,” but House Republican leadership “shut us down.” But, Toscano vowed, this is “going to be back.” He praised the citizens lobbying effort’s “great job” on this.
  • I asked about the events of February – the “late-term abortion” bill, the Northam, Fairfax and Herring scandals – and how they’ve impacted Democrats’ chances of taking back the House of Delegates this November. Toscano’s response: “It was my view that prior to the events, that the Democrats were in a position to take not just the House of Delegates but the Senate as well. There were several reasons for that, one is the Trump factor. But secondly, the redistricting case looks like it’s going to be resolved in favor of the Democrats, which means that a lot of districts that were racially gerrymandered around Richmond and around the Hampton Roads area [would be winnable for Dems]…so I thought the Democrats would be able to win and take the majority. Now…the Northam stuff has interjected some complexities in that, because there are members of the Democratic constituency that are split apart by this. There are some African American members who may not want to come out and vote for Democrats this time. And you’ve got the Justin Fairfax situation with women, setting up a fissure between women and African Americans. It creates complexity. But I still think Democrats have a good chance, because generally speaking these House races are often decided on local issues…”
  • Toscano said that social media has impacted the political game in a “huge” way. Toscano: “Everything happens too quickly…Take Northam for example, maybe we should have slept on that issue overnight to see what happened the next day…In the old days, people would have slept on it…Everything happens so quickly now, and once it gets out, it’s hard to get back, that stuff is there forever…If you put too much out there, it comes back to haunt you, but you can’t get around it now, it’s there…Look at the way Trump uses [social media]…is it real?”
  • Toscano said that climate change (“what the planet is going to look like”) is one of his two biggest worries about the future (the other being education). According to Toscano, we’re not paying enough attention to climate change and “we’ve got too many deniers out there,” which is “crazy.” “If we don’t have a climate that can survive, it’s going to be chaos.” How do people not believe in climate change? “They don’t believe in science, which is the weirdest thing in the world…[and] they are captured by their own political interest groups.”
  • On Confederate monuments, Toscano said people’s views have changed in the last couple years (particularly after the white supremacist march in Cville). “After August [2017], everything changed, because at that point, the white supremacists had made the argument to take down the statues – now they were THEIR statues…”