by John Suddarth, Hanover County, 2018 CD1 Democratic Primary Candidate
The Democratic Party of Virginia has once again offered up a slate of outstanding gubernatorial candidates, each of whom would be better than any of the nutjobs, extremists, and Trumpsters vying for the GOP nomination. The difficult choice facing Democrats in the June 8th primary is which of our candidates would best continue Virginia’s significant progress in becoming a better, fairer, cleaner, and safer place in which to live, work, and raise our children.
Because of the exemplary achievements of our current governor, Ralph Northam, and the work of our majorities in the House of Delegates and State Senate, Virginians are healthier, better insured, and better educated, and are enjoying a growing, robust economy. Senator Jennifer McClellan’s work and that of her colleagues in the General Assembly were critical to making all of this happen. Her experience clearly makes her the candidate best equipped to build on Ralph Northam’s legacy.
In fact, Jennifer has long been a driving force for progressive change in Virginia, leading the passage of landmark laws to invest in education, grow small business, expand access to health care, ban discrimination and inequity, safeguard workers’ rights and voting rights, reform the criminal justice system, protect a woman’s right to choose, and tackle climate change. Terry McAuliffe himself has often pointed Senator McClellan’s many contributions out. Fact is that Jennifer is eminently prepared to continue her fight for progress as our next governor.
I’ve heard many Democrats say that Terry McAuliffe’s nomination is a done deal. We are all receiving his glossy mailers, getting his popup ads on the internet, and seeing his slickly produced television commercials on cable news programs. He has indeed raised the most money and his campaign has sought to create the sense that his nomination in June and election in November are faits accomplis.
Did we not all learn in 2016 that an air of inevitability is for Democrats a quite dangerous thing?
I hope that we as Virginia Democrats have not “graduated” from being a party of grassroots activism with the willingness to understand the issues, build awareness, and create coalitions to elect politicians willing to do the hard work of government, to instead being one in which successful campaigns can only be run by highly paid consultants conducting focus groups and surveys and learning how best to push all our buttons.
I actually like the way we do things here. It would indeed be a shame to suddenly start electing governors as they do in Texas, California, and New York with campaigns costing tens of millions of dollars and more. I don’t want our party in Virginia to become one in which money alone determines election outcomes. We should do as we always have in my memory: hire the hardest working and best prepared candidate for the job.
In 2021, that would be Senator McClellan, who has been hard at work at the center of all the good works of the last decade, reaching out to others on both sides of the aisle, coordinating efforts, and most saliently consistently bringing important legislation across the finish line.
Terry takes great pride in a record 111 vetoes of GOP legislation which would have infringed upon individual freedoms and he should. These vetoes were necessary and good. But Jennifer can boast that she has sponsored and passed many dozens of difficult legislative acts with bipartisan support. Saying NO to bad things is good, but being able to get to YES and make good things happen is even better.
At some point—we all must hope—this fever of hate and lies motivating the Republican Party will break and Republicans will return to their senses and good American values. In the meantime, open-minded Virginia voters of an independent and moderate stripe are looking for new political leadership and a new political home. Biden is the first Democrat many of them ever voted for.
I think these former Republican voters are most likely to find a home with Jennifer McClellan, who was born, raised, and educated here and has carried out her entire career of service within the Commonwealth. She cannot be characterized as someone tainted by national politics or who looks at the governorship as a steppingstone. We know that the GOP will try to do this again to Terry McAuliffe and that they likely will have some success in doing so.
My objective today is to point out our best choice on June 8th, not to show any disrespect to Governor McAuliffe. Terry was third in a line of four outstanding Democratic governors who did much to make Virginia the progressive powerhouse it is today. The first two, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, served as governor and then moved on to even bigger and better things. Terry and Ralph should as well and pass the torch of state leadership on to the next generation of great Virginia Democrats. While a Governor McAuliffe with a second term would again be outstanding, a newly elected Governor Jennifer McClellan would be singularly so.
Jennifer McClellan’s entire background, but especially her last 15 years as a hardworking and successful state legislator, makes her best prepared to build on all the accomplishments of the Democratic Party of the last 8 years. Let’s pass her that torch.