With the General Assembly session starting on January 13, the Fairfax County Democratic Committee recently held it's annual "Road to Richmond" event. The gathering is designed as an opportunity for people to come together and send the Fairfax County General Assembly delegation off to Richmond. Just like last year, this event was held at the Springfield Country Club and was attended by a capacity crowd of 220 people.
The main topic of conversation at the event was the upcoming special election in the 37th Senate District where everyone seems to be working hard to help elect Dave Marsden. I spoke to both Sen. George Barker and Sen. Chap Petersen who are going to be personally knocking on doors, and have already been doing so, to help turn out the vote in the final days. Barker, who has been walking primarily in the Chantilly area, said that many of the people he's spoken to have heard at least the very basics about the race but could use another friendly reminder about why they should get out and vote for Dave. The good thing is that he's be consistently meeting with people who've had good things to say about Dave and seem to realize that he's the best choice in the race. In a special election that's going to all come down to who turns out their base, however, we cannot afford to not remind all of these folks to get out to the polls on January 12.
The first speech of the event came from FCDC Chair Mary Ann Hovis who will be stepping down at tonight’s reorganization meeting. She tried to get the crowd energized by claiming “the report of the demise of the Democratic Party in Fairfax County is premature.” She went on to talk about how we might have lost two of our great delegates last November (Chuck Caputo and Margy Vanderhye) but that we did elect some new delegates that will provide a positive contribution in Richmond such as Mark Keam and Scott Surovell. Mary Ann also highlighted how FCDC was recognized as Committee of the Year by DPVA.
One of the big themes mentioned throughout the event was education, which was kicked off by the fact that the Chair of the School Board, Kathy Smith, was there to give an update on education related issues. Kathy pointed out that the school board had made significant cuts already but yet were faced with potentially having to make even more. To make the situation even worse, at the same time that all of the cuts are being made the student population has also grown by about 8,000.
Sharon Bulova, chairman of the Board of Supervisors, also highlighted education issues and said “we’re all concerned about funding for our schools and public safety. These are the things that make people want to live here in Fairfax.” She jokingly added that it definitely wasn’t our traffic situation that made people move here. She also stressed that this was a time when people were relying upon the government more than ever to provide assistance with housing, jobs, and other issues. In other words, the local governments have a lot of issues to deal with and she therefore urged the state government not to shift responsibility to the localities at a time when the localities were already struggling to meet their own responsibilities. She followed a theme we’ve already heard from people like Chap Petersen by claiming that we shouldn’t change the composite index because doing so could potentially harm Fairfax County, which has already gotten the low end of the stick on the issue.
After Bulova spoke we turned our attention to our General Assembly delegation as Del. Jim Scott came to the podium. He highlighted how one of the big things that the current members of the GA would deal with is redistricting. Jim pointed out that he believes this is the first time (at least in a very long time) that there’s been a divided GA during redistricting, which could potentially lead to some sort of bipartisan redistricting. With the current House leadership and Bob McDonnell in the Governor’s mansion I’m not as optimistic about this happening as Jim appears to be, but he brought up the interesting fact that under the last redistricting plan we went from having 47 Democrats in the House to 34. In other words, the partisan plan promoted by the Republicans caused the House to go from being relatively evenly split to being dominated by one party.
Next up was Mary Margaret Whipple who was there to speak about the Senate on behalf of Majority Leader Dick Saslaw (he was down in Florida on vacation). She also focused on education and pointed out that it could be difficult with Governor McDonnell having an education policy that focuses on charter schools and vouchers. She also said that she’s with the school board on the composite index issue.
The speeches were closed out with one from Sen. George Barker who spoke on behalf of the Marsden campaign. As I mentioned earlier, George has been out working hard for Dave’s campaign in the Chantilly area and has been getting a lot of positive feedback from people in the area. During his speech, the senator also highlighted how there were many similarities between this special election and the one for chairman of the board held last February. For instance, Bulova was down early in the polls just like Dave was but she was able to come back and win the seat by concentrating on the precincts that she had previously represented and those that were heavily Democratic. With a race that will truly come down to turning out the base, the same can be done in this special election with the 10 precincts that Dave already represents in the House of Delegates in addition to other solidly Democratic precincts throughout the district. The important thing is that in order for this to work, volunteers need to do what they can to help Dave win in these final few days.
With that, the speeches were over and people stuck around for a little while longer to catch up with fellow Democrats while giving their two cents to our General Assembly delegation and signing up to do some work for Marsden.