The Brigades is a group of progressive activists based in Northern Virginia who frequently have Democratic candidates speak at their events. At this month’s meeting, which also featured a screening of Liberty 9500, Rich Anthony spoke to the group as we gathered in Vienna on Tuesday evening. Rich is one of three candidates running in the Democratic primary in the 10th Congressional District and I’ve heard him speak several times and have been able to talk with him at several events we’ve both attended throughout the Commonwealth. Although I’m still undecided about who I’ll support in the primary (if anyone), I have to admit that I really like what I’ve heard so far from Rich.
At the Brigades meeting on Tuesday Rich diverted from the usual stump speech that activists have become so accustomed to hearing at events. Instead, Rich spent a little more time giving us some background information about his life and what motivated him to run for office. Using his self described “dry sense of humor,” he spoke about how growing up in Ohio his family grew out of the house they were living in but his parents couldn’t afford to buy a new house in the area. They therefore decided to expand upon the house and did most of the work themselves. Rich says that it was through this process that he learned a lot about the value of hard work and making the best out of what you have.
He then went on to talk about how he became interested in workforce development issues when he was in graduate school and did an internship with a program at a local community college that helped to make sure that there was an educated workforce in the community that had the skill sets that would be attractive to businesses. This not only helped workers obtain well paying jobs, but also helped the local economy in general by attracting good companies to the area. Highlighting the need for community college funding, there have been a number of similar programs popping up throughout the country in recent years. Right here in Virginia, for instance, I toured the building used for a workforce development program in Danville that was helping to provide skills to workers in the Danville area (an area which has been severely impacted by the economic downturn).
It was the talk about workforce development that really seemed to resonate with members of the Brigade, which could be a very good thing for Rich because he has made a career of working in the field. Since the economy is one of the major issues facing Congress – especially the need to create more jobs – his background not only resonates with people like those gathered in Vienna on Tuesday, but it also gives him the skill set to hit the ground running if he were to be elected. In a time when there are also so many people who try to spin their careers in big business as meaning they know about jobs when that isn’t really true in many cases, there were several people at the meeting who highlighted how it was good to see that there are some people running for office who truly have the experience necessary to help build policies that will spur job creation.
There’s no way of denying the fact that it will be very difficult to beat incumbent Republican Frank Wolf in November, but many people walked away from the Brigades meeting thinking that Rich might be able to give Wolf a run for his money. Above all else, however, it was simply good to hear from a candidate who wasn’t afraid to stand up for Democratic values and fight for the working class residents of Virginia’s 10th Congressional District.