Friday, February 25, 2011

Sen. Whipple's Retirement Announcement Represents Opportunity for Progressive Leadership

There has been a lot of talk behind the scenes lately about whether or not Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple would run for reelection this year. Since candidates for to replace her in the Senate would need to begin fundraising and building up a campaign structure as soon as possible and the General Assembly session is drawing to a close, Whipple has announced that she won’t be running for another term.
“This has been a year of milestones: last spring I had my 70th birthday; in the summer my husband Tom and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary; and this year marks my 35th year of public service, from the time I was appointed to the Arlington School Board in 1976. Today I’m adding another milestone: I’m announcing today that I will not run for re-election to the Senate this November.”

“I came to this decision after a great deal of thoughtful consideration. I won’t pretend that it is an easy one, but I am confident that it is the right one though, of course, the hardest part will be leaving such dear friends.”
Sen. Whipple was first elected to the state Senate in 1995 and has a fairly progressive record. Some of the issues she’s known for are patroning the Virginia Nontidal Wetlands Protection Action, establishing the Natural Resources Commitment Fund, and advocating for housing, transportation and health care issues. In a speech on the floor of the Senate, however, she reminded her colleagues that there is still a lot of work to do.
““I leave you with unfinished work and many challenges. Pay attention to resource depletion and all its implications; continue to provide educational opportunity and access for the children of Virginia; care for the least among us, as I know you will.”
Senator Whipple represented an extremely Democratic district where she consistently received at least 70% of the vote. The Republicans couldn’t even recruit a candidate to run against her in 2007. As a result, this could be an opportunity for Democrats to have a strong progressive run for her seat in order to help balance out some of the extremely right wing voices that the GOP sends to Richmond. Since Whipple served as the chair of the Democratic Caucus, it also presents an opportunity for a strong progressive to move up in the party leadership. In other words, this really presents an opportunity for the party leadership to reach out to grassroots activists who have been calling for Virginia’s Democratic Party to take a more aggressive stance in support of progressive issues.

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