My Side of the Fence

The danger isn't going too far. It's that we don't go far enough.

Page 2 of 402

Mr. Randolph

I saw on Facebook about two days ago that former City Councilman Steve Randolph passed away.  There is no mention of Steve's passing on the City's Facebook page which I find discouraging.  See, Steve served the citizens of Manassas for a very long time.  24 years maybe?  He was one of those guys who really believed in what he was doing – there was no cynicism or "self" in Steve's politics.  He never once thought about how to elevate himself or what was best for Steve.  It was always a vote for what he thought was in the City's best interest.

I had the pleasure of serving with Steve for 8 years on the Council.  The first time I ran it produced a lot of heartache in the ranks of the GOP because you would always see the same two yard signs together:  Randolph and Harrover and Steve was an independent, not a Republican!  In truth our politics, especially at the local level were a lot alike.  We both believed in governance over drama.  Steve was always willing to make principled, unpopular votes and we both were willing to swallow hard and spend taxpayer money when we thought it best for the citizens.  Many of the folks from previous Councils share that trait. However, Steve never forgot that he represented the people.

While our politics may have been a lot alike, our life experiences were not.  I came on to the Council a brash, young-ish entrepreneur, ready to apply business lessons to government.  When I got there, Steve had already been on the Council probably 15 years….and don't forget Steve had long involvement with the schools prior to Council.  Steve was very much the moderating influence on any number of people.  He was a careful, thoughtful man.  At one point, in a heated budget debate I told Steve that "this is the way we do this in Business!!!".  Steve's calm reply was "that's great Andy, but we're not running a business here".  That stung a bit but Steve meant no insult – it stung because he was right and I knew it.  That statement (and one other that I'll get to) has been with me ever since.

In a public meeting, Steve was always careful and thoughtful.  He was a veteran of many of the epic public hearings that took place during the heavy development in the City in the 90's.  I well remember some of those meetings as an observer.  Lines out the door.  Not a lot of happy faces in the crowd.  Steve was there for those and I feel the experience made an impression upon him.  He very much wanted to represent the ordinary people of Manassas.  Steve was an Everyman, make no mistake.  If he came to a public hearing and there was a full house of angry people, he was willing to work hard to find a different way to achieve an end.  He was there to represent the citizens – ALL of the citizens.  During a very long Public Hearing, when everyone was really trying to get things wrapped up Steve said something I'll never forget:  "Everything has been said but not everyone has said it".  That really took the temperature of the room down a few degrees….but the meeting went on for another hour.  🙂

Steve had the single best campaign story I've ever heard.  I think this took place during the campaign where he earned the name "Landslide Randolph" (he beat a competitor by 2 votes).  He said, "I was driving by a persons house who I know had a yard sign but I didn't see it.  So, I pulled over to find out what had happened".  Recall that back then, a yard sign was no small commitment.  It wasn't "yeah, whatever", it was a four-square endorsement and when one of your signs came down, you went and found out why.  Steve pulled over and, as he was walking down the sidewalk to the house, he noticed a black spot in the lawn.  He bent over, pushed aside some grass with his hands and discovered a black pattern in the grass that was longish….with a wider spot in the middle.  It dawned on him, as he was bent over peering at the ground, that someone had set his sign on fire and that the black outline was where the burning cardboard and wooden pole had burned the grass!  Single best campaign story ever.  His friend explained to him that a neighbor kid had set the sign on fire and that he had meant to get a new one.

I'm sad that Steve moved down south after his retirement from Council but I know that his single greatest joy at that point in his life was his family and his grandchildren.  He enjoyed serving the citizens but he enjoyed those closest to him even more.  Godspeed Steve, you were a good man and I'm better for having known you.

The results are in….

First things first: congratulations to the winners.  To the losers: thank you for being involved, it matters.  To the incumbents (win or lose): thanks for your service.  Our democracy doesn't work if people don't come forward to stand for election and challenge incumbents.  Keeping politicians honest and holding them accountable is crucial.

No doubt you'll hear alot about how Trump is responsible for the Republicans problems and, to a large degree that is true.  If this had happened in Iowa I might simply shrug my shoulders and agree – I don't know a lot about politics in Iowa but I do about Virginia.  This is a devastating turn of events for Republicans in Virginia.  

For the state-wide races, Governor, Lt. Governor and AG, I believe Trump was the determining factor.  Trump drove turnout against Gillespie.  In addition, Gillespie ran on a Trump platform but never really embraced Trump himself.  That half-measure didn't help nail down his base because they didn't believe his new-found Trump-ism……although I expect that if he had done a full-on Trump campaign the results would have been even worse.

But at the local level I think it's a different story.  Trump isn't entirely responsible for the Republicans loss at this level and, indeed, this wipeout was some years in coming.  The first time I ran for office, our area was already trending blue.  I ran as a moderate republican who was mainly interested in taxes, economic growth and immigration (which was a budget and crime issue at the time).  The first time I ran I was the top vote-getter.  The second time I was unopposed.  The further right candidates had trouble, cycle after cycle, getting higher than third place.  The same was becoming true of the House of Delegates and Senate elections.  Despite the gerrymandered nature of their districts, it was getting harder and harder for right-wing Republicans to hold on to power – even when they mounted vicious oppo-driven campaigns.

Why?  Well, I believe that Republicans failed to modulate their policy and messaging to reflect a changing electorate.  Bob Marshall is about as far right as one can get and he was crushed by the first transgender candidate in VA.  Bob, and many other republicans, insisted on calling Danica "it" or "he" and that dog whistle crap didn't work.  Danica stuck mostly to illustrating a lack of results on Mr. Marshall's part and it was the right tactic.  Mr. Lingamfelter, who barely won reelection last time, really didn't try anything different and the result was predictable.  Mr. Miller, well, he got thumped by a guy who I didn't think fits the district but the margin was decisive. 

Now, no doubt some of these marginal candidates who won election will get rolled in the next cycle – that happens with some regularity.  However, I would urge my friends in the Republican party to do some soul-searching and come up with new policy initiatives, messaging and candidates that reflect the reality of the electorate present in their districts.  This electoral result will generate more credible candidates on the democrat side and republicans are going to have to work hard to win.  A new approach to policy would be good – or even having a policy approach that candidates are able to articulate would be a good start……I'm always here to help.

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