Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Reflections on Kaine's Endorsement and the Opportunity He Blew

It appears that Gov. Tim Kaine just lit a match, threw it on a pile of kindling and ignited a fire on the blogosphere. In other words, he endorsed Gerry Connolly in the 11th CD primary. According to today's Washington Post, he said:
"Gerry brings passion and integrity to public service and a deep sense of commitment to all he undertakes," Kaine said in the statement. "I believe that this race has attracted four worthy and capable candidates, but for me, Gerry Connolly is the standout. He will serve the 11th Congressional District with honor and distinction. I fully endorse and will actively work for his election, and I encourage voters in the 11th Congressional District to do the same."
I'm not sure I agree with the "integrity" part, unless the good governor has a different definition of that word than I do.

But, as the blogosphere's favorite Northern Virginia reporter, Amy Gardner, points out:
In a statement released yesterday, Kaine said that Connolly, who is chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, is the strongest candidate among the four competing in the June 10 primary. Kaine said Connolly has been a "partner" on a range of issues, including strengthening the economy, toughening environmental standards, fully funding schools and fighting for a Metrorail extension to Dulles International Airport.

"As a former elected local official, I appreciate Gerry's practical approach to problem-solving," said Kaine, a former mayor of Richmond.
What appears strikingly apparent to me is that much of this mirrors the Jim Webb-Harris Miller primary in 2006. The state legislators and the firefighters' union lined up with Miller while the progressive blogosphere and activists went with Webb. This is a continuation of the rivalry between the moderate pro-business Chamber of Commerce picked candidate and the more liberal elements, including the majority of unions, who are once again lining up with the more progressive candidate.

Meanwhile, Ben and Lowell are definitely infuriated. Indeed over at Raising Kaine, the logo has been removed from that blog. I don't blame them one bit for the sense of betrayal they all feel over there.

Kaine began splitting off in a direction that has roused the ire of environmentalists for quite some time. He supported the elevated Metrorail track through Tysons Corner rather than the underground Tysons tunnel, which disappointed the RK crowd, along with a lot of others who understand that the tunnel provides the best option to turn the crowded Dulles corridor into an environmentally sustainable, mixed use business-residential center. The tunnel would encourage development of a walkable "downtown" area.

Not only is that a better environmental and business option for the area, but many health professionals believe that our increasing suburban sprawl, with spread out highways and parking lots and no walkable downtown centers, is a leading cause of the obesity epidemic in this country.

In addition, Gov. Kaine has shown an appalling lack of concern for the health of Virginia residents by his continued support of coal. I am very sympathetic to the union support he gets for this because, for labor, it's a matter of protecting jobs. Indeed, I've played Devil's advocate over at RK, in the past, on this issue, trying to present labor's point of view.

The truth, though, is that protecting the fading jobs of a dying industry rather than investing in the careers of the future, including green technolgy, is a foolish choice. That's especially true when that dying industry has been quite literally responsible for the deaths of so many of its own employees through diseases like black lung.

Here, I have to admit, is one of the few times that I break with organized labor, which remains committed to protecting those jobs. Again, I sympathize with them but think it's only a costly delay of the inevitable, which is green energy and technology. The governor and labor would do better if they instead supported investing in the infrastructure for green technology and job retraining for displaced coal miners. That would create a healthier state environment and safer jobs in the long run.

The governor also would have done well to stay out of the 11th CD race. Then, whoever won, he could have been a healing and uniting force. I generally don't fault those who support a different candidate than me and I'm not about to end friendships with people I respect, like Kris Amundsen, the Bulovas, and the Marsdens over it. But the governor is not just wrong but by jumping in where he didn't need to be, he blew a valuable opportunity to be the party's uniter in November.

Sometimes, Governor Kaine, it's good to be a statesman rather than a politician.


Anonymous said...

Thank you - I cannot believe our Gov. would mess with the 11th District primary. He also was instrumental in the 11th District Obama slate. So much for open, transparent democracy. I think I am suffering from the belief that Virginia was moving forward.


Hokie Guru said...

That was a superb entry, Anonymous is a Woman.

Anonymous said...

and you would feel the same if Kaine had endorsed Leslie?

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

Actually, I would. I honestly believe this particular race is so divisive that his skills were needed to unify us after it.

We need a statesman, not a politician just now. And he abdicated that role by making a gratuitous endorsement.

You will note I haven't criticized any of the NoVa legislators, including Dick Saslaw, for endorsing Gerry. But Gov. Kaine is in a unique position as titular head of the party.

Also, thank you Hokie Guru and Anonymous 10:47 for your kind words.