Let me say up front that I don’t share some of my fellow bloggers' distaste for Byrne’s opponent, Gerry Connolly. He has been described as a “blue dog/DLC type Democrat. And that’s true. During the Gingrich Revolution of the 1990s, which swept Republicans into office in Fairfax County as well as elsewhere in this country, Connolly positioned himself as a moderate and a centrist. His business ties to developers are well known. But he still remained true to Democratic values like reproductive freedom for women, commitment to environmentalism, smart growth, etc.
My biggest objection to Connolly is that he always played it safe and took the path of least risk. There was a time Democrats would have died to have Connolly take on Tom Davis because he was the type of Virginia moderate Democrat, with great name recognition in the district, which would have made him competitive. Connolly instead chose to wait until it was clear that Davis would leave.
It’s precisely because Connolly has cherry picked his races that he can claim he has never lost an election. If you don’t take risks, you limit your risk of failing. But you shouldn’t be rewarded for that.
Leslie Byrne, on the other hand, never met a risk she wouldn’t take, especially when a higher principle was concerned. She didn’t position herself as a moderate when it was fashionable to do so. She didn’t run from a fight, especially when it was a battle on behalf of consumers, workers, children, and women.
The elections Leslie lost, during the 90s, were lost because she stayed the course. She remained a progressive willing to fight for the values she believes in even when it was unfashionable.
Byrne is an accomplished leader. She ran for the Virginia House of Delegates in 1985 and won. Then, in 1992, she became the first woman from Virginia elected to Congress. There, she showed her leadership ability by being elected the freshman caucus whip. She served on the Public Works and Transportation Committee, Surface Transportation, Water Resources and Investigative Oversight Subcommittee, and the Post Office and Civil Service Subcommittee. According to Wikepedia, here are some of her other accomplishments from her time in Congress.
She introduced and passed more legislation than any other freshman representative. In addition, two of her measures on childhood immunization passed into law early in the first session of the 103rd Congress. Rep. Byrne played a role in preventing cuts in federal workers' wages and benefits. Additionally, she helped lead the effort to improve federal oversight of the nation's 1.7 million miles of natural gas and petroleum pipelines. Byrne's legislative efforts included Medicaid reform; increasing opportunities of IRA holders to see their savings for first-time home purchases and college costs; cost savings on federal highway projects through value engineering and enhancing the international market for American high technologies. She helped obtain funds for rail from Tyson's Corner to Dulles.When Byrne returns to Congress, she will regain her seniority. She won’t start as a freshman but will be considered in the sophomore class. As such, she will have her choice of committees.
In addition, Byrne is right about the issues. A proven leader, she was among the earliest critics of the war in Iraq. She joined 75 former congressmen in calling for President Bush to put more effort into economic and diplomatic efforts before invading Iraq. She also has signed on to the Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq.
Byrne has also been a consistent advocate of economic fairness. She would sponsor legislation to protect borrowers from unscrupulous lending institutions and mortgage companies, whose subprime lending practices led to the housing collapse. She would sponsor laws to separate commercial banks from investment banks to further protect consumers. Byrne would cut federal subsidies to corn-based ethanol, which have contributed to food shortages and skyrocketing costs for basic food supplies. And she would support investment in technology to produce renewable energy sources to relieve the high fuel prices.
A consistent friend to working people, Byrne also would sign on as a co-sponsor to the Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier for employees to join unions. Byrne also vowed to protect government workers from having their jobs outsourced to contractors, which has not saved the government money nor provided superior service to the public. Byrne remains an advocate of fair trade.
There is so much more I could write about Leslie Byrne if time permitted it. But for all those reasons mentioned above, I urge you to go out and vote for Leslie Byrne for Congress in the 11th CD on Tuesday June 10. Polls are open from 6 a.m. until 7 p.m.