For the first time in 13 months (!), I attended a gathering of Arlington Senior Democrats yesterday.
(It had been so long that, last time I was at one, you could actually meet in person. At a restaurant. Busboys & Poets in this case. Mmmmmm, Busboys & Poets. Love the chicken panini. But I digress …)
On the agenda yesterday was an appearance by Terry McAuliffe, making the rounds to try and win back his old gig as governor, followed a forum-cum-debate between Arlington School Board contenders Mary Kadera and Miranda Turner.
(In coverage of that School Board forum, which is coming up in a couple of days, I even worked in a reference to the song embedded below. Oh, Fifth Dimension, how we need you in these troubled times!)
As for McAuliffe’s appearance? It was fine but, disappointingly perhaps, he’s a little less caffeinated than when he last ran eight years ago. Maybe it’s a little age creeping up (as it is on all of us) or maybe he guesstimates he’s going to win the Democratic nomination without much of a fuss, so why go overboard, rhetorically, and risk a faux pas – or, as my father would put it, a “fox pass.”
(McAuliffe did say something weird, claiming to have “banned the Confederate flag” in Virginia during his time in office. Not sure what he was trying to say on that one.)
And as for the School Board contenders? Well, both are definitely earnest, but both also have a way to go to hone their political skills. Each waded into the weeds too much; neither kept pounding away at a focused theme.
Clearly neither has studied the glory days of perennial candidate Audrey Clement, who knew how to stick with a theme and hit it hard, again and again and again, throughout a debate. It wasn’t going to win her elections, necessarily, but it was a thing of beauty.
The dirty little (not-necessarily-so-secret) secret of this race is that the Democratic establishment was aghast that no don’t-rock-the-boat Democrat could be recruited to run to replace Monique O’Grady, the latest School Board member to decide that skedaddling was the best course of action.
Given the choice between relative outsider Kadera and true outsider Turner, Democratic leaders went with the “if you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with” principle and have semi-embraced Kadera, in fear that a Turner victory could bring a loose cannon to the School Board for the first time since Emma Violand-Sanchéz was elected years back. (My remark is said with affection, both for Violand-Sánchez individually and for loose cannons generally).
Turner is the one who is going to need a breakthrough moment, and she didn’t have one in front of the 30-ish senior Democrats at the event. Both candidates, in fact, are going to need to sharpen their messaging in preparation for the upcoming Arlington County Democratic Committee debate later in the month.
Can they do it? Guess we’ll know soon enough.
– Scott McCaffrey