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ArlingtonJournalist-turned-activist lauded by Arlington Democrats

Journalist-turned-activist lauded by Arlington Democrats

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Some people find it challenging, upon retirement, to divine where their next stage in life will take them.

For Cragg Hines, the transition took a mere 24 hours.

After wrapping up four decades of work as a professional journalist, Hines in 2007 immediately signed on as a volunteer with the Arlington County Democratic Committee. Beginning with precinct work in the Rock Spring neighborhood, he’s taken on a variety of responsibilities that range from service as the 8th District’s presidential elector (in 2020 for Joe Biden) to election as the local party’s parliamentarian. For those who enjoy the food at Democratic events, Hines also serves as a member of the party’s Kitchen Crew.

“Showing up and stepping up – that’s what Cragg does for Arlington Democrats,” former party chair Kip Malinosky said on Sept. 17, as Hines joined Marjorie Hobart as the latest to be enshrined in the county Democratic Committee’s “Distinguished Democrats” pantheon.

“He brings the joy of politics to others,” said Malinosky, pointing to “your voice, your wisdom, your wit” as traits of Hines that stood out.
After graduating from the University of North Texas in 1967, Hines – who professionally uses his middle name Cragg (pronounced akin to “Craig”) rather than his given name Charles – served with United Press International before beginning a 35-year career as a political reporter and later Washington bureau chief and columnist for the Houston Chronicle newspaper.

He covered the national political scene as well as international events including the fall of communism and the first Gulf War.

In his more recent life as a political partisan, Hines has served as a valued resource to Democratic candidates.

“Every successful political campaign in Northern Virginia runs through Cragg’s living room,” said Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, who received the counsel of Hines during her successful attempt to unseat incumbent Arlington Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos in the 2019 Democratic primary.

Dehghani-Tafti praised Hines’s “radical honesty.”

“He encouraged me to never compromise my values. I’m grateful,” Dehghani-Tafti said, calling Hines “a true friend.”

State Sen. Adam Ebbin gave Hines a share of the credit in his efforts to move up from the House of Delegates to the state Senate. “He was instrumental,” Ebbin said.

But more than that, Hines serves as a “resident optimist” even when Democratic fortunes are down. “He’s always generous with his jokes and the best political gossip,” Ebbin said.

As an aside, Ebbin noted that, in the last weeks of George McGovern’s doomed quest for the presidency in 1972, Hines was seatmate of gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson on the McGovern campaign plane.

For the Arlington County Democratic Committee, Hines also proved instrumental in breathing life into efforts making get-out-the-vote phone calls to Arlington seniors.

“It is such an important project with some of our most reliable voters,” party chair Steve Baker said.

Noting his “rapier wit,” Baker praised the recipient’s “relentless work for the Democratic Party, not only in Arlington but across Virginia and the nation.”

Upon receiving the honor, Hines was humble yet ebullient. “I can’t tell you how thrilled I am,” he remarked at the ceremony, held in the party room of a Crystal City condominium.

Malinosky noted that the thrill was reciprocated.

“We love you back and thank you for everything you do,” the former party chair said.

The Distinguished Democrat award is effectively a lifetime-achievement accolade presented by the party while also raising funds in the heart of election season. Previous recipients have included Peg Hogan, Charley Conrad, Herschel Kanter, Joan McDermott, Charlene Bickford, Richard and Jean Barton, Sharon Davis and, last year, Tom and Mary Margaret Whipple.

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