Commentary: Heat of the Election Season

On the Fourth of July last week I rode on a float in the Fairfax City Independence Day Parade, one of the largest in the state, with local Democrats promoting the candidacies of Senator Tim Kaine and Congressman Gerry Connolly for re-election and the election of Jennifer Wexton for Congress in the Tenth District.

It brought back some pleasant old memories. When I first ran for elective office in the mid 1970s, I was running for the House of Delegates in what was then the 18th District. It was represented by five at-large delegates. After the courts declared the Virginia redistricting unconstitutional after the 1970 census because it short-changed Northern Virginia in representation, the legislature simply divided Fairfax County into two halves with each half having five at-large members. When I was first elected in 1978 I was part of a five-person delegation of three Democrats and two Republicans who represented the northern half of Fairfax County from Herndon to Baileys Crossroads including the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church. These large districts were declared unconstitutional in 1982, and single member districts including District 36 were put into place and have been adjusted each census to reflect the changing population and a bit of gerrymandering of some districts to protect incumbents.

Except for Fourth of July celebrations political campaigns largely got underway after Labor Day. It seems that now they are perpetual. Door knocking on hot summer weekends was questionable when your body was dripping in sweat. Now there are regularly scheduled canvasses each weekend regardless of the heat. There is no better formula for success than direct contact with voters. In the fall the days get shorter and there is less opportunity to knock on doors in the evenings. Ringing doorbells after dark may lose as many votes as gained. Regardless of the heat, candidates need to be out and about to see voters.

At the parade and at neighborhood canvassing I have visited I have been impressed at the dedication of people who are volunteering to help identify, register and persuade voters. While I am overwhelmingly anxious about the direction of our country, I am encouraged and reassured by the volunteers I meet. They are determined to save our democratic institutions and to put us back on the path of a caring and open society. When a volunteer comes to your door, please thank them for their work on behalf of our democracy. When volunteers from the other persuasion come by be polite and civil. Have faith that they will eventually see the light and join us. I am sure that we will win the vote in November, and we will go back to living together after that.

Thankfully I rode on a float in the parade because the heat was exhausting. It felt good to hear the cheers and see the friendly waves. Nothing like a parade to cheer you up. When the heat of the election season is past, I am confident that our country will have sent a message that we are returning to the moral values we share.

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