Farewell (For Now)

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This is our 400th and final post on 7 West. Since Kris and I started blogging here in July of 2006, two technologically challenged AARPsters have learned a lot about how to express ourselves through the marvelous series of tubes they call The Internets. For their technical advice and patience we are deeply indebted to Young’uns Kenton Ngo, Ben Tribbett, and especially Aging Wunderkind Waldo Jaquith.

And, as our readership grew over the years from the high single digits to the low double digits, you’ve learned a bit about us: our common roots in the upper Midwest; our eclectic interests that run the gamut from sentence diagramming to invasive plant species; our eagerness to spread the word when Virginia Republicans were recognized by the national media; and, above all, the affection we feel for the General Assembly and (almost) all its members.

So, what’s next? Well, I’m reconfiguring my campaign website into a year-round constituent information vehicle, and I’m planning to incorporate a blog into the design. And, after Kris returns from her Julie Andrews in Peru gig, I have no doubt she’ll get back into the game as well.

So the two of us have had a blast, and we hope you’ve enjoyed the journey as well. What a long, strange trip it’s been!


I guess this is what they mean by “bittersweet.” Writing my Very Last Post for 7 West evokes both sad and happy feelings.

There are only three ways to leave the General Assembly, and two of them are gawdawful. But the third—a voluntary retirement—turns out to be fraught with emotion as well.

I worked hard—very hard—every day for the last ten years. It’s sad to have that come to a close. I’ll miss the work. I’ll miss the friendships. I’ll miss being in a room full of people who collapse with laughter when someone says, “Ayes and nays.” (You really have to be there.)

But it’s not all sadness that I’m feeling. Having a great new job helps. A lot. (You can check us out at www.educationsector.org).

Having time to travel also is a big bonus. When the General Assembly convenes, I will be in the Sacred Valley of Peru on my way to Machu Picchu. It’s something I have wanted to do since I read about it in Mrs. Distad’s sixth grade Spanish class.

And I rather suspect that there’s more of all of this in my future. A new blog may be on the near horizon. More public service? We’ll see. More travel? Well, there’s this trip to the Holy Land that sounds intriguing.

Meanwhile, my beloved Heels are in what we can optimistically only call a “rebuilding phase.” Bob McDonnell is in the Governor’s Mansion, and I wish him well because Virginia needs him to be successful.

And me? I’m not going anywhere (well, except Peru and Bolivia and a few other as-yet-undetermined destinations.) I’ll still talk with Bob and Mark and Toddy and Scott all the time. I’ll still sound off on issues that matter to me.

Thanks for all of it—I wouldn’t have traded it for the world.


A Bridge Too Far

I have been, all things considered, remarkably circumspect since Sarah Palin burst on the scene. But now she’s gone too far.

In Going Rogue, she misattributes a quotation to legendary (heck, best of all time) basketball coach John Wooden. Instead, she uses a quote from someone called John Wooden Legs.

The irony, of course, is that John Wooden actually writes the stuff that appears under his name. He was an English professor as well as a basketball coach during the time he was at UCLA.


How to Hire a Field Director

I heard an interview with David Plouffe, who managed the Obama 2008 Presidential campaign. He was talking about his early years. And, almost as a throwaway, he added that in one of his early jobs, he sold knives door to door.

Over the years, one of the tidbits I learned when I was hiring field people was to ask, casually, “You ever sell knives?”

Apparently it’s great training for field organizing. Over and over, those former knife salespeople knocked on more doors, got more and better IDs, and worked harder than anyone else.

So to my friends who are still in the arena, a word to the wise. People who sell knives make GREAT field directors. Or Presidential campaign managers.

Lessons Learned

Well, any Democrat who doesn’t start studying the lessons from yesterday is going to be in big trouble. Bob McDonnell ran a nearly perfect campaign, and he deserves tremendous credit for his victory. Lesson learned: you simply have to talk about what you are going to do for voters.

There was one bright spot for me: Scott Surovell’s decisive victory in the 44th. He learned an important lesson early: that this was going to be a base turnout election. So he worked with his campaign staff, with Ben Tribett (aka Not Larry Sabato), numbers guru extraordinaire, and, well, with me. He plotted a strategy and then he worked impossibly hard at executing it. He really reached out to our “surge” voters, especially minority voters. He knocked on their doors. He called them. He listened. And yesterday, they turned out–not at 2008 levels, but at 2005 levels (and that, you may recall, was an election we won).

Lessons learned: Don’t ignore your base.Work hard. Respect your voters.

I’ll have more to say about the losses of two close friends, Shannon Valentine and Margi Vanderhye, later. But I do want to give a big shout out to Scott on a campaign very well run.

The Virginia General Assembly from the perspective of 7 West.