Commentary: Every Two Years

Commentary: Every Two Years

In the spring of 1973 I stood on the steps of the old Fairfax County Courthouse and announced my candidacy for the Virginia House of Delegates for the first time. I told the several people who were present that I thought we needed a new Fairfax Resolves, remembering the resolution that the citizens of Fairfax County had drawn up to list their grievances against England before the revolution. My proposed version of the resolves did not call for Northern Virginia secession, although many have suggested to me over the years that they would support such an effort. I simply wanted for Northern Virginia to get a better deal in the rural-dominated General Assembly of the time. My early efforts at election were not successful. After being elected for a term in 1977, I returned to the House of Delegates in 1982 and have been there ever since. If I am re-elected this year I will have the most seniority of any member in the House of Delegates, and my car will have House of Delegates license plate number 1.

I learned a great deal from early mentors. Senator Clive DuVal, who served from 1965-1971 in the House of Delegates and 1971-1991 in the Senate, was the first state legislator who published a periodic newsletter. There were only a couple of issues each year with the cost of printing and mailing prohibiting more issues. I started issuing a newsletter, and it has evolved over the years to a weekly electronic newsletter (subscribe at From Senator DuVal I learned the benefits of direct voter contact by knocking on doors. While it is now more difficult to find people at home and willing to answer their doors, I try to be as available and accessible as I can at public gatherings of all types. Senator DuVal was also an excellent model of a legislator working for natural resource conservation and protection of the environment.

Delegate Dorothy McDiarmid ran for the House of Delegates for the first time in 1959 as an opponent of the Massive Resistance effort that was underway to prevent racial desegregation of the public schools. She served for more than two decades. The districts at the time were multi-member, and I was honored to be on a slate with Dorothy, as she wanted her friends to call her. A staunch advocate for public education, Delegate McDiarmid got public kindergartens started in Virginia and was one of the earliest supporters of George Mason University. From her I learned the importance of a bipartisan approach; for her it was not about being a Democratic or Republican idea but rather what was good for the commonwealth. While her representation of her district was extraordinary, she represented the interests of people concerned about schools and mental health needs and other issues statewide. She rose to the chairmanship of the budget-writing Appropriations Committee and was known in later campaigns by the slogan, “The Lady Has Clout.”

I learned a great deal from those who preceded me, and I try to be a good mentor for the newer members, sharing my expertise in education, energy and conservation. Re-election time comes around pretty quickly with a two-year term, but the process of going to the voters is invigorating. My enthusiasm for serving in office has not waned. I look forward to seeing you on the campaign trail; it is an honor to serve you.