Some people love to play fantasy football.
Almost all of us love to play fantasy politics. Fantasy politics occurs when we become enamored of a candidate because somehow their background fits our ideal and we imbue them with characteristics that we have determined would make for a great chief executive. Be that a president or, in our upcoming election, a governor. However, our judgements are often unrelated to an individual’s knowledge and ability to succeed in office.
It is often a harmless exercise and it does stimulate conversation around how we address the problems that confront us but we need to be careful. This year in Virginia we have a choice to make in our gubernatorial election. What I think we tend to undervalue, because we have limited exposure to it, is the importance of existing relationships for a governor with the legislature and the role that plays in getting important things done.
I am as guilty as anyone of playing this game but the longer I have been in elected office the more I realize that relationships are key to a governor’s success in dealing with the legislature. Working with each other on bills, resolutions, and budget determinations is the way legislators of both parties get to know, respect, and feel comfortable with each other’s judgments.
We have the opportunity this year to elect someone who is known, respected, and even liked by Republicans and Democrats in both the House and Senate of Virginia. Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam served in the Senate for six years before becoming Lieutenant Governor and it’s easy to see the affection legislators have for him, regardless of political party. (This is in addition to his background as the head of the Honor Council at the Virginia Military Institute, his years as an Army doctor working on our seriously wounded during Desert Storm and the outstanding career he has maintained as a pediatric neurologist.) Does that mean that everyone will blindly follow his lead? Of course not. But what it does mean is that his conversation with the legislature as governor starts with familiarity and trust, allowing for compromise and progress for the citizens of Virginia.
You only get four years as governor in our Commonwealth. Spending your first year introducing yourself to everyone in Richmond has proven not to be a productive use of time. Our Commonwealth has been in a sustained period of growth and stability as we recover from the Recession of 2007. It is hopeful that our backlog of needs can be addressed and Virginia can continue its climb back to being the best state to do business, the best managed state, and continue our status as the best state to raise a child.
As much fun as fantasy politics can be, and as much as we like to make statements with our political choices, we have a Commonwealth to run. It has been rare in the past 30 years that we have elected a governor with strong existing relationships with the legislature. It may not sound exciting to make our political choices based on that criteria… but it works in our best interest. Ralph Northam is our best choice for governor.