Opinion: Kaine and Warner Are Wrong, Democratic Establishment Ganging Up Against Alexsis and Dawn Is Not Fair


Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner should not be leading the Virginia Democratic Party establishment in trying to block Alexsis Rodgers and Delegate Dawn Adams. The two Democratic lawmakers are openly backing Delegate Lamont Bagby in this Sunday’s firehouse primary. This Democratic Party nomination process will chose the party’s nominee in the March 28 Special State Senate election. Current State Senator Jen McClellan is going to Congress. This is a safe Democratic Senate seat.  So the winner on Sunday will replace Jen.

When Tim and Mark wanted to become Governor, they asked for my help. When the first female Democrat and the first Black Democrat wanted to make history in winning a statewide Democratic nomination, they likewise asked me to help. No other white Democrat would do what they needed. The Party Establishment aligned against them. I didn’t believe such blocking tactics right then, nor now.

Back then, the party establishment supported, respectively, a big donor and a powerful state legislator. These were fine individuals. But they were chosen as “next in line” as the saying goes.

In my book Remaking Virginia Politics, I discuss these efforts. We tore down the No Women Need Apply and No Blacks Need Apply signs hanging on the door to statewide nominations. In my book I also discuss the now famous gubernatorial primary campaign that nominated the first Democratic gubernatorial nominee not beholden in any way to segregationist forces.

Why are going backwards to anointment and appointment all these years later? Alexsis and Dawn are good Democrats. They backed Tim and Mark. Like his pal Mayor Stoney, Lamont got in office due to being the chosen one of the Party Establishment. Mayor Stoney had been the driver for Governor Terry McAuliffe. Terry considered him a protégé. As for Lamont, his Godfather was Donald McEachin. He died much to young. Don handpicked Lamont to succeed him in the House of Delegates. Now the Establishment is running over other Democrats to clear a path for Lamont to the State Senate.

The Sunday firehouse primary process had been biased in favor of Lamont before Tim and Mark put their thumbs on the scale. The Senate district is 60% from Henrico County, Delegate Bagby’s base. An unconstitutional state law, which I have tried to change, required the nomination process to be held within 5 days of the issuance of the Writ of Election. Democratic State Senate Pro Tempore Louise Lucas issued the Writ. She backs Bagby. She timed her Writ to help him. Why can’t Lamont stand on his own?

There were legal ways for Senator Lucas to give Alexsis and Dawn more time to get their message to the voters, to tell voters the addresses of the unique voting locations being used on Sunday. But more time hurt Bagby, as he is better known and better organized in Henrico.

Lamont will be a reliable Democratic party line vote in the Senate. He isn’t a reformer. He will essentially vote for the status quo. We need real reformist change. Especially in Richmond. Lamont is not a leader for change. That’s not in Richmond’s best interest.

Delegate Dawn Adams will likewise be a solid Democrat if elected to the Senate. Her big issue has been legalizing marijuana as best I can tell. In my view, fixing public education is a far more important issue for the future of Richmond. I have led on that issue. So has Jen. But Dawn has been AWOL.

As for Alexsis, based on her campaign for Mayor, I believe she better understands the urgent need to reform public education in Richmond. Our public-school buildings are crumbling. We have effectively two separate systems of education. One for poor children of color in RPS. Decrepit buildings. A dysfunctional RPS. An AWOL Mayor that reneged on campaign promises. A school board that is a clown show. The other system is mostly white and private school based.  Modern facilities. The best instruction. I praise the parents who make the effort and financial sacrifice to give their kids a better education. But not all can. For them, public school is the only option. We need elected officials that will raise the level of public education so we have a level field for all kids regardless of family circumstances.

Dr. King said education can be the great equalizer. Which is why he said state leaders make sure poor public-school kids don’t get equal education. Money alone will not fix it. We need elected officials with the guts to speak the truth about our failing public education system and the “tough love” it will likely take to fix it.

I believe Alexsis understands the education crisis far better than her opponents. Moreover, I think, by far, she is the only one not tied to the mistakes of the past.

Tim and Mark should have left the decision to the people. They work in DC now. Not in the 9th Senate District.

Lamont, Dawn, and Alexsis have a lot to offer. But on the issue of education, Alexsis Rodgers is the only one who isn’t tied to the failed status quo.

Illustration by @majormajor____

Paul Goldman

Paul Goldman

Paul Goldman, a political strategist, attorney, and activist, served as the Chair of the Democratic Party of Virginia from 1990 to 1993 and was a 2021 Democratic candidate for Virginia's lieutenant governorship. Before becoming the state Democratic Party chair, Goldman worked as an attorney and also served on political campaigns such as those of Douglas Wilder and Henry Howell. He later spearheaded the 2003 Richmond elected mayor ballot initiative and ran for Richmond City Council. In recent years, Goldman has been a political operative in Richmond, Virginia, advocating for changes to the city charter and supporting school modernization efforts by lobbying the Virginia General Assembly. Goldman is also a public education advocate and has written columns on education policy for major publications such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Hill, and Politico. He has a new book called "Remaking Virginia Politics."

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