I have long held an admiration for those who are willing to put their names on the ballot. The sacrifice of time with family, loss of privacy, and just generally being a human pinata for the body politic for a period of months is worthy of our respect regardless of whether we agree with them.
One of the tasks in this process is to interact directly with as many voters as possible. As Tip O’Neill preached, “All politics is local”, and you have to ask everyone possible for their vote.
Two recent events, one read about and one I witnessed, have me wondering who has had it worse recently in Va. 37…and both happened at the Burke Farmer’s Market!
For the uninitiated, Virginia’s 37th Senate district features a struggle between incumbent GOP state Senator Ken “The Cooch” Cuccinelli and Janet “Big Hoot” Oleszek. He gets that nick name from his last name, she from some of the claims she has made in her flyers.
Both are out feverishly pressing the flesh and making contact with voters. As part of this process I do wonder why Big Hoot won’t debate The Cooch, but that is another post for another time.
One place where you can press a lot of flesh (and a lot of pumpkins) is at the Burke Farmer’s Market, held each saturday during the summer and early fall in the VRE parking lot next to the Burke Commons Community Center and behind the Burke Target store.
Today’s WaPo describes a recent Cooch interaction:
…a woman…approached [Cuccinelli] at the Burke Centre farmers market on a recent Saturday after eyeing the sticker on his shirt and the brochures in his hand.
“Are you Ken Cuccinelli?” she asked.
“Yes, ma’am, I am,” he replied, extending his hand.
“I hope you enjoyed yourself!” she continued, her tone turning unpleasant.
Simulating a guillotine motion across her neck, she said, “You’re done!” — and then turned and walked away.
Harsh, very harsh…and really tacky.
On the other hand, the unpleasantness was quickly done and he could move on to talk to other voters.
Compare to what I saw last Saturday…
I went to the market in search of squash and tomatoes. Construction at the VRE lot has caused foot traffic to be funneled down an improptu path. Near the market was Janet Oleszek, who was in conversation with an older gentleman dressed in sort of generic weekend finery. I wanted to say hello to her, but seeing her occupied continued on my task.
I was fortunate and quickly found the produce SWMBO had sent me in search of. As I returned to my car, I looked for Ms. Oleszek. She was in the same spot, talking to the same man. I slowed long enough to here him say, “I moved here a year ago…back home I was on the commission, and the way we handled it…”
At that I kept moving. One of the banes of candidates are those folks who don’t just want to talk, but want to talk for a long time and explore subtle and arcane policy positions or public needs. It just gets better when it’s someone who is certain they have experience that the candidate has to know about…and all the while dozens and dozens of potential voters are passing by, and there is no way for the candidate to break free.
One gets to deal with a rude voter who moves on immediately, the other with a very earnest voter who takes up enormous amounts of time. You decide-who had it worse.
Running for public office is hard work, and interacting with the public is part of the gig. Kudos to the both of them for being willing to tough it out.
Now, let’s get back to the Oleszek refusal to debate…
UPDATE: In the wake of this post and captivated by my muscular yet musical prose, Oleszek campaign manager Jonathan Murray dropped me an email saying that The Cooch and The Hoot have agreed to a debate, said event to be hosted by Channel 10. No details on details or format…which will be shared as it arrives.
UPDATE 2: In the wake of the update The Cooch himself emailed me on this subject. He suggested that what is in the works is less a debate than a joint appearance, with minimal interaction/back and forth between the candidates.