On November 19, 2011, I was selected to serve as the House Democratic Leader by my colleagues at our retreat in Richmond. This is a great honor for me personally, a wonderful opportunity for our region, and a tremendous challenge. In the aftermath of redistricting and the fall elections, Democrats hold fewer seats in the House of Delegates than any time in recent memory. It will take a concerted and sustained effort to retake the majority in the House.
As the Democratic Leader, I am responsible for coordinating floor debates during session, developing strategy for the caucus, providing liaison with the media and other citizen groups on behalf of House Democrats, identifying future candidates for office, and raising money for democratic campaigns.
In being elected to this position, I am continually reminded of the reasons why I entered public service, and of the values that our community holds dear. In my new role, I will emphasize the following:
- Our Commonwealth should focus on economic opportunity, jobs, and support for the middle class. For me, that means maintaining funding to employ people in education, public safety, and transportation, while providing investments that encourage businesses to expand and a tax climate that is fair and raises revenue sufficient to support the services our constituents hold dear. It means investing in K-12 education and higher education, so we can educate the next generation of Virginians in ways that they can compete with an increasingly global economy.
- Our Commonwealth should be fiscally responsible, honor its promises, and share fiscal challenges. This means restoring the Virginia Retirement System to full solvency.
- Our Commonwealth should be one of open government and open minds. The budget should be transparent and we should embrace government reform where it works and not on the basis of some vague ideological position.
- Our Commonwealth should embrace innovation and support science. If we are to maintain our competitive edge, we will need to encourage more innovation and research funding, and we should respect scientists when they conclude, based on rigorous inquiry, that climate change is a function of human behavior and that evolution is clearly established and should be taught in the schools.
- Our Commonwealth is diverse, and we should celebrate this fact and build on its strengths.
- As a Commonwealth, we should protect those most in need, whether they are citizens who seek nursing home care at reasonable costs, or our children who, without our help, might otherwise go to bed hungry.
- Our Commonwealth should support Main Street, not Wall Street. Income inequality is real and growing, and we need to place greater focus on local and regional economies that support the small businesses that are the backbone of our communities.
As the Democratic Leader in the House, I will work with my colleagues to advance this vision, and will continue to reach out to people like you for advice and counsel along the way. And I will continue to represent the 57th district and this region to the best of my ability.
As always, I appreciate your support and welcome your input.