Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell in Sterling
I like our attorney general: Color me a Bob McDonnell fan. Leaving aside the fact there were over 100 people packed into Cascades Library in Sterling and more than half of them were eager to ask questions on two of the most contentious issues facing Virginians, and Attorney General McDonnell had less than two hours to address everything and everyone: When we started it was over 100 degrees outside and over 80 inside and this man in business attire never broke a sweat.
That, my friends, is composure. I can say that with authority because I was business casual and sweating like Riggo during two-a-days.
More than that, Bob McDonnell did an exemplory job answering tough questions on very difficult topics. A good percentage of the audience was there not to praise him, but to challenge him. I think everyone present will agree he rose to the challenge even if his answers were not to everyone's liking.
He stated his positions on the Virginia Marriage Amendment and illegal immigration clearly and honestly - and he acknowledged when questioners pointed out potential problems in local, state and federal policies.
I like it when a public official admits, "That is a really good question," rather than try to give a BS answer. A politician responding with honesty and integrity: What a concept!
I also like it when a public official hangs out to talk with local residents long after an official event has ended. AG McDonnell stayed until the last person in line got to speak his or her peace. Late on a hot summer evening. That's why I'll never run for public office.
Details of the meeting will come later. Many of the AG's statements were worthy of lengthy quotation: I'll post these in the near future. For now, I'll rely on the rule that a picture's worth a thousand words, so here's a bunch of pictures to give you a feel for the night's events without me having to write a thousand words.
Sterling Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio (l) explains to John Grigsby that if you can't state your case clearly, you just might be a liberal. And watch the hand signals.
UPDATE: Paul Protic, our outstanding Loudoun County Republican Committee chairman, was also here for the event. Sorry I did not get a photo!
We had a great assortment of elected officials present: Supervisors Eugene Delgaudio and Steve Snow; Delegates Tom Rust and David Poisson; State Senator Mark Herring; along with representatives from the Loudoun County Sheriff's Department and local activists from Loudoun and Fairfax counties. For Sterling, this was pretty much a power-confab from both the Left and the Right.
The audience was EXTREMELY civil despite the heat. That's Erin Anderson - a national treasure on national security issues - in the foreground in red and blue stripes, and Delegate Tom Rust in the far left corner in the olive-colored jacket.
Our topics for the evening were the Virginia Marriage Amendment and illegal immigration. The AG got to speak on each and then answer questions on each. As it turned out, we got a varied group of attendees: a pretty unique mixture. Our rationale when we planned the event was, August 1 might not be a great time for an "issues" meeting, so to ensure attendance we would beef up the content - cast a wide net. It could not have worked better, because our previous best was 40 people in September. Getting over 100 in August was quite a surprise, falling in the category of "that's the kind of problem we WANT to have." But because we drew two essentially different constituencies, many people had to be very patient while the meeting covered subjects they didn't care so much about
Unsurprisingly, the most vocal audience members were the most aggrieved. On the Virginia Marriage Amendment we had a bunch of pro-same-sex-marriage attendees, and on illegal immigration we had a very large group of citizens incensed about the impact on jobs and quality of life in Northern Virginia.
I think, for everyone present, the value of the event cut both ways. AG McDonnell stated his support for the Virginia Marriage Amendment, and he did so in a refreshingly straightforward manner. He acknowledged the objections, but held firm to the conviction that there is a good reason Virginia law only permits marriage between one man and one woman. He got an earful of opposition, but he answered the objections. I will transcribe some of this for future posts here between now and November.
On illegal immigration, the attorney general got more than an earful - and so did the Sheriff's department reps and the other elected officials in the room. I am going to guess that some of our public officials are now very attuned to problems in Virginia that can be addressed at the state and local levels, especially involving law enforcement policies in Sterling Park, businesses that hire illegal aliens and businesses operating without valid licenses. More on this topic - much more - will be in the public arena in the coming months.
I want to thank everyone in both groups - the gay marriage people and the illegal immigration people - for being so pleasant and patient. Much of the discussion involved questions more suited to a conference table than a room packed with citizens. Only a fraction of those present had a chance to ask questions because of the time limitation. This was a very inclusive public discussion, but it was also very short. I appreciate everyone's forebearance.
Again, thank you to all of you for being so helpful, well-mannered, and not complaining at all about the heat in the building tonight. I hope we get to do more of this in Sterling, under more temperate conditions.
Special thanks to John Grigsby, Bob Rudine, Erin Anderson, Amy Heydman, Diane Bonieskie, Kathy Brokee, Eugene Delgaudio, John Neil, Aubrey Stokes, Phil Jones and Paul Mills for advice and assistance in making this a successful event.
Extra-special thanks to Tucker Martin and Charles Slemp of AG McDonnell's staff. You guys are doing a great job and I hope you keep Sterling on your to do list in the coming years.
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