Local Commentary

Editorial: Hats Off to Sen. Whipple

It would hardly be unique for this newspaper to say nice things about State Senator Mary Margaret Whipple upon her announcement that she will not seek re-election to a fifth four-year term in the state legislature this fall. Few who know her or her work, of either party, have anything but the highest respect and regard for her intelligent, level-headed and articulate leadership.

We can only hope that her considerable talents continue to contribute to our society, and that someone with even a modicum of her ability can replace her next year. We expect that there will be a primary before the general election to fill her seat in November, and it will be hard to find someone who can replicate her.

When trying to fill such big shoes, it’s perhaps better to cast a very different profile than to attempt a carbon copy of the original. Since emulating Ms. Whipple is almost impossible, whomever steps up should bring their own unique personality characteristics and style.

It won’t be easy for anyone. At our editor’s church, when a beloved pastor of 25 years left, the young clergyman who was hired to take his place found he was in over his head with expectations based on the impressions left by the other guy. He’s lasted only 14 months and is on his way out the door.

But there will most likely be a number of prominent Arlington-based Democrats who will want to vie for Whipple’s seat, which may lead her to eschew an endorsement of any one of them. However, the independent-minded Ms. Whipple tends toward an aversion for convention and expectations.

After all, she was mighty lonely in Northern Virginia when she enthusiastically endorsed State Sen. Creigh Deeds for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2009, and as it turned out, he beat out two other contenders for the nod.

Of course, if it turns out that a half-dozen or so jump into the fray for the Democratic nomination, as was the case for a vacated state delegate seat in Arlington two years ago, then things will be up for grabs. Such a crowded field might make it interesting for someone from the City of Falls Church, who represents a corner of Whipple’s 31st District.

A popular candidate from Falls Church, running as a favorite son or daughter, could inspire a geographical constituency in ways none of the others could, and could therefore be competitive in such a race.

But for us, the criteria required for our support in finding a suitable replacement for Ms. Whipple include a passionate commitment to core values of social and economic equality, to expanding educational and career opportunities, to fighting for the needs of the underprivileged and to stand courageously and resolutely against privileged special interests on behalf of these values. If someone embodies all those things, it won’t matter where she or he lives.

In the meantime, we hope Mary Margaret will continue fighting for us.