Falls Church-based Democratic Party organizer Peg Willingham was the key mover who convinced the local F.C. Democratic Committee to rent the State Theatre last Thursday to host a TV-watch event, using the theater’s mega-screen to view the Democratic convention acceptance speech of Hillary Clinton. Wednesday, Willingham issued a statement, hailing the event as a huge success, with an official head count at 372.
Local enthusiasm for the Democratic presidential ticket peaked just prior to the convention when it was announced that Virginia’s U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, a frequent visitor to the City over the course of years of statewide campaigns crisscrossing the state dating back to 1999, was the party’s choice as its vice presidential nominee.
Because of his warm personality, many people who’ve met Kaine, even if only to shake his hand, claim him as a personal friend. In Falls Church, a campaign stop by Kaine in the small parking lot at what was then Stacy’s Coffee (now “spacebar”), was memorialized in a photo shoot by local photographer Shaun vanSteyn, who said he sent a copy of a photo from that event to Kaine with a personal note last week.
Kaine spoke at a F.C. Democratic Committee Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, made a number of other local appearances and was News-Press owner Nicholas Benton’s table guest, sitting for two hours at Benton’s elbow when Benton was honored by Equality Virginia as an “OUTstanding Virginian” at a Richmond banquet in 2012. At a time when the LGBT’s community support for Kaine, then governor, had become uncertain, Benton’s invitation afforded Kaine the opportunity to be introduced to the 1,000 attendees, and when he rose to wave to the crowd, he received a very warm and hearty applause.
The local angle in the events transpiring at the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia last week did not stop there. In addition to the array of local activists who dotted the landscape of the Virginia delegation at the convention, the behind the scenes role of a long-time City resident proved critical to the concord among rival delegates – backers of Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders – that prevailed at the convention, according to a report by John Wagner and Dan Balz in Monday’s Washington Post.
Sanders’ campaign manager and long-time friend Jeff Weaver, a Lincoln Avenue resident of Falls Church since 1999 and the owner of the local Victory Comics store, played a pivotal role, according to the Post report, in turning Sanders delegates, many showing up to the convention in a surly frame of mind, into participants in what became a veritable lovefest.
Weaver’s sustained close contact with his Clinton counterpart, Robby Mook, through the primary season proved critical, especially after Sanders delegates largely ignored a text message from Sanders at the outset of the convention urging them “as a personal courtesy to me, not to engage in any kind of protest on the floor.”
The WikiLeaks release of thousands of internal Democratic National Committee emails just prior to the convention kick off heightened the potential for a very contentious and bitter convention scene, but swift action that included the removal of Debbie Wasserman Schultz as the DNC chair, underscored the fact that “the Sanders team was determined to work with the Clinton camp to ensure as smooth a convention as possible,” according to the report.
After the convention, last weekend area state legislator Mark Levine, a former aide to retired U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, a radio talk show host and now a freshman member of the House of Delegates, appeared on Fox News to defuse that organization’s effort to paint Sanders supporters as prepared to support Trump en masse.
Levine challenged the veracity of an alleged Sanders-to-Trump supporter by citing his website claiming to “hate socialism,” suggesting the person was a shill, a Trump supporter all along.
Levine’s “standing room only” monthly open constituency meeting at a Del Rey restaurant last Saturday quickly evolved into a lively discussion of the presidential race with enthusiasm levels at peak capacity.
Meanwhile, Republican nominee Donald Trump held a rally in Ashburn, Virginia, an electorally conservative area of Loudoun County to the west, that became controversial in its own right, on Tuesday. Trump’s criticism of the family of slain U.S. military hero Capt. Humayuan Khan, who hailed from nearby Bristow, Virginia, and died in Iraq in 2004, sparked a firestorm of outrage that surrounded the event.
In a letter by Willingham, a former aide to retired U.S. Rep. Jim Moran, to supporters here, she introduced Cooper Patterson as the Clinton campaign’s local chief organizer and announced an aggressive schedule of phone banks two nights a week at local households, and voter registration and door-to-door canvassing drives every Saturday and Sunday out of local homes.