Local Commentary

Guest Commentary: Why I Support Saslaw for Re-Election to State Senate

By Cindy Cunningham

Dayenu is a Jewish song of gratitude that is sung as part of the story of the Exodus at Passover. It means “it would have been enough.” Each stanza of the verse tells of one thing that the Jews were grateful for, one thing that would have been enough cause for celebration. And yet, they had more than just the one thing, they had many, many things to celebrate. People have asked me why I support Dick Saslaw, and this always comes to mind. I have a long list of reasons, any one of which would be enough for me to cast my vote for him.

It would be enough if I supported Dick Saslaw because he’s a personal friend. He came to be a friend, ironically, after I wrote an article criticizing him. Instead of holding a grudge, he reached out to me to listen to my complaints, to try to find common ground, and to find ways to represent me better. The things I’ve learned along the way about the kind of honest, caring, and genuine person he is have turned that into a true friendship.

It would be enough if I supported Dick Saslaw because I want Democrats to take back the majority in the House and the Senate, and because holding onto your top fundraiser makes that easier. He donates over 90 percent of the money he receives to the Caucus and to Democratic candidates. This means other candidates can spend more of their time knocking doors and winning votes.

It would be enough if I supported Dick Saslaw because he has served Virginia for 40 years. When he could have spent his time building some kind of empire, amassing a personal fortune, or just spending more time with his family; he has instead put in incredibly long hours, day after day, all year round, serving as a “part-time legislator.” As minority leader, everyone leans on him, everyone demands his time and presence, everyone wants his assistance. I’m sure he loves it too, but it’s still a personal sacrifice. He does it because at his heart, he’s a fixer— wherever he sees a problem, he is compelled to roll up his sleeves (sometimes literally) and fix it.

It would be enough if I supported Dick Saslaw because he’s incredibly well-connected, and knows an unfathomable number of people across the state, in every industry, every agency or organization, every part of the administration. If a constituent from anywhere in his district calls him up or writes to him with any sort of problem, he won’t hesitate one second to pick up the phone and instantly have just the right person on the line to fix that problem.

It would be enough if I supported Dick Saslaw because where we disagree on issues, he doesn’t object to my nevertheless lobbying him repeatedly to try to change his mind. See, I’m your typical progressive, and ideologically to the left of him on several issues. But he genuinely listens to the points I make, and values and respects that I feel so passionately about these issues. While he’s not willing to change his position just for political expediency (believe me, I’ve tried to sell him on it), he always leaves a door open to the possibility that he might be convinced. Ultimately, I place a higher value on the good character of a candidate than on whether we agree on any particular issue.

It would be enough if I supported Dick Saslaw because I’ve brought him problems that affect my community and ones that affect the state, and he’s found legislative and non-legislative ways to fix them. He’s arranged meetings, letters, and phone calls, and helped make sure stakeholders were connected. He’s written more than one piece of legislation at my request and my family’s request. I realize not everyone is friends with a senator like I am, but quite honestly, he’d do the same for anyone who asked.

It would be enough if I supported Dick Saslaw because he’s an outstanding legislator — the actual part where ideas become bills. I’ve watched the sausage get made, both by him and by many other legislators. He doesn’t patron bills just to grandstand or send a message. He puts in bills that he thinks he can pass. And he doesn’t just drop a bill and hope for the best — he does the work beforehand to make sure that he knows who the stakeholders are, and where the opposition might come from. Before that bill goes to a committee meeting, and throughout the process, he talks to the interested parties and other legislators, and works out any necessary changes to the language to ensure everyone is on board and amenable.

Any one of these would be enough for me to support him.

Dayenu, it would be enough!