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Disruptive Democrats
By Stephen J. Rossie

Square2017 imageRichmond – The 15 freshman Democrats who flipped Republican delegate seats in the 2017 election — some winners of GOP open seats and others who defeated incumbents — brought their party to an unthinkable near parity. Closing the gap from 66-44 to 51- 49 is a remarkable feat in most books.

But this class — described as folks who weren’t invited to the party, but who just showed up — wants more. Not the overt grenade throwers some may have expected, these left-of-even-the-most-left House Democrats may be about to drop a bomb — on their own caucus.

Driving their membership even further to the left on major policy issues is one thing (mission accomplished this past session). Deposing their leader is another.

This group and other newer members are dissatisfied with current Minority Leader David Toscano (DCharlottesville) because they are precisely that — the minority. Despite the historic 15-seat gain, the upstarts point to several close losses that would have put them in a clear majority.

While they acknowledge Toscano as a prolific fundraiser and a good floor leader with expert knowledge of House rules and procedures, they blame him and his leadership team for poor decision making and tactical awareness in disbursing campaign funds and support, pointing not only to close losses in the last few election cycles, but wins where they were outspent.

Although they believe they could have done better, other observers point to the election as a once-in-alifetime wave due to momentary dissatisfaction with the then-recently elected President Donald Trump. In other words, it was as close as they could’ve dreamed and some of the wins were flukes, the seats due to flip back next time in mainly Republican-leaning districts.

It was probably more than Toscano, a heck of a nice guy, ever imagined, as well. Some thought he perhaps feared becoming speaker. That’s the problem, the Uber Left claims. There were rumors of revolt in January, but he survived, likely because the newbies didn’t have their footing yet. The potential coup’s leader, Delegate Jennifer Boysko (DFairfax County), whose delightful Southern accent betrays her environs as much as it does the political bent of her birthplace (Alabama), is only in her second term — a grizzled veteran compared to the caucus’ decisive bloc. She’s known primarily for introducing a bill to eliminate the sales tax on feminine hygiene products.

In order to force a vote in mid term, Boysko must secure 25 votes in the caucus. The issue came up at a Democrat retreat and fundraising weekend (with lobbyists) recently at the Homestead resort, where she and her supporters no doubt were at least putting out feelers, if not lobbying themselves. Toscano did not attend. Neither is talking to the media.

Politics is probably the least likely place where nice guys succeed, even when successful. To survive usually requires a disruptive change of one’s winning persona — no more Mr. Nice Guy. David Toscano is about to find out if he can do the former without the latter.


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