Del. Ken Plum: Remembering a Virginia Statesman

by Del. Ken Plum October 1, 2014 at 1:00 pm 4 Comments

Del. Ken Plum/File photoI first heard of Vincent F. (Vince) Callahan, Jr. in 1965 when he ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor of Virginia.

It was his first run for political office, and while it may seem that he aimed high to start, in those days it was easy to get the Republican nomination since the Republicans always lost.

Callahan got 37 percent of the vote, but four years later his running mate for governor, Linwood Holton, who had also gotten just 37 percent of the vote, was elected the first Republican governor of Virginia since Reconstruction.

In the meantime, Vince had run successfully for the House of Delegates in 1967. He served for the next 40 years, making him the second longest serving member of the House of Delegates in history. Vince recently died of West Nile virus and was buried last week.

In 1978, I joined Vince as part of a five-person delegation representing Northern Virginia that was split with three Democrats and two Republicans. Although we were from different parties, Vince and I worked closely together on many issues including education and transportation.

He was a strong proponent of public schools and was a real champion for George Mason University while on the Appropriations Committee. He eventually became chairman of that committee when Republicans took control of the House of Delegates. He worked hard for money for transportation for the region, and when I organized the Dulles Corridor Rail Association he became vice chairman of the Association.

I will miss Vince very much, and I continue to miss the era of politics he represented. We worked together on behalf of our constituents without regard to party. In the early years we shared the goals of wresting power from the Byrd machine that had controlled Virginia with an iron fist for most of the 20th century.

While I was part of the Democratic majority at the time, I was shut out of many of the decisions of government because I was a Northern Virginian and progressive. Before he left the House of Delegates, Vince was feeling the alienation from his party that now controls the House just as I felt in the early days when the Democrats were in control.

In recent years, Vince started to publicly endorse Democrats including Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine and Governor Terry McAuliffe. He simply could not accept the tea party ideology that dominates the Republican Party in Virginia today.

There were excesses of power when the Democrats controlled the House of Delegates when Vince was first elected. During his years in office there was a shift of power to the Republicans where the same excesses of power can be seen.

Vince knew of the experiences under the Democrats and did not contribute to repeating them when his party came to power. He worked on behalf of the good of the Commonwealth and his constituents–not ideology or party. Vince Callahan was a true Virginia statesman.

Ken Plum represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Reston Now.

  • Mike M

    I am sorry about your friend, Ken.

    Say, . . . anything going on in Richmond that pertains to government?

  • Consis Tently-Wright

    Campaigns for the United States Congress are privately funded in America. Eighty- five percent of that funding comes from large contributions. Candidates and political parties target the especially large contributors in their fundraising efforts. But the number of such contributors is tiny: No more than .05% of the American population gives even the maximum amount to one candidate for Congress. The number giving $10,000 or more is less than .01%.

    This concentration gives the funders of political campaigns enormous power, either directly (as direct contributors) or indirectly (through the funding secured by lobbyists and other intermediaries). As Members of Congress become dependent upon these funders — spending anywhere between 30% and 70% of their time raising money — the influence of these funders grows. A trivial number of large contributors have the capacity to block reforms that are relatively invisible to the general public. A small number can affect the agenda of Congress or even block reforms that are generally popular. As a recent study from Princeton concludes, “economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. governmental policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence.”

    This dynamic is not partisan. Instead, it blocks reforms on the Left and Right. It blocks substantial legislative initiatives — such as climate change legislation, or meaningful health care reform. It also blocks efforts to simplify taxes or shrink the size of government: All things being equal, complicated taxes and a more extensive government increase the ability of Members of Congress to raise money. As Robert Kaiser details in his book, So Damn Much Money (2010), that fact interferes with the legislative agenda of the Right as much as of the Left.

    The founders of the MaydayPAC believe that this dynamic has destroyed the capacity of the United States government to govern.

    • Mike M

      People vote. And people increasingly expect “free” stuff from their government. And they get it.

      People vote. People can make change. But they tend to vote for the same clowns again and again and again. Take Ken Plum, for example.

  • Bah

    Once again the Crypt Keeper says NOTHING relevant to Reston.

    Just the usual Leftist bloviation.


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