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Del. Ken Plum: Heat of the Election Season

Del. Ken Plum/File photoThis is an opinion column by Del. Ken Plum (D), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

On the fourth of July last week I rode on a float in the Fairfax City Independence Day Parade, one of the largest in the state, with local Democrats promoting the candidacies of Senator Tim Kaine and Congressman Gerry Connelly for re-election and the election of Jennifer Wexton for Congress in the Tenth District. It brought back some pleasant old memories. When I first ran for elective office in the mid-1970s, I was running for the House of Delegates in what was then the 18th District.

It was represented by five at-large delegates. After the courts declared the Virginia redistricting unconstitutional after the 1970 census because it short-changed Northern Virginia in representation, the legislature simply divided Fairfax County into two halves with each half having five at-large members.

When I was first elected in 1978 I was part of a five-person delegation of three Democrats and two Republicans who represented the northern half of Fairfax County from Herndon to Baileys Crossroads including the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church. These large districts were declared unconstitutional in 1982, and single-member districts including District 36 were put into place and have been adjusted each census to reflect the changing population and a bit of gerrymandering of some districts to protect incumbents.

Except for Fourth of July celebrations political campaigns largely got underway after Labor Day. It seems that now they are perpetual. Door knocking on hot summer weekends was questionable when your body was dripping in sweat. Now there are regularly scheduled canvasses each weekend regardless of the heat. There is no better formula for success than direct contact with voters. In the fall the days get shorter and there is less opportunity to knock on doors in the evenings. Ringing doorbells after dark may lose as many votes as gained. Regardless of the heat, candidates need to be out and about to see voters.

At the parade and at neighborhood canvassing I have visited I have been impressed at the dedication of people who are volunteering to help identify, register and persuade voters. While I am overwhelmingly anxious about the direction of our country, I am encouraged and reassured by the volunteers I meet. They are determined to save our democratic institutions and to put us back on the path of a caring and open society.

When a volunteer comes to your door, please thank them for their work on behalf of our democracy. When volunteers from the other persuasion come by be polite and civil. Have faith that they will eventually see the light and join us. I am sure that we will win the vote in November, and we will go back to living together after that.

Thankfully I rode on a float in the parade because the heat was exhausting. It felt good to hear the cheers and see the friendly waves. Nothing like a parade to cheer you up. When the heat of the election season is past, I am confident that our country will have sent a message that we are returning to the moral values we share.

File photo

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Most-Read Reston Stories of 2017 (#1-5)

We’re counting down the top 20 most-read articles of 2017 this week. Here’s the final list of our top five stories.

5. The first lawsuit filed regarding Boston Properties’ paid parking system at Reston Town Center in late March had 10,970 views. The suit was initiated by Jackson’s Mighty Fine Food and Lucky Lounge (11927 Democracy Drive). Paid parking continues to challenge local businesses, according to several tenants. Just this week, Appalachian Spring, one of the first tenants of Reston Town Center, announced plans to shutter its Reston location partly due to limited foot traffic that a business representative believes decreased partly due to paid parking.

4. Continuing a similar theme, Boston Properties’ plans to modify its parking system five months after instituting paid parking drew 11,078 views. The company rescinded the payment requirements for users of RTC parking garages after 5 p.m. and also allow one hour of free garage parking for sessions that begin before 5 p.m.

3. An article about where to watch one of the most anticipated professional fights in history gained 14,374 page views. Undefeated box champion Floyd Mayweather went toe to toe with UFC superstar Conor McGregor.

2. The brutal killing of Nabra Hassanen, a 17-year-old Muslim girl who was killed as she walked to her mosque after night prayers during the month of fasting gained nationwide attention and sent reverberations locally. Darwin Martin-Torres, a 22-year-old, is accused of raping and sexual assaulting Hassanen. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. The article gained 15,575 views.

1. A rundown of where to spot Fourth of July fireworks took the top honors of the year with more than 16,000 page views. Turns out finding places to complete the American tradition was especially popular among readers.

It’s been quite a year and we look forward to bring you more stories in 2018.

Photo courtesy of Rick Collier

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