The only common requirement for holding elective office is that one be a registered voter in the state meaning then of course that you must be at least 18 years of age.
You do not need to be a resident of the district you hope to represent although you will have to move into the district if you win. The concept of a citizen legislature is that it is made up of people from all walks of life in the community who can collectively speak for the community at large.
Supposedly there would be no professional politicians–just regular every-day folks. Such an approach should work out well to have the community broadly represented.
In the past, because of laws and practices, most legislatures have been filled mostly with old white men. Recent years have seen a shift including in Virginia as more women are running for office and getting elected. This year has more women, young people, and people of color running than ever before.
With the diversification of who sits in the legislature the challenge becomes taking people of many different backgrounds, perspectives and constituencies and bringing them together to work for consensus on legislation to get a majority vote. While skills acquired in business and civic activities teach many of the soft skills of interpersonal relationships and team building that are transferable to a legislative body, there are unique differences that are important to recognize.
Most legislatures with whom I am familiar have orientation programs to acquaint new members with where the bathrooms are, rules of order in committee meetings and on the floor, and operating procedures around the capitol. Putting legislation together, developing a strategy for its passage, and keeping constituents back home happy are most often handled by the political party caucuses or helpful mentors.
Another source of in-service training I have found invaluable are conferences put together by professional associations, specifically the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). I am at their national conference this week. NCSL keeps up with what is happening in state capitols around the country and through publications, conferences and consultancy keeps legislators informed. The association is truly non-partisan, although its leadership–chosen from among state legislators across the country–maintain their party allegiance while the staff is able to stay out of the partisanship.
Virginia of course had the first representative legislature in the western world beginning in 1619. Not everyone followed the Virginia model however in writing their constitution of organizing their legislatures. I continue to be amazed as I work with colleagues from around the country as to the number of different ways that legislative bodies can organize themselves and do their business. No one has a corner on the best way to do the people’s business, but we can learn from taking a look at how other states conduct their business.
NCSL refers to the states as the laboratories of democracy. The description is appropriate as we all face mostly the same challenges. Our responses are different, however. By getting together for what some would call a conference, but what I think is more appropriately called in-service training, we can do a better job for the people we represent.
As the federal government inches closer to a possible shutdown at the end of the week, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) says the local economy would be severely affected if no agreement is found.
“As we witnessed during the 2013 Republican government shutdown, Northern Virginia’s economy would be significantly affected. That 16-day shutdown cost nearly $24 billion in lost economic output,” Connolly said in a prepared statement Monday. “It is a reckless way to govern that hurts all Americans and must be avoided.”
The 2013 shutdown is estimated to have cost more than $217 million per day in federal and contractor wages in D.C. metropolitan area. In addition to a large number of federal employees, Reston is home to many government contractors including Leidos, which said in a statement to investors earlier this year that a shutdown could “result in our incurrence of substantial labor or other costs without reimbursement under customer contracts, or the delay or cancellation of key programs, which could have a negative effect on our cash flows and adversely affect our future results.”
Connolly put the blame for a potential government shutdown squarely on the shoulders of House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.):
“If Speaker Ryan wants to resort to hostage-taking over a border wall, then Republicans will own this shutdown,” the congressman said. “If he is willing to work with Democrats and pass a clean funding measure, however, then I am confident we can keep government open and working for our constituents.”
Tuesday is Election Day, and Virginia voters will go to the polls to elect a governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, sheriff and state delegate. Voters in Fairfax County will also vote Yes or No on a $250 million school bond issue.
With Terry McAuliffe leading in the polls, will voters return a Democrat to the Governors Mansion in Richmond? Or will Virginia Attorney Ken Cuccinelli head the commonwealth?
And what impact will Libertarian Robert Sarvis, who has been polling with about 10 percent, have on the outcome of the governor’s race?
In Reston, longtime Virginia Del. Ken Plum (D-36th) is running unopposed. In the nearby 86th District, newcomer Jennifer Boysko (D) is taking on incumbent Republican Tom Rust.
Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. For more Election Day details, visit the Virginia Board of Elections website.
Here is a quick guide to the candidates.
Fairfax County Sheriff
Ken Plum (D) – incumbent running unopposed