Wittman Has Experience and Character
The most overused words in the political tool box are those that include “character” and “experience.” Eyes glazed-over, I yet again put another political mailer where it normally belongs……in the trash. The next two weeks will be a super-sized bombardment of these words, as if we were not already drowning in a sea of rhetoric and worse.
Friends on social media battle it out to the death on whose character is the most reprehensible, Clinton or Trump and whose experience is the most laudable, claiming at the same time both huge and marginal results for each. I fear they are laying the groundwork for that which will be hard to recover friendships going forward. I hope they will not let the two worst candidates in the history of our country ruin both personal and political relationships. I challenge everyone to channel this energy into the checkbox on the ballot — and then leave it there.
For years in my office, a chosen few direct mail pieces make their way to “the magic file box.” Mailers that are well done, truthful and real. I save those to show “would be candidates” and voters what an actual qualified person with experience, character and a relevant resume look like. Many of the keepers are from one representative in particular: Congressman Rob Wittman.
In a world where people claim character counts and some even wake up one day and say “I think I’ll run for Congress,” there is an advantage to understanding the workings of local government, state government and how our federal government operates. Add Wittman’s keen interest in discussing and communicating those issues tirelessly with anyone who will stop and talk to him; it’s a winning scenario for the constituents of the First District.
Perhaps it is cliche to say how long I have known Rob. Everyone says that right? Then again, I have known many politicians, some way too long. So, yes, I make a judgement call based on where he came from and what I know personally, well beyond the written record. He first came to my attention when he was considering his run for delegate to the Virginia General Assembly. I grilled him on my favorite subject: local government. And not only did he NOT disappoint, it was clear his service to the citizens of his home county of Westmoreland was real and engaged. The guy knew his stuff. Rob served first on the town council there and later as mayor of the Town of Montross. He then served on the the county board of supervisors. He is one of a handful in congress with that experience.
When Wittman was elected to the General Assembly, and later to Congress, I’ll admit I waited for Rob to lose his regular-guy persona. I am still waiting. He is the same man who never said “no” to coming to every parade, Sunday school picnic and county fair. Never asked how many people are attending an event. Rob will come for two people if they need to talk to him. Going home every night from Washington DC, he is there on a regular basis for his wife and family. I have seen him come to Caroline, so tired after being on the road all day at half a dozen events, but in no hurry to leave. He’s still the same guy who comes faithfully to our schools in non-election years and is particularly wonderful with elementary age kids and their questions. He is the guy who isn’t too good to squash his face down in a watermelon (and win the contest) with a bunch of teenagers at our county fair.
In 2009, I was covering the Bob McDonnell inauguration for the local paper and Rob was a fairly new Congressman. The elevated press box was jammed and so I sent my photographer there to jostle for a prime spot while I sat in the VIP bleachers filled with district chairs and such. Sitting next to me was a fairly influential district chair who was speaking about the accessibility of our elected officials.
“My Congressman always returns my call,” I said. “Yeah right,” he said. “No,” I answered, “He really does.” About that moment Rob entered the stage in front of the capital and sat down. “Look I’ll show you,” I said. “I’ll call him right now.” The district chair and his buddy laughed. “No way is he answering his phone right now,” he said and added, “He’s not thinking about you. He’s busy networking.” I hit the number on my cell phone and they watched as Rob reached into his pocket, looked at his phone, and then answered it. This is classic Rob.
Locally, what a difference it makes for the Chairman of our Board of Supervisors to be able to pick up the phone and talk with a congressman who has been right where he is, in local government. Rob’s knowledge and experience there adds an extra layer of support when it comes to understanding good policy. He gets where it all begins: locally with transportation, land use and much more. It’s important to me, as the wife of that chairman to be able to talk to my congressman about people who need help. I like that Rob will give anything a whirl to solve a problem, including things you would not think about: insurance and disability help for people who have been denied. He tackles a myriad of other “small” things that make a difference to real people’s lives.
Not neglecting the big picture, Rob is well liked by his colleagues in congress on both sides of the aisle but has done so without sacrificing principles. He has championed much that is worthy while serving there. On the House Armed Services Committee, Rob serves as the chairman of the Readiness Subcommittee, and on the Seapower and Expeditionary Forces Subcommittee. A position that is often overlooked is his Co-Chairmanship of the Congressional Shipbuilding Caucus. He believes we must expand and keep a robust naval fleet and a viable, domestic shipbuilding industry. Rob is amazingly adept at discussing ISIS and foreign policy, and a recurrent theme with him is that these United States must absolutely project a position of strength. He is also well known as an advocate for men and women in uniform.
I won’t belabor his legislation, although I am especially pleased with his votes of late. They are a matter of public record and speak to common sense. One of those this year appears in the excellent op ed by First District SCC member Bob Watson whose title really says it all. “Wittman Epitomizes the Citizen Legislator”.
While Rob Wittman and I have had differences of opinion on occasion, I would not trade his connection with the real world for any rock star congressman. Frankly, I like the opportunity and ability to talk and even sometimes argue these differences with him. Accessibility is an understatement when describing how he does business. Sometimes I think his humility may be mistaken for a lack of passion, but the opposite is true. He’s plenty smart, intellectual and campaigns on the absolute high ground. People who supported past opponents are for the most part Wittman people now. He won them fair and square on issues and like a gentleman.
I like how Rob is like us. He drives a practical, economical car. He lives in a regular house Not too big to answer his cell phone while surrounded by bigger fish and not too enamored with his position to drive home every night, 75 miles each way. He calls this his “thinking time.”
So, finally in a shout-out to the new parts of the First District, which now encompasses 18 counties, you are in good hands. Know that it’s okay to disagree with Rob and to tell him why. This is right down his alley and he welcomes the discussion. Take it from me, you just might change his mind on the direction he is headed. Just don’t expect a fiery persona or any bling. He makes up for that in work ethic, character and EXPERIENCE.