The System Needs to Change … the Speaker Should Remain the Same

“I had a dream. yea, crazy dream. Anything I wanted to know, any place I needed to go. Hear my song. People, won’t you listen now?” (Led Zeppelin, “The Song Remains the Same,” 1973)

Most people who know me would say that I am somewhat of an idealist. When I see something that I believe is wrong, I set about trying to find a way to make it better. In the world of politics, this idealism often leaves me facing a conundrum that never fails to bring me straight back to reality. But I am stubborn.

The two-party system itself creates barriers to promoting candidates who truly want to represent their constituents. The party does not matter. The letter should not matter. But until the vast, silent majority demand a better system, the parties work within their structure to facilitate the election of people who are required to tow a line that is not usually representative of the majority of people.

But every once in awhile, I find someone who cares about the people in his or her district, what they need, and what is important to them. But districts change, and battles are fought. Politics is politics. Naturally, when a district is changed, the composition of the electorate changes with it.

Rare is the politician who, when faced with a radically changed district, acknowledges that change and responds honestly to represent it. A politician who, after years of service, still understands that the only way to represent folks is to wear out his shoes knocking on doors … asking people what is important to them.

In Virginia, the 66th House of Delegates District is fortunate, because it is represented by Kirk Cox. I could highlight the significance of seniority in Virginia. Boy, did I learn that one the hard way (I used to live in the 7th Congressional district, and I have eaten more humble pie admitting I was wrong than most people will ever know).

I could make this piece about how the residents of the 66th benefit from having the Speaker of the House as their representative. I could focus on how desperately the Donkey Clan would love to replace him for their party purpose. That is one of the problems with our two-party system, and it goes both ways.

But there is something much more important to convey. In my humble opinion, the residents of the 66th deserve to know about Kirk Cox for who he is, what he does for his constituents, and why he should continue to serve.

It is because he represents his people, even when his people change.

As I am writing this, Speaker Cox is wearing out his shoes, door knocking, and listening to the folks in the 66th district. He is introducing himself to people who don’t know him and answering questions they have. He is known for carrying legislation based on ideas or concerns from the people in his district. Imagine that….

He is genuine, and that is a rare quality in the world of politics of today. He is not a stereotypical lockstep member of the Elephant Clan. He offers one of the most comprehensive constituent services resource listings because he can. He understands the system. This experience is immeasurably beneficial to everyone in the 66th district.

A short review of his website proves my point. Most politicians (or those who want to be) share a couple of talking points on the campaign trail. Employment, veterans affairs, and reducing waste in spending are common themes among most all politicians. Seriously, folks need jobs and do not want their money wasted by any government. Politicians of all persuasions also emphasize the absolute responsibility we have to our veterans and their families. Those points are universal, even if they are packaged differently.

But it isn’t often you find a Republican who places as much emphasis on education, supporting the disabled, protecting the environment … and animals.

But Kirk Cox actually does.

He introduced the legislation that requires a bittering agent to be added to all antifreeze sold in Virginia to prevent animals from drinking it. Antifreeze kills animals if ingested. He did that back in 2009.

Do you remember the years of drought and the summer Lake Chesdin Reservoir went dry?  While most local and state officials were thinking about how to address the situation, Kirk Cox actually did something about it. After spending 30 years as a government teacher, he has developed the skills and relationships necessary to solve complex problems.

And contrary to his opponents’ misstatements about his support for teacher salary, he has supported making sure teachers in Virginia are properly compensated.

My opinion of Speaker Cox is given through the eyes of my fierce independence for the reasons stated above … and below. I am not a member of the Elephant Clan, and I wanted to include the thoughts of someone with a different unique perspective. So I reached out to Jack Wilson. In addition to serving as Chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, Jack also lives in the 66th district so Kirk Cox is his Delegate.

Chairman Wilson says:

“Kirk Cox is one of the most dedicated public servants I have had the privilege to know.  He is also a hard campaigner and is setting the example for his caucus on engaging voters door-to-door.  I am proud to call him my Delegate and Speaker.  I’m even more proud to call Kirk my friend.”

I have known Mr. Wilson for many years. I can say, with absolute confidence, that Jack is understandably committed to doing everything he can to hold the HOD for the Elephant Clan. That is what makes him a good Chairman. However, he would not have included the last sentence if it was not true. “Friend” is not a word he throws around lightly. Kirk Cox has earned the friendship of many people because of his trusted nature.

I have never met Speaker Cox personally. My motivation for writing this story is based on what he has accomplished, including his stance on something very personal to me.

When I was much younger (19) and far less wise, I survived a horribly violent incident. I can never adequately explain the utterly helpless feeling of being forced to know you have no control, as you’re being thrown around a house like a rag doll … opening your swollen eyes only to see your nose has been “shifted” to under your right eye … by someone who proclaimed deep unending love.

But as helpless as that feeling was, it wasn’t anything compared to the torture of having this man as a stalker … every second of the day from the moment I left the hospital, until he decided to move on two months later. If not for my co-workers reaching out, I don’t know what I would have done.

I refused to go home to Williamsburg until I healed somewhat because I knew exactly what my father would do. And he did it anyway. I called home before arriving so my parents would not be surprised when I got there; it was a week later. I had not told them what happened.

My face was a rainbow of swollen blue, red and yellow from my forehead to my collar bone, and in the hour it took me to drive home, Daddy had already left … on his way to Richmond … with his .357. I thank God every day that Daddy never found that man. Naturally, my parents wanted me to stay home. But having found a job I loved in a large auto dealership in Midlothian, and being the only woman between two departments of large men, I came back.

 But what in the world does my experience have to do with this story about Kirk Cox?

In 2019, members of the General Assembly worked on a bipartisan bill to enhance protection for women who suffered domestic abuse. Governor Northam vetoed the bill.

Had that bill been law when I was 19, I would have been spared from the stalking of this man who didn’t want to accept that I would never take him back. As the mother of a 17-year-old daughter, I am dumbfounded and frightened because even the best judges of character can be fooled for a short time …and it only takes a moment to forever change a person’s life. I don’t usually support mandatory minimum sentences for the reasons mentioned by the Governor. But there are violent crimes that warrant them.

Speaker Cox wrote this op-ed explaining his view on that situation. It was this op-ed and his stance on both the issue and his emphasis on bi-partisanship that inspired me to highlight his constituent-centered nature.

My idealism will never abandon the hope that someday politics will amend to focus on opportunity. But reality comes to remind me that will never happen until everyone places less emphasis on labels, and more on results. Until then, I can do my small part to show the virtue of people I believe deserve it. Kirk Cox is one of those people.