Saxman: From the Rolling Stones to the World Series, and Winsome’s Transition
Over the course of the last three months I have been blessed to have seen first hand a Rolling Stones concert in Nashville, my first World Series game in Houston, and the national political ascent of Winsome Sears who asked me to direct her transition to become Lt. Governor of Virginia.
Winsome and I have been friends since our election to the House of Delegates twenty years ago.
It’s hard to put into words what I have experienced over the 82 days since the Stones opened their Nissan Stadium concert with Street Fighting Man:
And then being seated five rows behind the first base dugout of the Houston Astros for the FIRST swing of the World Series by Jorge Soler:
Really, I was content to have my 56th trip around the sun smooth on into 2022 taking in the Stones and the World Series. Given all that has gone on the last two years of the COVID, why push my luck – right?
These days it seems that just good enough is better than the usual good enough – it’s just damn good. And I’m really fine with that.
About two weeks before the historic elections here in Virginia, during my daily walk, I called my 2001 House classmate.
Winsome answered laughing, “Where have you been? I thought you had forgotten about me!”
“I’ve been leaving you alone so you can campaign!” I laughed back.
“Oh, okay,” (a common reply of hers) “What’s up?”
“Look, I think you are going to win this thing and you need to start preparing to become Lt. Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia.”
Winsome was taken aback, “You do? You think I’m going to win?”
“Yeah. You could even get the highest percentage of the vote … I think it’s going to be a clean sweep and the House flips, too.”
“Yup. This one looks pretty well baked.”
“How can you tell?”
I walked her quickly through the data and intel I had been picking up the last two months from both sides, all of which pointed to a very close, but likely, win.
Naturally, I gave it a caveat that it might not happen BUT she needed to start preparing herself to be LG.
The reality of being LG is not just that you have to preside over the State Senate but you also have to be ready to be Governor – God forbid – on Day One plus five minutes.
That’s a fairly awesome responsibility and most folks brush aside Lt. Governors and Vice Presidents. But call up New York Governor Kathy Hochul and ask her what it’s like to get the call that you’re going to be governor of one of the largest states in the nation. You always need to be ready.
Not hovering, mind you … but you have to be ready. Prepared.
It gets very real, very quickly.
Winsome took in all that I was saying “Oh, okay…” and went back to campaigning.
The night of the election I was broadcasting with John Fredericks – the self-described Godzilla of conservative radio/internet media – and his panel at the Glenn Youngkin victory event in Chantilly. We were in an alcove away from the hopeful hundreds filling up the Westfields Marriott ballroom.
Soon after the polls closed, the results started pouring in. When added to the campaign modeling of the early votes, a Youngkin/ Sears/ Miyares sweep looked possible – then probable – then likely- and then at just past 8pm Democratic consultants were actually calling the race.
Man, that was fast! We had been expecting a very late night but this was … wait … what’s taking so long?
Wait … New Jersey might elect a Republican governor?
Dave Rexrode, the Executive Director of the Republican Governors Association who was my campaign manager back in 2001, came up to me during a break in the broadcast to tell me that – NEW JERSEY – might actually happen for the GOP.
The enthusiasm was palpable. That led to over zealous/wishful thinking/ betting with your heart predictions. Eight seats, no 12! No FIFTEEN!!!
I kept shaking my head and telling folks to calm down only to be chastised by my host Fredericks, “You’re always like this!!!”
Then things calmed down a bit as the actual results in the House of Delegates races were posted. Suddenly the 15 seat pick up became 12, then 10, then 8, then 5 and then back up to the Republicans winning the House with 7 net wins. (After the canvasses later that week.)
Then it became a VERY long night waiting for all of the results to be finalized and conceded.
Sometime around midnight, I texted Winsome. “Told ya.” She didn’t text back.
After laboring to find a cold beer or three and some food, I went into the now packed ballroom and waited for Glenn and Winsome to make their victory speeches.
This took a while.
Standing in back catching up with old friends – still amazed at the outcome, we watched as Winsome and her family made their way to the podium. The crowd was electric.
And then that speech.
I’ve been present during some great political speeches in my life – Tim Kaine in Cassell Coliseum the day after the Virginia Tech massacre, John McCain’s 2008 concession speech in Scottsdale, Sarah Palin’s RNC acceptance speech in ’08 (say what you will about her – but that speech killed), and then …Winsome’s on Election Night 2021.
***Side note – I am adding Attorney General-elect Jason Miyares’ Keynote at the Virginia FREE Luncheon on December 16th to the list. Absolutely crushed that like Jorge Soler’s first swing at the World Series. It was THAT good. Super talented ticket the Virginia Republicans fielded this year…
I had chills and tears while Winsome – as Freddie Mercury said in Bohemian Rhapsody – punched a hole in the sky. (At least for Virginia Republicans and conservatives across America. Don’t believe me? Ask Athena our UBER driver in Atlanta who damn near wrecked her car when she found out who the passenger was conducting a Zoom with Harris County Texas Republicans – “YOU’RE WINSOME??!! IN MY CAR??!!”)
The night after the election I was eating dinner at Spoonbread Deux in Short Pump – HIGHLY recommend BTW especially the pork grillades – and Winsome called. “Well, you were right. What do I do now?”
“Do you want me to come up tomorrow and walk your family through what to expect?”
“Maybe. I’m just soooo tired.”
“Well, get some sleep and let’s catch up tomorrow.”
I go home from dinner and my wife, Michele, who had also just gotten home from working at Williams Sonoma, was watching Fox News.
Winsome was on with Sean Hannity.
Wait, I was just on the phone with her and now she’s live? What the … no, this has to be taped.
NOPE. It was live.
Hannity and Laura Ingraham were just gaga over Winsome.
And I thought to myself:
A) Yup – she’s tired.
B) Holy Sh*t. She’s a rock star.
C) Tomorrow’s call is going to be pretty interesting. (Interesting it was.)
Just your typical twenty year overnight success story that, in my view, is just beginning.
For those of you wondering how’s Winsome doing?
Well, first and foremost – she’s finally rested and raring to go.
As for the task at hand for the Transition, Winsome is ready to be Lt. Governor of the Commonwealth.
She’s worked very hard at learning how to preside over the Senate during her training sessions led by the incredible Clerk of the Senate Susan Schaar and her amazing staff – especially Tara Perkinson.
There are two more training sessions scheduled for next week just to make sure Winsome’s got what she needs to preside over the State Senate of Virginia.
It’s been an honor and a privilege to help prepare Winsome to become the first female Lt. Governor of Virginia and the first Black female to serve as a statewide elected official.
Beyond those elements of history, consider these – Winsome will be sworn in on Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday, will take up the gavel to preside over the Senate on his national holiday, and she’ll also be the 42nd Lt. Governor of Virginia – the same number as Jackie Robinson.
I can’t recall a time in which I have slept less, worked more, or felt more hope.
It’s not because some friends won elections.
It’s because through all of the trials of the last two years, the most recent experiences of the Stones, the World Series, and Winsome’s national ascent had one critical life affirming element – friends.
That’s been the lesson.
Or rather the annual reminder from Angel 2nd Class Clarence Odbody:
“Remember, no man is a failure who has friends.
“Thanks for the wings.”
It’s a wonderful life.
Usually, I just watch the movie.
This year I lived it.
Thanks to Michele and our kids – Mary Kathryn, William, Nora, and John for being my Clarence this year.
I’m blessed beyond measure and wish you a very Happy New Year.