Why I Support Vangie Williams For Congress

By John Suddarth

As you know, I was one of the candidates for the Democratic Congressional Nomination in Virginia’s First District. Even though I lost to Vangie, I feel very good about her and her candidacy. I support her enthusiastically for three reasons.  First and least importantly, I, like the other candidates, committed to supporting the eventual nominee of our party on numerous occasions and I’m as good as my word. Secondly, I’ve gotten to know Vangie quite well and think very highly of her both as a person and as a candidate and think she will make an excellent congresswoman who always votes in our interests and third, it is absolutely essential for the future of our country that we send a Blue Wave of progressive Democrats to Washington to stop the self-aggrandizing and malevolent monster the GOP has become under Donald Trump and his enabling minions like Rob Wittman.

And so I call on you as patriotic, passionate, and concerned Democrats to support Vangie wholeheartedly as well. This is no time to stand on the sidelines. All of us have friends who voted for a third party candidate in 2016, either because they were Bernie supporters who felt he had been treated unfairly or they just did not like Hillary. Some of them smugly thought they were making some type of subtle or sophisticated point by voting for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein while in fact all they were doing is help put Trump in the White House. We can’t afford to let our friends make this mistake again. Our country is in dire straits and this is an all-hands-on-deck moment. We have to take back the House and the Senate.

The primary nominating process, for all its imperfections, is the vehicle through which we select our candidates. Each candidate in the Democratic primary was asked at least 10 times if he or she would support the eventual nominee. Each time asked I replied simply with “Absolutely.”  I meant it then and I mean it now. My support for Vangie is total without caveat or qualification. Any participant who does not support the nominee is just a user of the system, not a participant. A party is a team and an organization, a body whose members are obligated to support its objectives and its candidates. But being a good team player is not the only reason I support Vangie.

Vangie and I had over 20 joint appearances together during the course of the campaign and I got to know her quite well as a person as well as a candidate.  I always found her to be friendly, sincere, and open and honest, even about some of the personal challenges she faced like her bankruptcy due to outrageous medical bills.  Perhaps she was born empathetic to others or maybe she is thoughtful and considerate because she has been through the ringer herself during her long career as a civil servant, strategic planner, and government contractor. Contrast her with Rob Wittman, who remains silent while students are mowed down with assault rifles and President Trump wenches suckling infants from the arms of their mothers, who vote to take away healthcare from hardworking Americans and refuses to invest in our infrastructure while giving tax cuts to the wealthy and lavishing money on the defense contractors who donate to his campaign. This is what Vangie is fighting against as she fights for us.

I’ve also met her husband numerous times and some of her six daughters. She has a wonderful and supportive family, which is a testament to her as a woman, mother, and wife. And she is also hardworking and tireless. After a late Friday night debate in Northern Virginia, we found ourselves scheduled to be in New Kent for another debate early the next morning. There she was when I arrived, having traveled from King George, much further than I, looking fresh and ready to present her views and engage in discussion.  She confided in me that she had had only four hours of sleep and even though she was probably even more exhausted than me, no one would ever know it.

On another day, the fledgling Democratic Committee in Richmond County tried to have a debate. Only Vangie and I, and seven or eight citizens showed up and the organizers were clearly embarrassed.  Vangie and I conferred with each other though and then asked the participants to just gather around the table so we could have a conversation instead of a debate. We spoke about how our party was dedicated to improving things for the working people and middle class, how we wanted to work to ensure everyone had healthcare, a good education, homes, schools, and workplaces safe from gun violence, equality, respect, a living wage, and a secure retirement with dignity.  

The other participants that day told us about their concerns, hopes, and dreams, and how they were even more worried about the future prospects for their children and grandchildren. It was a great discussion which all of us enjoyed. Others might have thought that spending two hours with 8 potential voters a waste of time. Not Vangie. Like me, she saw it as an opportunity to engage with citizens and support our party. And we helped jump-start the Richmond County Democratic Committee.  

What I also learned about Vangie on the campaign trail is that she has the personality and temperament to be able to work with others, even those who may be of malevolent intent and difficult to work with.  During her long career as a civil servant, contractor and strategic planner, she has had to deal with those who did not put the overall good of the country first and foremost and I know that she has at times faced headwinds as an African-American woman. But she has persevered cheerfully and remained focused on mutually-beneficial win-win outcomes like we will want her to do in Congress.

When I was growing up in an America that still worked to lift the lot of every citizen, we were taught to treat each other with respect and to listen more than we talked. We learned about how our democracy worked and the dangers of populism. There were phrases of speech we don’t hear much anymore.  Civic-minded. Can-do spirit. American Know-How. Just being neighborly. Our differences end at the water’s edge. All those things that are no longer true as the rich get richer, our infrastructure crumbles, more and more of us are denied a living wage as our healthcare costs soar, nothing is done to stop gun violence, and our president alienates our allies and refuses to confront a virtual invasion by the Russians. The republicans work to keep their base angry and misinformed because anger motivates voters and anger sells and misinformed Americans to vote against their own interests. We need to convince them to vote for themselves by voting for Democrats!

By sending a progressive wave of leaders to Washington, leaders like Vangie, we can begin lifting the national dialogue above all that mean-spirited nonsense and refocus government on the people’s interests. We can learn again to appeal to each other’s better natures and change the tone and tenor in Washington, to put the people first.

In Vangie, we have a nominee who can mobilize the base with her progressive positions. She is also someone who can appeal to the 20% in the middle up for grabs, the folks tired of the bickering and backbiting and want someone who is objective and logical, who has the proven experience to build consensus, work together to understand complex situations and create win-win solutions.  

We have a nominee who is strong and courageous and not afraid to say no to special interests and their money and not afraid to appear in public. When she wins we will have a congresswoman who fixes problems, not who turns every problem to political advantage, a leader who can always be trusted to act in good faith to get America back on the right track for our children and grandchildren.   A leader named Vangie Williams. Please join me with your contributions, your efforts, your gifts of persuasion and your vote in getting her elected this November.