Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Thank You For Your Service

Well, it's official: after seven terms in Congress, Congressman Tom Davis will not be seeking reelection this fall from Virginia's Eleventh Congressional District.

The Democrats are salivating. Some Republicans are in a tizzy. Both are probably wrong, but that discussion is for another time.

I'm sad to see Tom go. I know, I know: some of my sterner Republican and/or Conservative friends disagree. A few "moderate" friends, too. I've had a few disagreements with Tom myself.

Nevertheless, I'm sad to see him go.

For one thing, Republican fortunes in parts of Northern Virginia have been in decline, and his seat is now in play. I don't believe that he would have lost in November, but now we'll never know.

But notwithstanding the problems that some Conservatives have had with Tom Davis, and some of our disagreements, he was always a representative I could talk to, and I thnk that's an experience shared by most.

I first mest Tom back in 1993, when he was first contemplating a run. Leslie Byrne had beaten Henry Butler for the seat, and Clinton had just been elected President. Aside from my role as Parliamentarian and advisor to Anne Keast, then the 11th District Republican Chairman, I was Prince William County Young Republican Chairman, and we were very active, so I was naturally a person he would want to talk to.

Tom is a very likable guy, and we became friends, and the Youngs became supporters. It wasn't because we threw money at him --- as a young married couple, we had very little to spare on politics --- but we always had good, productive, substantive conversations. I always liked Tom, and he always seemed to appreciate my perspective. Even when we disagreed. Perhaps especially when we disagreed on a matter of substance.

For Tom is one of those few officeholders --- perhaps especially among so-called "moderates," even those to whom he lent his support --- who didn't take disagreements personally, and who, in my humble opinion, didn't try to demonize Conservatives who may have taken a different position than him. Unlike some who share the "moderate" label, he understands and knows how to work with Conservatives.

And even when we moved out of the district, prior to the election in 1994, we remained friends. In 1995, when I was persuaded to run for School Board, he was kind enough to lend his support to my campaign, even persuading Frank Wolf to sign onto a joint endorsement letter. So much so that I was delighted when the Eleventh District was redrawn in 2001 and my neighborhood became part of his District. Some may differ, but I was not bothered at all trading Frank Wolf for Tom Davis. And though we spoke less frequently after his first, intense campaign to unseat a Democrat incumbent, it was always as though we has spoken just a few hours before, and were simply continuing the conversation.

The Youngs were there in 1994 at the Eleventh District victory party, when the GOP swept to control of the House for the first time in 40 years. We were even there when John Warner tried to horn in on Tom's glory, and was shouted down by the assembled activists for his perfidy against Oliver North, the GOP Senate candidate (contrary to what some think, I discouraged the display, and simply turned my back), one of the few close losses that night.

Some might criticize me for referring to Congressman Davis as "Tom" in this post. So be it. I don't like casual familiarity myself. But I do so in a considered manner, as I vividly speaking to Tom in the "war room" after Warner was shouted down, and saying to him "Congressman Davis, don't take it personally; it wasn't about you."

His response? "Jim, I appreciate it, but I was 'Tom' yesterday, and I'm still 'Tom' today."

Great guy. Great Congressman. Great loss.

1 comment:

Scott said...

Great post, Jim. I remember one of the first times I met you was at the 1994 Dale City 4th of July parade. The Tom Davis for Congress for t-shirts had just been printed and were being distributed. You were the first to point out the printer had stuck the printers' union bug on the shirt. The campaign was none to happy about that and we put Tom Daivs for Congress stickers over the bug which was directly below the Tom Davis for Congress screen printing of the shirt.

"A Change For The Better" was the logo on the back. We all got a chuckle out of a youngster (2 or 3) year old who had one put on him. That 2 or 3 year old is now what 16 or 17 year old? Now almost able to vote for Tom Davis' successor. Time flies.