Tuesday, March 04, 2014

There's Hope: Patrick Hope-- Guest Post From A Proud Virginia Progressive


I had a long talk about the crucial issues facing the country with Arlington, Virginia Delegate Patrick Hope. His vision is progressive and his temperament matches his vision. He'd make a great addition to the Congressional Progressive Caucus. I asked him to introduce himself to DWT readers. He just sent this today:

Thank you for this opportunity to write a guest post on Down With Tyranny. I've been a reader for many years-- luckily my voting record always has and always will reflect my strong progressive values, so I’ll be able to avoid being photoshopped into a clown like so many Congressman have been here.

Six weeks ago, my Congressman, Jim Moran, announced his retirement. A little bit of history here-- when Jim was first elected, the 8th district had been drawn to be Republican leaning and ran all the way from Alexandria to Stafford County in Virginia. Jim narrowly won as a "New Democrat," and once elected was drawn into a much safer seat that lost the GOP precincts to the south and picked up all of Arlington County near DC. Jim has moved left over the years on many issues, but this open seat is our first real chance as a solidly Democratic and progressive district to select a new member of Congress. We have never had an opportunity like this before in Northern Virginia. So I decided to step forward and offer the voters an unapologetic, progressive, and pro-government vision for the seat.

In 2009, I was first elected to the Virginia House of Delegates. Once I got to Richmond, I was shocked at what I saw. The Tea Party-led Republicans were as bad as I expected, but the Democratic Party was infiltrated with special interests and lobbyists writing their legislation. That's why I immediately founded the Virginia Progressive Caucus to begin to fight back and reclaim the Democratic Party. I wasn't the first progressive elected to go to Richmond, but many before me were willing to play the game and refused to form a Progressive Caucus so members were not forced to "pick sides." I think this kind of "leadership" is atrocious-- we must stand up for our values in elected office.

When payday lenders took over our state capital by spreading around campaign cash (in Virginia there are no limits)-- I stood up against their efforts to legitimize and expand their industry. Once they were successful in removing Virginia laws that protected consumers, the industry moved on and coerced our legislature into allowing residents of other states to come to Virginia and get these loans-even when their states prohibited it. With a new casino in Maryland opening up in National Harbor next year, car title lenders have exploded just across the Potomac River in our district-- waiting for the chance to take full advantage of desperate, low-income people. Historic Route 1 that leads towards the Mount Vernon estate is being turned into the loan shark capital of the universe-- with over 15 of these "businesses" already in place in a five-mile span on the roadside. In Congress, I want to eliminate this industry entirely-- I’m the only candidate in this race supporting Elizabeth Warren's legislation to have the Postal Service take over small lending in our communities.

Another issue I have taken on in Richmond is prison reform. Solitary confinement was being overused in our prison system. When I went to tour Red Onion, Virginia’s "Supermax" prison, I met one man who had been in solitary for 12 years. 23 hours a day, 7 days a week of total isolation for 12 years. I took on the department of corrections in the legislature and forced them to make reforms to their system. Just a few years later, we have seen a 70% reduction in the use of solitary confinement in prisons in Virginia. I also worked to outlaw the shackling of pregnant inmates while they were giving birth. While it may seem obvious that a woman in labor isn’t a flight risk (you can ask any woman who’s ever given birth-- they’re not going anywhere!), I had reports that the department of corrections was requiring nonviolent women to be shackled while giving birth. I put in a bill that even won the support of the right wing to outlaw this practice. While the Tea Party defeated the bill, I worked through the department to install regulations prohibiting the abhorrent practice. This will never happen again in Virginia.

In Congress, I will be an outspoken opponent to any cuts to our social safety net programs. Cuts include any reductions in future benefits to Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security. I believe we need to increase the size of these programs, and give those on Social Security a raise-- not cut them back.

I first got involved in politics after serving as Chair of the Arlington County Community Services Board for five years. In Virginia, the CSBs handle the entire support network for those with intellectual and physical disabilities. My top priority in the state budget process has been securing funding to reduce our long waiting lists for the programs our disability community deserves. In Congress, I will work to expand federal funding in this area. I will be a champion in Congress for people with disabilities.

Recently our former state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli came out with a scheme that allows gun owners to pay him $10 a month and they will have a defense attorney on call should they be charged with any gun crime. I believe this is highly unethical-- and plan to introduce legislation making it illegal. We should not have people making payments to an attorney in anticipation of committing a crime with guns. Cuccinelli even highlighted George Zimmerman as the kind of defendant his new firm could help. We must take on this kind of insanity directly and loudly and stand our ground.

Perhaps what I’m best known for in Richmond is being the expert on implementing the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid policy. I’ve spent nearly two decades fighting to expand the coverage and affordability of health care for every American, and led the fight for Medicaid expansion here in Virginia. I believe that the ACA is a great domestic achievement, however, I don’t think it goes nearly far enough. While I recognize that the political winds of 2009 limited what we could pass, we must work towards universal coverage and a single-payer system. Congress has either lost or is losing some of its biggest health care experts like Senator Ted Kennedy and Congressmen Henry Waxman and John Dingell. I hope to be the progressive voice for health care in the Congress and will fight to provide coverage for the more than 20 million Americans who fall into gaps in the ACA and will remain without coverage. Let’s bring every American into the health care system.

I believe it takes more than just voting the right way to be a progressive leader. To me, being a progressive means standing up for our values, no matter the political implications. I am the only candidate in this race of eleven Democrats running to stand up to our Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe when he announced his plans to join a coalition of Republican Governors supporting offshore drilling. I stood up to him again this weekend when he floated the name of a new party chairman in Virginia that opposes marriage equality. We cannot have someone leading the Democratic Party that does not support the fundamental right to marriage and happiness, and if Terry does not back down, I will personally lead supporters to the state central meeting in two weeks in an attempt to block his candidate.

As you can see, I will be a loud and proud progressive in Washington. It’s not enough to only vote the right way in Congress, we must elect leaders that are ready to lead. I will stand up and fight for our shared progressive values in the U.S. House. I founded the Virginia Progressive Caucus, and one day I hope to Chair the same group in Congress. If you want to help elect a new generation of progressive leadership, please visit my website at www.hopeforcongress.com and contribute to my campaign. I appreciate this opportunity to share with you my vision, and I hope you’ll stand with me in this campaign.

Patrick Hope

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