One of my first political interviews was with Dan Daniel, 5th District of the U.S. House of Representatives. It was my first look, up close and personal, with a Democrat on the federal level. It was difficult to tell the difference between many of the Democrats and Republicans back then because their talking points were not so much different, one from another. History labels Dan Daniel as a “Conservative Democrat.”
When Daniel died of a heart attack in 1988, L.F. Payne held the seat until 1999. I interviewed Payne numerous times. He presided over NAFTA, was a big supporter, and announced to all of Martinsville and Henry County from the entrance of WHEE Radio on Franklin Street that “not one job would be lost as a result of this free trade agreement.” If there was ever a defining moment in me losing faith in our politicians, that was it. Watching the destruction NAFTA caused our community and remembering the words of L.F. Payne left me with a sick feeling in my gut. Payne retired in 1997 and was considered a moderate Democrat.
Virgil Goode replaced Payne. I was acquainted with Goode when he was in the State Senate. He came to WMVA once a month and recorded a legislative update. He presented me with a flag flown from the Capital in 2004 when WHEE celebrated its 50th birthday. I watched Goode change from a Democrat to an Independent, and then to a Republican from 1997 to 2009 before he was replaced by Tom Perriello who won by 727 votes during the year Obama was elected.
I had never seen so many people line up at the polls to vote that November in 2008. History was destined to make a black man President of the United States that year and many politicians were elected riding the wave. Perriello was one of them. He was also the first Progressive Democrat representing the 5th District in my lifetime. Perriello and I became personal friends. He was a regular on my radio and TV show. We rarely agreed on anything but enjoyed each other’s company. His narrow victory resulted in a short two-year stand in Washington before he was replaced by Robert Hurt, a Republican from Chatham.
Just like Goode, I became acquainted with Hurt when he was in the State Senate. Hurt availed himself many times to me over the years and was also a regular on my show. He retired in 2017.
Tom Garrett replaced Hurt and continued the ways of the Republicans, but I never met him or talked to him. The first time in my 39 years in broadcasting the 5th District Representative ignored the media in Martinsville.
Now, Leslie Cockburn, an extremely liberal Democrat, and Denver Riggleman, an extremely conservative Republican, are locked in a tie to replace Garrett just days away from the election. Just like Garrett, both Cockburn and Riggleman have ignored the media in Martinsville. I have never met or spoken with either.
I realize the landscape of the 5th District has changed greatly from the years of Dan Daniel when it stretched along the Virginia – North Carolina border. Now the district reaches through Charlottesville and touches the suburbs of DC. Our economy in southside no longer compares with that of Northern Virginia and the candidates running for office spend their time where the power, influence, and numbers are and they are no longer here. We are no longer of interest to these people because they no longer need us and when we go to the polls, we will have to choose between two extreme political views that are as much lacking in our southern values as the candidate’s interest in what they may be.
I have always been a strong supporter of everyone exercising their right to vote, no matter who they supported. Yesterday a man asked me what good it would do to vote for either Cockburn or Riggleman and I didn’t have an answer.