Tom Sherwood’s Notebook: Politics here and in Virginia

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New Ward 8 D.C. Council member Trayon White — like any new member — is still feeling his way around the ins and outs of how the council operates.

But White was in his element Monday on the issue of feared gentrification looming over historic Anacostia.

“Housing is definitely a crisis in D.C., more specifically Ward 8,” he said during a forum on how low- and moderate-income residents can lessen the effects of gentrification. “How can we alleviate some of the pressure,” White asked, “so that we can still live here and stay here and grow here?”

White spoke after he had shaken hands with the guest of honor at the event — the Rev. Jesse Jackson, a two-time candidate for president in the 1980s. “Say amen, somebody,” Jackson said. And the crowd responded, “Amen.”

Jackson, who was one of the city’s first statehood senators in the early 1990s,  was in town for a variety of events. On Monday, the 75-year-old bounded into the Black Box Theater of the Anacostia Arts Center on Good Hope Road SE.

“We’ve gone all the way from marching for fair housing to rent strikes, all kinds of combinations of schemes, to fight encroachment and to fight gentrification,” he said. Jackson offered residents help from his national Rainbow Coalition.

Former Ward 8 Council member Sandy Allen said the District has done a lot to preserve affordable housing, but market forces are overwhelming city efforts.

“The issues on housing have not really changed in the District,” she told NBC4. “We’re trying to be progressive, but there hasn’t been a lot of change.”

Debate night. Your Notebook enjoyed our role in Northern Virginia moderating Saturday night’s first meeting between the Democratic candidates for governor ahead of Virginia’s June 13 primary. Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam and former House member Tom Perriello politely but aggressively answered our questions at the forum sponsored by the Fairfax County Democratic Committee.

Your Notebook has interviewed both men during separate appearances on WAMU’s Kojo Nnamdi Politics Hour and looks forward to doing so again before the primary. Virginia Democrats this year want to continue their streak of holding all three statewide offices since 2009.

Northam served in the Virginia Senate before being elected lieutenant governor four years ago. He also holds a very progressive record that many believe is just right for rapidly changing Virginia. Northam was cruising to the nomination when Perriello jumped into the race in January.
He is trying to run to Northam’s left, with endorsements from U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

But Perriello’s progressive credentials have an asterisk. He was a one-term member of Congress from Charlottesville who came in on the 2008 Obama wave and was swept out two years later by the Tea Party sentiment in his southern Virginia district. Perriello lost despite earning an A rating from the National Rifle Association for opposing an assault weapon ban that he called “an affront to the Founding Fathers.”

A second vote involved abortion. In 2009, Perriello voted for a health care amendment that would have prevented any insurance companies participating in the new Affordable Care Act exchanges from covering abortion. Quite simply, the amendment was intended to prevent federal subsidies from paying for abortions.

Perriello now apologizes for the abortion vote. And he now calls the NRA a “nut-job” organization. While many of Perriello’s supporters either don’t know or don’t care about those votes, voters will hear a lot more about them before the primary.

Northam, a doctor, says abortion may be a difficult subject but it is the right of the mother to make any decisions.

Northam has been endorsed by Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Attorney General Mark Herring and the state’s Democratic U.S. senators, Tim Kaine and Mark Warner.

The candidates will have their next debate in Roanoke this weekend. Perriello will be on the WAMU Kojo Nnamdi Politics Hour at noon Friday. Northam will appear in about two weeks.

As we noted, the debate was held at Lanier Middle School, just off Interstate 66 beyond the Beltway. In short, for this city dweller it was a long ride. Going out I-66 at about 4 p.m., we were dismayed at the bumper-to-bumper backup heading in toward the District. Like the mess at Metro, we hear a lot about Northern Virginia’s jammed roads. We’re happy we don’t have to put up with all that wasted time, gas, energy, et cetera.

It reminds me that many years ago I was invited out to the AOL headquarters to speak. I was almost an hour late because of backed-up traffic headed outbound. My first words when we finally arrived to speak? “I hope you enjoy it because I am never coming out here again.”

Tom Sherwood, a Southwest resident, is a political reporter for News 4.