Over the past three months, I have been fortunate enough to have seen firsthand a Rolling Stones concert in Nashville, my first World Series game in Houston and the national political rise of Winsome Sears who asked me to lead his transition to become Lt Governor of Virginia.
Winsome and I have been friends since our election to the House of Delegates twenty years ago.
It’s hard to put into words what I’ve been through in the 82 days since the Stones opened their concert at Nissan Stadium with Street Fighting Man:
And then sitting five rows behind the Houston Astros’ first baseman dugout canoe for Jorge Soler’s FIRST World Series swing:
Really, I was glad to have my 56th smooth round trip around the sun until 2022 with the Stones and the World Series. Considering everything that has happened in the past two years of COVID, why push my luck – right?
These days, it seems like just good enough is better than the usual good enough – it’s just damn good. And that suits me really well.
About two weeks before the historic election here in Virginia, during my daily walk, I called my classmate 2001 House.
Winsome replied with a laugh, âWhere have you been? I thought you forgot me !
“I left you alone so you could campaign!” I laughed back.
“Oh, okay” (a common response of his) “What’s up?” “
âLook, I think you’re going to win this thing and you need to start preparing to become Lieutenant Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia. “
Winsome was taken aback, âReally? Do you think I’m gonna win?
âYeah. You might even get the highest percentage of the voteâ¦ I think it’s going to be a clean slate and the House toppling too.
“Yeah. This one looks pretty well done.
“How can you tell?”
I quickly explained to him the data and information I had gathered over the past two months from both sides, all of which pointed to a very near, but likely victory.
Naturally, I cautioned her that this might not happen BUT she had to start preparing to become LG.
The reality of being LG is not only that you have to chair the State Senate, but you also have to be prepared to be Governor – God forbid – on day one plus five minutes.
It’s a pretty impressive responsibility, and most people dismiss lieutenant governors and vice-presidents. But call New York Governor Kathy Hochul and ask her what it’s like to get the call that you’re going to be governor of one of the biggest states in the country. You must always be prepared.
Don’t get high, mind youâ¦ but you have to be ready. Prepare.
It becomes very real, very quickly.
Winsome understood everything I was saying “Oh, okay …” and went back to the countryside.
On election night, I was broadcasting with John Fredericks – the self-proclaimed Godzilla of conservative radio / internet media – and his panel at the Glenn Youngkin victory event in Chantilly. We were in an alcove, far away from the hundreds of hopes that filled the Westfields Marriott ballroom.
Shortly after the polls closed, the results started pouring in. When added to the campaign modeling of the first votes, a Youngkin / Sears / Miyares sweep seemed possible – then probable – then probable – then just after 8 p.m. Democratic consultants were actually calling. the race.
Dude, that was quick! We were expecting a very late night but it wasâ¦ waitâ¦ what’s taking so long?
Waitâ¦ Could New Jersey elect a Republican governor?
Dave Rexrode, the executive director of the Republican Governors Association who was my campaign manager in 2001, came to me during a hiatus on the show to tell me that – NEW JERSEY – might actually be coming for the GOP.
The enthusiasm was palpable. This has led to overzealous / wishful thinking / betting with your heart predictions. Eight places, not 12! No FIFTEEN !!!
I kept shaking my head and telling people to calm down before being berated by my host Fredericks: “You are always like this !!!”
Then things calmed down a bit when the actual results of the House of Delegates races were released. Suddenly the 15 seats became 12, then 10, then 8, then 5, then Republicans won the House with 7 clear wins. (After the solicitations later in the week.)
Then it became a VERY long night of waiting for all the results to be finalized and conceded.
Around midnight, I texted Winsome. “I told you.” She did not answer.
After working to find a cold beer or three and some food, I walked into the now packed ballroom and waited for Glenn and Winsome to give their victory speeches.
It took a long time.
Standing in the back, catching up with old friends – still amazed at the result, we watched Winsome and his family make their way to the podium. The crowd was electric.
And then this speech.
I’ve been there for major political speeches in my life – Tim Kaine at the Cassell Coliseum the day after the Virginia Tech massacre, John McCain’s 2008 concession speech in Scottsdale, Sarah Palin’s acceptance speech at the RNC in ’08 (say what you want about him – but that speech killed him), thenâ¦ Winsome is election night 2021.
*** Side Note – I’m adding Attorney General-elect Jason Miyares’ opening speech at the Virginia FREE Luncheon on December 16 to the list. Absoutely crushed it’s like Jorge Soler’s first shot at the World Series. It was SO good. Super talented ticket that the Republicans of Virginia lined up this year …
I had chills and tears as Winsome – as Freddie Mercury said in Bohemian Rhapsody – drilled a hole in the sky. (At least for Republicans in Virginia and conservatives across America. Don’t believe me? Ask Athena, our UBER driver in Atlanta who nearly destroyed her car when she found out who the passenger was zooming in with Republicans. from Harris County, Texas – âYOUâ RE WINNING ?? !! IN MY CAR ?? !! â)
The night after the election, I had dinner at Spoonbread Deux at Short Pump – highly recommend, especially the grilled pork – and Winsome called. “Well you were right. What am I doing now?”
“Do you want me to come tomorrow and tell your family what to expect?” “
“Maybe. I’m just so tired.
“Well, get some sleep and catch up tomorrow.” “
I returned home after dinner and my wife, Michele, who had also just returned from her job at Williams Sonoma, was watching Fox News.
Winsome was with Sean Hannity.
Wait, I was just on the phone with her and now she’s live? Whatâ¦ no, that has to be recorded.
NO. It was live.
Hannity and Laura Ingraham were just gagas for Winsome.
And I said to myself:
A) Yes, she is tired.
B) Holy shit. She’s a rock star.
C) Tomorrow’s call is going to be quite interesting. (It was interesting.)
Just your typical twenty-year-old overnight success story which, in my opinion, is just beginning.
For those of you wondering how is Winsome doing?
Well, first of all, she’s finally rested and ready to go.
As for the task at hand for the transition, Winsome is ready to serve as Lieutenant Governor of the Commonwealth of Nations.
She worked very hard to learn how to preside over the Senate during her training sessions led by the amazing Clerk of the Senate Susan Schaar and her amazing staff – especially Tara Perkinson.
There are two more training sessions scheduled for next week just to make sure Winsome has what she needs to chair the Virginia State Senate.
It was an honor and a privilege to help prepare Winsome to become the first female lieutenant governor of Virginia and the first black woman to hold an elected office in the entire state.
Beyond those story elements, consider these – Winsome will be sworn in on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, take the hammer to preside over the Senate on her national day, and she will also be the 42nd Lieutenant. – Governor of Virginia – the same number as Jackie Robinson.
I can’t remember a time when I slept less, worked more, or felt more hope.
It is not because friends won the election.
That’s because through all of the testing over the past two years, the most recent experiences of the Stones, World Series, and Winsome’s National Rise have had one essential life-affirming element – friends.
That was the lesson.
Or rather the annual Angel 2nd Class Clarence Odbody recall:
âRemember, no man is a failure who has friends.
âThanks for the wings. “
It’s a wonderful life.
Usually I just watch the movie.
This year, I lived it.
Thanks to Michele and our children – Mary Kathryn, William, Nora and John for being my Clarence this year.
I am blessed beyond measure and wish you a very happy new year.