Letter: Legislating Experience

Letter: Legislating Experience

To the Editor:

In the Washington Post’s recent endorsement of a candidate for delegate in Virginia’s 45th district to the 2015 State Legislature (mostly in Alexandria), the editor failed to identify any of his four opponents, list any of the three debates about to occur, or to acknowledge that in objective terms, the only candidate with actual experience writing and crafting state and federal laws is Mark Levine.

Not a single one of the other candidates – all good Democrats and nice people – (in alphabetical order) Larry Altenburg, Craig Fifer, Julie Jakopic, and Clarence Tong, has ever drafted legislation. Yet Mark Levine wrote and secured unanimous passage by both Democrats and Republicans of “Janet’s Law” in the Tennessee Legislature, protecting thousands of children from being left in the custody of a parent who’d abused or even murdered a spouse, as had been legal up to that point. Levine fought hard for that law following the murder of his sister by her husband, who had taken the children and fled the country.

Mark Levine served as legislative counsel to former U.S. Rep. Barney Frank on the hill for several years. Levine also drafted the first U.S. law to give lesbian and gay couples equal rights at both the state and federal levels, though it didn’t pass in 2001. Levine persisted, and eight years later, he wrote Washington D.C.’s marriage equality law that successfully become law in 2009.

Mark Levine has had true legislating experience: Levine wrote the appeal for the Congressional Black Caucus to the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Bush v. Gore. Levine also recently wrote a law for Virginia to protect the children of spousal abusers. Yes, some of the laws he drafted didn’t pass, but Mark Levine never gives up, even if it takes years to get justice.

In sum, as a citizen activist, Levine wrote a law that has been saving children of domestic violence victims; as congressional legislative counsel, Levine used bipartisan diplomacy to get same-sex partners of 9/11 victims equal distributions from the victims’ compensation fund, and as legal scholar, Levine personally convinced then-Senator Hillary Clinton to withdraw endorsement of the Bush faith-based initiative,

which would have allowed religious discrimination by our federal government.

While the Washington Post is free to endorse a candidate who’s been a city administrator, I think Virginians would rather be represented by someone like Mark Levine, who has shown relentless determination in both writing and ensuring the passage of state and federal laws that make a real difference for the better – protecting our civil liberties and saving lives.

If you don’t yet know Mark Levine, come to one the debates this week to hear all five candidates speak. It could change the quality of your life.

Mary L. Radnofsky