Story by Chris Graham
Democratic Party attorney-general nominee Creigh Deeds picked up his perspective on what government can mean to people at the feet of his grandfather.
“My grandfather was active in local politics. He was the county chair for periods of time from the ’30s up to the ’60s. He had, I remember, back in his office, a ledger where he kept old election results and family obituaries and political memorabilia from conventions that he had collected dating back to the ’20s and ’30s. I knew from him that public service was important. And I knew from him that politics was an important part of public life,” Deeds told The Augusta Free Press.
How politics is an important part of public life came to life for Deeds in his grandfather’s stories about rural electrification. The family house was the first to get electricity in Bath County, Deeds said.
“And if you know anything about rural electrification, you know that before it came to pass, there were millions of people, primarily in rural areas, rural Southern areas, black families and white families, who didn’t have electric power,” Deeds said.
“Rural electrification occurred because the federal government decided that electricity was necessary. I think about that a lot, and about how democratic politics, at its peak, is about making a difference in people’s lives,” Deeds said.
This is what motivates Deeds, who has been serving in the public sector for 17 years, including stints in the Bath County Commonwealth attorney office, the Virginia House of Delegates and currently in the Virginia Senate, to do what he can to try to make things right.
“I know that I can do some good,” Deeds said. “I know that people who don’t have a voice today have a voice, if I can do some of the things that I’m interested in doing. There are sacrifices in anything you do. But the other side of it is this – you only get to live so many years. And no matter how long you live, in the greater context of things, it’s not much time.
“Each one of us has a responsibility in some way or another to make a difference. I’ve made a difference, my wife and I, through our kids, a big difference, that’s going to last long beyond us. I have an opportunity here with this race to be an attorney general who has relevance in the life of every Virginian, who makes life better for seniors who pay too much for their prescription drugs, or who have to make choices about whether they can afford to buy the pharmaceuticals they need or pay for the other necessities of life,” Deeds said.
“I can make a difference with respect to those people whose lives are being lost now to meth. The street price of that stuff in one year has gone down by a factor of 10, from $100 a dose to $10. It’s so plentiful right now. That stuff is such a cheap high, and it’s so dangerous. It’s ruining lives. I can make a difference with people whose identities are stolen. There are so many things that I can do. I know that I can make that attorney general’s office matter. That’s worth some sacrifice,” Deeds said.
That Deeds has been able to work his way up the ladder from local office to the state legislature to a run for statewide office is remarkable in that he is a Democrat in what has become a Republican part of the world. He has succeeded, he said, because he recognized early on “that it was not enough to talk from issues from a Democratic perspective, but to approach problems from the standpoint of trying to build consensus, to try to bring people together.”
“I think it’s that same approach that I’ve used as a legislator that I’ll take to the attorney general’s office,” Deeds said. “I grew up knowing that I was a Democrat, but not believing that that was the most important thing. The most important thing is we’re Virginians. We’re Americans. And government has a role. Government shouldn’t be all-encompassing, but government has a role to play, and that role can be positive, and it should be positive. And it should be one that improves life for people, all people, and enables us to take advantage of opportunities.
“You cannot force people to live better lives. You cannot force them to succeed. But government should not get in the way of people having opportunities to succeed. Government should be about enhancing people’s opportunities to succeed,” Deeds said.
Like, for example, with rural electrification.
“Government is not the answer to everything. There are things that governnment can’t and should not do. But democratic politics is the knowledge that if government is properly organized, it can make a positive difference in the lives of people. And as rural electrification shows, not just people of privilege or people of power, but all the people,” Deeds said.