What does the lieutenant governor in Virginia do? Tim Kaine was a pretty good LG back in his day, I think in large part due to the fact that he took what is basically a part-time job with limited constitutional responsibilities and turned it into a full-time gig as Mark Warner’s eyes and ears out on the front lines.
Mike Signer seems to have a similar vision for the job currently held by Republican part-timer Bill Bolling.
“I envision the office of lieutenant governor as a public advocate, tackling the systems that are failing ordinary Virginians every day,” said Signer, a former deputy counselor to Mark Warner and senior strategist on Tom Perriello’s improbable 2008 Fifth District congressional upset win.
A repeat performance for Signer in the crowded Democratic Party lieutenant-governor field might be just as improbable for Signer, who has not held elected office and has almost no name recognition outside of the innermost circles of the Democratic Party of Virginia establishment.
But the race is wide open, to say the least, with the perceived frontrunners in the persons of former Secretary of Finance Jody Wagner and Russell County Board of Supervisors member Jon Bowerbank not breaking away from the pack here three months and change from the June primary.
I’m looking for compelling ideas from the candidates as we meet them and try to decide where they fit best into the primary field. It took most of my conversation with Signer to get one to write about in this column, but the one was worth the wait.
Signer wants to see the state divert some of its federal stimulus monies toward environmental restoration and cleanup a la FDR’s Works Progress Administration, which is of course in many ways the model upon which the Obama administration stimulus has been built in the first place.
“Just as during the WPA, you could employ teens and young adults to do these jobs that need done,” Signer said. “They’d be good jobs, but not the kind of jobs with wages that you’d pay somebody with a family who’s much more entrenched. There are very effective programs that we could do to create jobs for kids coming out of high school or college to make sure that they have a job,” Signer said.
The rest of our conversation was a bit too much on the wonkish side for me to go into more detail on. Signer is young, at 36, and has done most of his work in government in Democratic Party politics in behind-the-scenes capacities. My personal inclination is toward candidates with experience in building business and industry and developing and implementing local and state-level policies, for what that’s worth.
I’ll be interested in learning more from Mike Signer as to how he thinks he could translate his experience in elections and party politics in general to the good of Democrats and Republicans and political agnostics statewide. There is potential there in his thoughts on the use of stimulus funds as our guide.
– Story by Chris Graham