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Posted October 24, 2012 | comments 12 Comments

Mom for Congress: A day on the campaign trail with Kristin Cabral

Editor's note: The following is a first-person account of a day on the campaign trail with 10th Congressional District candidate Kristin Cabral by Daily Region Editor Jeb Inge.

By Jeb Inge

It was around 8:30 p.m. on Saturday when a portion of the crowd at the Winchester Speedway turned ugly.

The ugliness was directed toward Kristin Cabral, whose only apparent crime was running for Congress as a Democrat. After refusing to abjectly disavow Barack Obama, two or three attendees laid into the 10th Congressional District candidate with the venom usually reserved for NFL replacement refs and Salem witch trials.

The depth of their argument rivaled that of a half-hearted rain puddle, but their drunken intensity was admittedly startling. One gentlemen opted for screaming racist comments into Cabral's face, while another less lucid individual just sat and yelled "Obama" into his female companion's face, apparently expecting some type of divine intervention.

In spite of good sense and logic, Cabral refused to run away and went so far as to actually engage them, as though reasonable conversation was still on the table.

As a rule, reporters are expected to stay out of the subject material, but considering that the only people with Cabral were myself and her pint-sized field manager, I almost pulled her out of there. After all, drunk or not, the rowdy bunch wasn't about to hit a woman. And they may have enjoyed getting their hands on a reporter even more.

Hours earlier, Cabral had been at a fundraiser with the well-to-do of Northern Virginia, and before that had attended what can only be described as the most depressing parade in Virginia's storied history. By that evening, she's running a gauntlet of cold silence and drunken insults at the Speedway.

Such is life on the American campaign trail.

•••

Kristin Cabral is by no means a seasoned politician, something that was evident from the start of the day I spent following her campaign as it canvassed Virginia's 10th District. Well-versed politicians develop the all-important sixth sense that allows them to bring any question or accusation back to their vision of "the solution."

But each time I listened to Cabral interact with potential voters, it was clear she lacked experience as a pol.

Which isn't to say that's a bad thing.

When Cabral talks about being a former Girl Scout, her two kids (15 and a 14 year old who celebrated his birthday the day before,) or her time as a professional balancer of family check books, it's because she believes those roles, along with her family history, make her uniquely qualified for Congress. As the Tea Party demonstrated two years ago, today's political climate is tilted anti-incumbent. And there's very little about Kristin Cabral that comes across as "establishment."

The daughter of a self-employed accountant and secretary, both of her grandfathers dropped out of high school in the ninth grade, with one becoming a union truck driver and the other a factory foreman. Cabral was one of the first students to enroll in the "Head Start" program in its early years. She would become the first person in her family to graduate from college (University of Michigan,) and would graduate from Harvard Law in the same class as Barack Obama.

She would go on to serve as a federal prosecutor for the Justice Department in Washington and also would teach legal writing at George Washington University. When no one else signed on to challenge Frank Wolf this year, Cabral stepped up to the plate, lacking experience, money, and a good chance of success.

•••

I was told Oct. 20 was a "slower" day than usual for the Cabral campaign, even though we made seven stops over 12 hours and covered almost 100 miles, from the gates of Washington to Winchester.

The day started early in Centreville for the community's first parade. Centreville doesn't have a distinctive downtown area, or at least not from the 1.5-mile parade route we walked. Parades might be good for face recognition, but they're usually a lot of waving and not much interaction. But none of that mattered Saturday, because crowd attendance for the entire parade couldn't have exceeded 20 people.

Cabral made the rounds at a mini-festival at the end of the parade route before moving on to two community festivals in Vale. At this point, her car has become a veritable wardrobe station. She would sport three different outfits throughout the day, and the inside of her SUV could pass for a department store checkout counter on Thanksgiving.

After introducing Anne Holten, wife of Gov. and Senate candidate Tim Kaine, at an event in the back of the typical NoVa shopping mall, the staff of roughly five was off to a McLean fundraiser with a crowd that made me glad I didn't skimp on wearing a tie.

Hunter Biden, son of Vice President Joe Biden, was in the house, as well as Fairfax County Supervisor John Foust (Dranesville,) both of whom pledged their support for Cabral. At one point, a fundraiser attendee chatted me up, saying how happy she was with my father's performance as vice president. My name tag was clear and legible, but for once, I decided ignorance was bliss.

Cabral delivered a few brief remarks, but appeared slightly intimidated by the Big Money in attendance. She seemed much more comfortable talking to parents with small kids at the Vale festivals than delivering a stump speech in a gated community.

•••

It's hard to tell what the Cabral camp truly believes will happen on Nov. 6. Each time I pressed staffers on internal polling, or their personal wild guesses, each one clammed up. When I asked the staffer who initially told me about polling what the results were, she stopped talking altogether and just shook her head. That's a bad game if you're hoping to exude confidence going into the campaign's final power play.

If history is any indicator, challenging Frank Wolf doesn't carry bright prospects. Wolf's closest campaign was the one that sent him to Washington for the first time in 1980. He won by 2 percentage points. Since 1982, Wolf has been reelected 14 times, winning with no less than 57 percent of the vote. In 19'94 and 2000, Democrats didn't even bother running against him, and when they did in '96, '98 and '02, he embarrassed them with 72 percent of the vote.

Cabral said she thinks it's time for Wolf to go, and said as much to voters and potential donors, claiming that Wolf originally campaigned on a platform that included instituting term limits. Wolf did support the GOP "Contract With America" in 1994, which, among other things, called for the implementation of term limits.

•••

About halfway through her handshaking at the Speedway (and she tried to shake every single person's hand,) the PA system announced the candidate to the crowd.

Not a single person clapped or cheered except for a quiet cheer from the candidate herself.

Undeterred, she continued shaking hands and passing out literature to racing fans, who either threw the paper on the ground outright or stared at it with the interest one would likely have while browsing the phone book. This is all before the drunk brigade's verbal assault became the biggest troll job in the Shenandoah Valley since Stonewall Jackson's Valley Campaign.

I later asked Cabral why she even bothered shaking the hands of hundreds of people who would likely never vote for her. The question seemed to confuse her, as though the possibility of the Speedway attendees being decided voters never entered her mind.

Cabral said that she and those voters in the stands, including those who screamed obscenities in her face, shared more similarities than differences. The biggest problem in Washington, according to Cabral, is the refusal by some to even engage in conversation, a point that had been driven home in the stands just minutes earlier.

Contact Region Editor Jeb Inge at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or jinge@nvdaily.com

12 Comments |

    Frank Wolf has definitely been in there too long and is part of the problem...He helped create the current problems and then runs against them.

    Have you ever wondered if the democrats and republicans are against deficits why do we have deficits? The same goes for inflation, and ever increasing taxes? They write the tax codes, they approve their own pay raises and their staffs. They approve their golden retirement packages that both you and I can never ever begin to earn in a year. They approve forgiveness of student loans for their staff. Why not the rest of America? What are we? Swiss cheese?

    While politicians like Obama chide Romney on his overseas investments and his only comeback when Romney reminds Obama that his retirement is also invested overseas is that Romney's retirement investment is a lot larger than his. I mean just how many millions is enough? So Obama's retirement is worth over a million dollars and Romney's over 200 million. Both still have more than you and I will ever hope to see working in our lifetime. Look! All 4 running are millionaires and don't care for the average joe. The very reason why this country needs a 3rd party and viable candidates (ordinary people) who will not become career politicians with callous disregard for the very people who elected them. Kristin Cabral is no Frank Wolf, but neither is Frank Wolf. The dog that won that first race a long, long time ago sold his body and soul to be the consumate career politician. Time to put that dog to rest. Time for new blood, but never forget to limit her time too.

    I am absolutely disgusted with the behavior of the people this past Saturday at Winchester Speedway. Have we become a county of ya-hoos who think threatening and yelling at a woman (or a man) is the right kind of behavior to have? Have the political climate in this county actually made us hate people who might have a difference of opinion from the one we have? Is this the kinda image we want people from other parts of Virginia or other parts of the country to have of Winchester/Frederick County? Drunken ya-hoos screaming and threatening a woman who thinks differently from someone else? When we think this is an proper way to act in public, something is seriously wrong. The people who acted this way should be ashamed of themselves and the people at Winchester Speedway who allowed it to continue should be as well.

    Shame on those who acted this way, shame on Winchester Speedway and shame on us all for thinking this is the proper way to act. Pathetic!

    The disclaimer at the beginning of the story is insufficient. It should be on the op-ed page because the "reporter" is clearly biased.

    Typical for this town. Although I love this place, more than half of the folks here prefer to let other people do the thinking for them. Like fox news, which is anything but fair and balanced, being biased and owned by Koch brothers, big Republican donors and supporters of anything that keeps the upper 1 percent in firm power over anyone else. This is a small town, that does not need small thinking, but sadly is very typical here. Recently, I had an otherwise normal person that I have known for years, yelling in my face that the were in fact WMDs in Iraq and that I was "stupid" even though all the proof shows that there were none. Back to the article, Wolf needs to go! Term limits!

    There is no reason to be rude but also why would you bring politics to a race track??? I bet a Republican would get just as many rants at the Speedway also.

    You can meet the candidate on November 1 at 6:30 pm at Lee-Jackson Best Western, 711 Millwood Ave, Winchester, VA 22601

    There was an interesting book written by an author that grew up in Winchester, left and came back after 20 years. The name of the book was Deer Hunting with Jesus. His amazement was the people and community he knew growing up had changed from being democrates to being republicans . The beliefs were the same but the party affiliations changed over the years. It's a interesting read and if you do read it you will realize that the people of winchester other than the power elite has very little in common with Frank Wolf other than being told to follow the party line. I would love to hear your comments about the book if you take the time to read. Rudeness is unnecessary and immature.

    In fairness..not all people at the speedway act this way and I believe that should be stated in the article. I have seen her at the speedway and I just think she went about meeting people and getting her information out there the wrong way. She walked through the stands while people were trying to watch a race which is also very rude (not as rude & nasty as the people in the article) but still rude!! Everyone that walks through the gate pays money to see the races not speak to someone about politics. I think she should have set up a booth at the entrance gate and spoken to people or handed out pamphlets at that time before the races began. That goes for any kind of event such as a baseball game, a movie etc. When I go to an event I want to enjoy the event that I came to see.

    This really does not have anything to do with the Republican or Democratic parties; it is just rude low-class drunks. I am a democrat, but I know Frank Wolf and I know that if he had been there, he would have been the first to tell these people to stop.


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