A lifelong Republican, Joel White wandered into the Starr Hill Gallery on Tuesday evening, December 5. Was he “Dem,” or “Dem Curious”? Neither, exactly, judging from his brief voting record (he sat out the November election and voted red two times before), but the 25-year-old transplant from Columbus, Ohio, was certain that the monthly meeting of Left of Center (www.leftofcentercville.org) would be a welcome place for him to park the disgust over the Iraq War that had inspired his recent defection from the GOP. Inside the storefront gallery space, where three chafing trays of nachos eased steam into the air and the rock poster-lined walls celebrated such shining moments in local history as the Flaming Lips’ Pavilion concert and Neko Case’s show in the music hall upstairs, about 50 young white professionals were gathering for a preview by Del. David Toscano (www.toscano2005.com) and Sen. Creigh Deeds (www.creighdeeds.com) of what to expect when the State Legislature convenes in Richmond next month.
Sen. Creigh Deeds, who got into politics when he backed Mo Udall’s presidential bid in 1976, told the crowd that in those days he "was probably described as left of center, but I’m not sure I’m there anymore.
Deeds predicted that the usual round of anti-choice and anti-contraception bills would go through various Assembly committees. Toscano alerted the good-looking liberals to his intention to introduce legislation aimed at controlling predatory lending and improving the state’s minimum wage. Questions of transportation and techniques for effective lobbying met the politicians, who, in contrast to most of the crowd, each wore a suit and seemed to draw a lot of predetermined appreciation from the by-now seated crowd.
One organizer wanted an account of why the Democratic Party seemed to ignore smart, well-scrubbed younger liberals. Deeds’ response was to encourage anyone who had game to run for office—at any level. “If you’re feeling froggy,” said the preternaturally kinetic senator from Bath County, “jump.”
About an hour into the talk session, things started to break up. Joel White, who was capping his third week in town with the meeting, said it had met all his expectations—and then some. “It was very educational and entertaining,” White said. “It was very comforting to me.”