Tinubu in the Democratic Primary

June 7, 2012 

If Preston Brittain is trying to cast himself as the “new generation” of politics, he’s doing a pretty good job of looking like the old generation.

Brittain, the presumptive Democratic front-runner in the 7th Congressional District race – at least since Rep. Ted Vick’s campaign imploded last month – has racked up an impressive stack of endorsements. Congressmen, state leaders and local Democratic movers and shakers have all lined up behind him. Perhaps they know something we don’t, but we just can’t bring ourselves to do the same.

After interviewing three of the four candidates remaining in the race – Harry Pavilack did not respond to requests for an interview – The Sun News was most impressed with the candidacy of CCU professor Gloria Bromell Tinubu.

Tinubu reveals a deep understanding of issues and a good ability to prioritize. Her laserlike focus on public education as a path to success and her obvious heart for the district’s rural communities distinguish her as a strong champion for local residents who need that support. Her emphasis on rural issues – in a district that is mostly rural – is remarkably well developed and involves much more than simply throwing money at a problem. Instead, she advocates common sense and useful solutions such as using USDA funds or Community Development Block Grants to improve rural infrastructure and attract businesses. As she pointed out, it’s hard to persuade employers to move to an area if they have to build their own sewer system when they get there.

Brittain likes slogans and sound bites and has been happy to say that he’s for the things we’re all for: more jobs, better lives for our children and keeping the promises our nation has made. But we struggled to pierce that facade and meet the real person. His campaign often feels put together by consultants and it seems he often acts not like himself, but in the way he thinks a politician should act. Take away his well-known local name and his network of deep-pocketed supporters and it’s difficult to see why he is a leading candidate for the position. His ideas are not bad, they’re simply not developed, and he needs more time to mature as a leader. We can’t afford to let him do that maturing while in Congress.

Of all the candidates we interviewed in the race, Republican or Democrat, Tinubu struck us as the one most in tune with the concerns and problems of the district’s ordinary residents, beyond the board rooms and political clubs. She showed a refreshing willingness to move past the hot-button but ultimately minor issues that have distracted us far too often in recent years – contraception, voter ID and gay marriage, for instance – and instead focus on areas of real concern and importance that can change residents’ lives for the better. And she’s not shy about pointing that out.

“Seriously? Are these the conversations we’re having?” she asked in her interview with us. “If we don’t take back the public discourse and put it back where it ought to be, shame on us.”

Tinubu, in fact, never seems to be shy about speaking her mind, as has been on display in recent days in an ill-advised and unnecessary bout of mudslinging aimed at Brittain. That same uncompromising, sometimes brash style has been on display in local debates. It could be an outgrowth of, or perhaps a reason for, her personal success despite her humble upbringings. The first in her Plantersville family to go to college, she now has a PhD in economics. In a campaign season that has been all about jobs and economic development, that qualification alone gives her quite a leg up on the competition.

Not one to shrink from a fight on an issue she believes in, Tinubu’s constituents would be well-served by that willingness to act as their champion in Washington. The Capitol is not a place to pussyfoot or prevaricate, and Tinubu’s desire to unflinchingly take on the tough challenges recommends her for the seat.

What about the other candidates in the race? Local lawyer Parnell Diggs, like Tinubu, has an impressive grasp of the issues facing our communities and a realistic slate of ideas and suggestions for improving them. He has shown in interviews and debates that he is no slouch when it comes to the minutiae of both foreign and domestic policy. Given the chance, he would likely make a fine congressman. But ultimately, the greater experience of Tinubu, as a legislator, educator, leader and advocate, led us to her side.

And as for Pavilack, we can shake our heads, but there’s not much to say that’s not already obvious to anyone who has seen him in one of the candidate debates or forums.

In the rural communities she’s visited in recent months, Tinubu told us, “people keep saying, don’t forget us.” If those people elect Tinubu, they can be sure they will be remembered.

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