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Dick Saslaw Emerging as Top Target for Left-Leaning Dems

Sen. Dick Saslaw (right) alongside Republican Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment.
Sen. Dick Saslaw (right) alongside Republican Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment. Craig Carper/WCVE News

Dick Saslaw has served in the state legislature since 1976 and is the top Democrat in the state senate.

The 79 year-old Saslaw sponsored bills this year that would create an independent redistricting commission and raise the smoking age to 21. But a host of progressive groups are backing human rights attorney Yasmine Taeb in what is shaping up to be one of the closest watched primaries in the state.

Taeb and other Saslaw critics are especially focused on the senator’s relationship with Dominion Energy, payday lenders, and other corporate interests. Saslaw has taken in $350,000 from the energy company since 1998, and $110,000 since 1995.

“He takes hundreds of thousands of dollars from the fossil fuel industry,” Taeb said. “I do not. He also does not support campaign finance reform. We don’t take any corporate PAC money and do support campaign finance reform.”

Saslaw wasn’t available to comment. But in the past he’s pointed to what he says is a strongly Democratic track record on abortion, education, health care, and gun control--one that’s lasted longer than anyone else in the Senate.

On his campaign website, Saslaw also says he has served as “a voice for moving Virginia away from fossil fuels and bringing our power grid into the modern age,” pointing to his support for 2018 legislation that undid a controversial 2015 Dominion rate freeze. Critics said that legislation didn’t go far enough.

Taeb says her background as a human right attorney puts her into closer contact to the diversity of the northern Virginia district. She touts endorsements from “pretty much every state, local, national and grassroots progressive organization.” That list includes Run for Something, the Democratic Socialists of America, Data for Progress, and The Progressive Change Campaign Committee.

Taeb says those groups have drawn national donors to the campaign; she’s raised roughly $70,000 compared to over $1.4 million for Saslaw.


Ben Paviour covers courts and criminal justice for VPM News with a focus on accountability.
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