This will not be an endorsement.  This will be is a second chance.

The Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star has done a write up for former Stafford BOS Chairman Susan Stimpson that is frankly a remarkable piece of journalism by Jeff Branscome, equally candid and compassionate in cataloging Stimpson’s struggle with prescription medications:

“I wish that my family hadn’t gone through so much pain, but I wouldn’t trade the experience, and I don’t want it to be wasted,” said Stimpson, 46, wearing a purple suit jacket with a pin commemorating Stafford’s 350th anniversary. “I want to take the experience and use it for good.”

Stimpson said she wanted to be upfront out of respect to those who supported her in the past. A Republican, she is weighing her second bid for the 28th District seat held by House Speaker Bill Howell, R–Stafford, who is retiring in January.

I encourage you to read the article in full.  There are a good number of things that interact here — pressures on women in particular to appear in their early 20s at all times (Stimpson is 46), the perception of losing weight, to maintain the appearance of youth… all of this compounded with the very real stress of maintaining one’s presence in the public square in a modern age, the rush to fix everything with a pill, the lack of research on drug interactions in an era of prescription drug proliferation and FDA fast-tracking.

It gets to be a bit much.

Stimpson spent the better part of her political career as Howell’s heir-apparent before crystallizing a conservative ethic on the Stafford BOS — one that encouraged her to run for Lieutenant Governor in 2013 (finishing 4th in a field of seven) and challenge her former mentor in Speaker Bill Howell in a crushing loss in 2015.

The fact that Stimpson did run for such high-profile positions with ghosts hanging on her back shouldn’t be a sign of weakness.  In fact, quite the opposite — for Stimpson to have had the stamina to run a statewide campaign and take on a sitting Speaker of the House of Delegates while dealing with the deleterious effects of prescription medications seems almost remarkable.

One hesitates to use the word courageous because the definition of that word would involve re-entering the public square for what would have to be a final run for public office — and the office Stimpson had groomed herself to run for for the better part of 15 years.

Yet if Stimpson threw in, that would be a courageous act indeed… a personally heroic one that few others would have the moral fortitude or stamina to match.

Having known Susan in the ’00’s, the voice you read in the FLS article — contrite, measured, even humble — is the Susan Stimpson that was known as a leader in Stafford County, the Stimpson that became Stafford GOP chair and eventually became elected to the Stafford Board of Supervisors. One would suggest that the Stimpson we see today is more true to herself than her previous iterations — and that’s a refreshing thing to see in politics, is it not?

This is not an endorsement of any nascent candidacy.  Two fellow BOS members — Paul Milde in Aquia District and Robert Thomas in the George Washington District — have made their intentions known.

Consider this an endorsement of Susan’s character.  Consider that a public confession in the pages of the local newspaper is nothing that she owed nor had to perform.  Consider that a bid for public office is a servant role with all the slings and arrows pre-sold, not an opportunity for self-aggrandizement.

Consider this as bit of defiance in the face of a cruel public narrative that insists there are no second chances.

Consider this as an opportunity to argue that in politics — as in life — we mold our opinions based on facts reflecting upon values… and if our values insist that forgiveness and redemption are still American (dare I say, Christian?) values, then our principles should mold themselves to those possibilities.

We are not defined by our past, but rather by our present — every day.  Stimpson (and all the candidates) should be held to a similar standard, and we should frown hard towards those who would saddle others with the what-may-be and what-might-have-beens of the world.

Stimpson has yet to make her decision known publicly yet, but you have to admire the fact that she is willing to endure a public exposition of her own faults… and yes, her own virtues as well.

I consider that courageous.  The whole story is courageous.  Should she choose to throw in, Stimpson deserves consideration as a viable and strong candidate for HOD-28.

  • Mark Herbert

    I would posit that, in politics especially, we are defined by our past. Another word for past is record. Plenty of conservatives are happy to gnaw on our own over any perceived lukewarmness to our values, and the bat that we use to bludgeon them is their record.

    A couple of waffled votes can mean life or death politically. Why should we not take into account multiple incidents involving the police when considering our votes as well? I don’t mean to cast the first stone at Ms. Stimpson. None of us is holy, no not one. Certainly it’s courageous to put oneself back into the spotlight after that ordeal.

    But to just give her a pass and a pat on the head is not going to be a winning strategy.

    • So there’s a bigger question here — should that be the case?

      Not to draw too many comparisons here, but Mandela was a Marxist, a revolutionary prone to violence as a youth, who spent 28 years in prison and literally saved South Africa.

      Wes Bellamy in Charlottesville is a more localized and current example — 10-15 years ago he behaved like a 18-24 year old male and tweeted things that you’d find on any comedy show, but when we get into politics folks start clutching their pearls.

      Bob McDonnell. Richard Nixon. Bill Clinton. Robert Byrd. Watt Abbitt (Sr.) Robert E. Lee. Stonewall Jackson. Thomas Jefferson. George Washington. John Smith.

      Go through your favorite heroes and you’re going to find a fatal flaw somewhere.

      The short version of this is that the expectation of perfect is unrealistic in a politician, and if you’re getting perfect? Then something is being managed, controlled, and is artificially being fed to us.

      Personally, I’d rather have them real rather than idealized… it’s an adolescence that we as a polity need to grow out of, IMO.

      My US$0.02, FWIW.

  • Bobby

    I’m more concerned about the habitually running for something than I am the diet drug issue. Milde for Delegate.