2009 Elections / Local / Politics / Virginia

Who is John Fishwick?

While I posted his announcement video as well as his statement on early voting, that was about the extent of my knowledge of John Fishwick, Democratic candidate for attorney general. I suspect I’m not alone, so I emailed the campaign and asked for an interview, which we scheduled for Tuesday. As it turns out, Fishwick attended Del. Lionell Spruill’s dinner Monday evening, so I had a chance to meet him.  And since he ended up being seated at a table that I sponsored, I was able to get the impressions of a few other folks of him as well.

John Fishwick JrIn person, Fishwick is an affable fellow, and looks to have the makings of a good campaigner. He did not hesitate Monday evening to come up and introduce himself to everyone sitting at the head table. Of course, he does have some experience at this: Fishwick ran for the Democratic nomination for Congress in the 6th district in 1992, losing a close battle to Steve Musslewhite. Some of those who were around at the time say that Fishwick was the stronger candidate to face ultimate winner Bob Goodlatte, who has held the seat ever since. Most who have known him for a while say that he is a tough competitor and very smart.

John P. Fishwick, Jr., 51, is the son of former Norfolk & Western Railroad CEO John P. Fishwick, Sr. He is an alumus of Harvard College (B.A., History, 1979) and Washington & Lee (J.D., cum laude, 1983) and was admitted to the Virginia bar in 1983. According to the bio on his firm’s website, he also served as a law clerk to the Honorable James C. Turk, United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia. A trial lawyer, he is admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court, U.S. Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit and U.S. District Court, Eastern and Western Districts of Virginia.

My interview with Fishwick on Tuesday was designed less to get specifics about policy proposals, although we did discuss some, than it was to get a better sense of who he is and why he is running. Very early in our conversation, he brought forth the issue that Virginia has had four straight Republican attorneys general. He said that the average person in Virginia has not been well served by them. “Every time the power company wants a raise,” he said, “they get it. There is no one who has been a watchdog for the people and for small businesses.”

Democrats can’t be afraid of the issues. We have to talk about the differences between Republicans and Democrats. We are the party that lifts people up.

Fishwick doesn’t just talk the talk, he walks the walk. His website has videos of clients that he has represented, including an 81-year-old woman that he represented in an abuser fee case. After our conversation, I did a quick search and found a number of articles about some of his cases, including the fight against increases by Applachian Power, his representation of food court vendors against the City of Roanoke, and, of course, the $85 million lawsuit against the Virginia Lottery.

His representation of the former D-Day Memorial Foundation president prompted this 2004 article by the Roanoke Times in which U.S. attorney John Brownlee, himself a candidate for the Republican nomination for AG, praised Fishwick and his partner, John Lichtenstein, as “two of the finest attorneys in Virginia.”

“Their clients are fortunate to have such talented and committed lawyers defending them,” Brownlee continued. “On a personal note, both are gentlemen and represent the very best of the bar.”

Fishwick told me that he intends to roll out a series of proposals, like the one he did on early voting, and let them and his record speak for him.  He said that his next proposal will be on the restoration of voting rights for convicted felons, an issue that I consider important. Saying that Democrats need to show leadership on this issue, Fishwick believes that the process should be simplified.

Aside from his run in 1992, Fishwick has been active in Democratic politics, having served as a Virginia co-chair of Dick Gephardt’s 2004 presidential campaign and on the campaign of Del. Onzlee Ware.  He and his wife, Jeanne, were very active in Creigh Deeds’ 2005 AG campaign. I understand Fishwick was a part of the recount team. He also represented Joe Dan Johnson in his fight over a seat on the Nelson County Board of Supervisors. He was appointed by Governor Kaine to the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and Public Policy. He even represented the Democratic Party in a debate at North Cross School, his alma mater, in the runup to this year’s election.

What is clear to me from my research is that Fishwick is a highly qualified, well regarded attorney who would serve Virginia well as attorney general. I will say, though, that I learned a lot more about John Fishwick, the man, from my conversations with others and my research than I did from my conversation with him. I got a sense that he was on guard, perhaps a little afraid of a “blogger interview” than he would have been with someone from the MSM. Fears, I think, that this post should put to rest.

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I will be interviewing Fishwick’s opponent, Steve Shannon, in the next couple of weeks.

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One thought on “Who is John Fishwick?

  1. I know it’s extraordinarily shallow of me, but I can’t get past that name! He should maybe just have fun with the name – put a fish in his logo or something like that.

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