On January 8, the Virginia Society of Association Executives (VSAE) held their Virginia Political Outlook and Legislative Roundtable. This annual event, held virtually this year, brought together political experts, lobbyists, and over a hundred other association executives for a morning of election analysis, political punditry, and discussions about the 2021 General Assembly session.
Dr. Robert Holsworth, Managing Partner of DecideSmart and a longtime Virginia political analyst, kicked things off, discussing the national election results from last fall, the months of legal challenges that ensued, and the sense of divide that continues to linger. His talk that morning was particularly poignant, coming just days after deadly riots at the United States Capitol. As he always does, Dr. Holsworth finished his talk by focusing on the future, expressing great interest in how a bellwether state like Virginia would react to the new Biden administration, particularly in the looming General Assembly elections this November.
Next came a panel discussion and Q&A about the 2021 legislative session and what it’s like to lobby in a virtual environment. The panel was comprised of three lobbyists: Kyle Shreve, Executive Director of the Virginia Agribusiness Council; Dale Bennett, President and CEO of the Virginia Trucking Association; and Chris McDonald, Director of Government Relations for the Virginia Association of Counties. The three spent just under an hour discussing the challenges of government relations in a virtual world, most notably highlighting the effects the remote proceedings have had on public testimony, communications with legislators, and one-on-one interactions with staff and other lobbyists. All three agreed that rigorous preparation coupled with constant contact with your in-house teammates and your outside allies would be the keys to success this session.
As is the case every year, the 2021 VSAE Political Outlook and Legislative Roundtable offered a wealth of helpful information and unique insights, as well as a much-needed chance to take a deep breath before the General Assembly session kicked off. VACo is grateful to have had a chance to participate in this event and looks forward to the 2022 edition.