News & Politics

Why Jennifer Wexton Invited a Furloughed Worker to the State of the Union

She's one of several Democratic lawmakers bringing furloughed feds as guests.

Wexton on election night in 2018. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Virginia’s 10th Congressional District contains three major air traffic centers, including Dulles International Airport, the Washington Air Route Traffic Control Center in Leesburg, and Manassas Regional Airport. So, to newly elected US Representative Jennifer Wexton, bringing a constituent who’s also an air traffic controller as her guest for Tuesday’s State of the Union felt like a sure thing: “For me, when [furloughed constituents] started sending pay stubs with a $0 balance after eighty hours of work it was horrifying,” Wexton tells Washingtonian.” When it happened a second time, it was even worse.”

Wexton invited Linda McCray, an air traffic controller who was furloughed during the partial government shutdown, to join her for Tuesday night’s big speech. Both women reside in Leesburg and knew each other even before Wexton won a seat in the Virginia state senate in 2014. McCray is attending with “some trepidation” about the fast-approaching deadline for avoiding another shutdown, Wexton says. “I think she’s very worried, for herself and for her colleagues.”

By one estimate, the shutdown cost DC over $1.6 billion in lost economic output and wreaked havoc in the lives of feds like McCray. During the lapse in funding, Wexton was among one of several lawmakers who asked for her paycheck to be withheld or reappropriated during the shutdown. Wexton says she’s cautiously optimistic about the President’s announced themes of unity and inclusion. “Time will tell whether that’s sincere or so many words.”

Some of the 2020 presidential hopefuls, including US Senators Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris, have also invited invite constituents who were affected by the shutdown. US Representative Jan Schakowsky of Illinois will be joined by an EPA employee as well. Despite all the lingering hard feelings over the shutdown, Wexton says she’s looking forward to tonight’s speech: “Having grown up in the Washington area, seeing all of the State of the Union addresses over the years, to actually be here in person is so humbling and kind of surreal for me.”

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Staff Writer

Brittany Shepherd covers the societal and cultural scene in political Washington. Before joining Washingtonian as a staff writer in 2018, Brittany was a White House Correspondent for Independent Journal Review. While she has lived in DC for a number of years now, she still yearns for the fresh Long Island bagels of home. Find her on Twitter, often prattling on about Frasier.